Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan jumps in Democratic primary for House District 26 seat

Author: Ernest Luning - July 29, 2017 - Updated: July 29, 2017

Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for House District 26 (Photo courtesy Ryan)Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for House District 26 (Photo courtesy Ryan)

Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan, a Democrat serving her second term, announced Friday she’s running for the House District 26 seat held by state Rep. Diane Mitsch Busch, who is running for Congress.

Ryan joins Eagle County Deputy District Attorney Dylan Roberts, also a Democrat, in the race. The Democrats might have a candidate for the seat by the end of the year, however, because both Ryan and Roberts plan to apply for the vacancy Mitsch Bush has said she’ll create when she resigns in November to run full-time against U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District.

No Republicans have yet filed to run in the district, which includes Eagle and Routt counties. The district leans slightly Democratic — 30.1 percent of active registered voters are Democrats, 26.6 percent are Republicans and 41.2 percent are unaffiliated, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office — but it’s considered a swing seat.

Ryan said in her announcement she hopes to continue working on health care, transportation, affordable housing, early childhood development, water conservation, broadband access and climate change at the state level.

“These issues are vital to maintaining our way of life and to our economic health,” she said.

Ryan, a member of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization board and a past vice president of the Colorado Board of Health and vice chair of the I-70 Coalition, said her policy experience at the local and state level has prepared her to step in when Mitsch Bush steps down.

There’s a chance the vacancy committee that convenes later this year to fill Mitsch Bush’s seat will determine whether it’s Roberts or Ryan who proceeds to the 2018 General Election. Roberts told Colorado Politics he will support whoever wins the vacancy appointment for the party’s nomination, and Ryan said she’ll consider doing the same.

“I am running for this seat because of my deep connections to both counties in the district — I grew up in Routt and live in Eagle,” Roberts said in an email Friday. “I believe I am the right choice for this district at this time, and I look forward to applying to the vacancy committee. If it doesn’t come out in my favor, I am willing to pledge (as I already have to local party members) my support to whomever is chosen. I’m a team player.”

“I have not taken that pledge, but I may,” Ryan told Colorado Politics. “I need to hear from my consituents first, because I am a two-term county commissioner that has made progress on policy issues like transportation, public health, climate action and other environmental issues. If they want me to keep representing them, I would have to consider staying in the race.”

Mitsch Bush told Colorado Politics she’ll likely give up her seat sometime in November after completing work on interim committees. An 18-member Democratic vacancy committee — Roberts and his girlfriend, Sarah Andrews, sit on the committee in their capacity as officers with the Eagle County Democrats — will convene after Mitsch Bush makes it official and name someone to complete her term through 2018.

A past manager of Eagle County’s public health department, Ryan spent a decade working at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and owns a public health consulting firm. She lives in Edwards with her husband and son.

She’s already won endorsements from state Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Frisco, and House Speaker Pro Tem Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge.

“Commissioner Ryan understands the nuances of the state budget, including competing constitutional amendments, and how legislation works within these constraints,” Hamner said in a statement.

Danielson praised Ryan’s leadership and policy skills, adding, “She will be a strong voice for protecting our environment, investing in great schools, and building an economy that works for everyone

She’s also been endorsed by several county commissioners, including her cohorts in Eagle County, Jeanne McQueeney and Kathy Chandler-Henry, and Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a former state lawmaker.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.