Hudak resigns as recall petition deadline nears

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Rather than face a potential recall election, Evie Hudak instead has chosen to resign from her Senate seat — a move that will enable the Democrats to maintain control of the Legislature's upper chamber.

Hudak's resignation is effective immediately, according to a letter that she submitted to the Secretary of the Senate on Nov. 27.

"Though it is difficult to step aside, I have faith that my colleagues will honor the legacy that my constituents and I have built," she wrote in her resignation letter. "I am thankful to my fellow legislators, who have been so supportive in recent weeks, standing by my side and encouraging me to keep fighting."

Hudak, a Democrat, represented Senate District 19, which includes Arvada and Westminster. She is a former state Board of Education member who crafted several pieces of education-related legislation since joining the Senate in January 2009.

Hudak did not return calls seeking comment.

She becomes the third Democratic lawmaker to either resign or be voted out of office as a result of a recall effort, joining Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, who lost their recent recall races.

Hudak's resignation came just days before a Dec. 3 deadline for recall organizers to submit more than 18,900 recall petition signatures to the Secretary of State's Office.

Though organizers behind "Recall Hudak Too" had many complaints about Hudak, her support of key gun legislation that was signed into law this year was chief among them.

Hudak voted for bills that put in place universal background checks on gun sales in Colorado and limited the amount of rounds that a high-capacity ammunition magazine can hold.

She also sponsored Senate Bill 197, which makes it more difficult for domestic violence offenders to possess guns.

It wasn't just Hudak's votes that drew the ire of conservatives. She also came under fire for her comments to a rape victim that came during a committee hearing on a separate bill that would have banned concealed handguns on college campuses.

The woman, who was testifying, said that had she been able to carry a gun on campus, she may not have been raped. Hudak responded in part that "statistics are not on your side, even if you had a gun."

Hudak seemed to acknowledge that the gun legislation would be at risk for repeal, had she lost a recall election, allowing Republicans to take over the Senate. With Morse and Giron gone, Democrats were clinging to a one-seat advantage in the Senate. They'll now be able to hold on to Hudak's seat, after a special vacancy committee convenes to select her successor.

"By resigning, I am protecting these important new laws for the good of Colorado and ensuring that we can continue looking forward," Hudak said.

Hudak also said that she wanted to spare the $200,000 cost of a potential recall election that would have been paid by Jeffco taxpayers.

Hudak had been struggling with this decision for quite some time. She said in a recent interview with Colorado Community Media that "people will be angry if I were to resign" and that "people would be angry if I were to be recalled."

Chris Kennedy, Hudak's campaign manager, acknowledged that the decision was "something she had been bouncing around for a long time" and one that was made "over the last couple of days."

"It's been difficult," he said. "She's a senator. It's what she does. It's her identity. It's what she stands for. She's at peace, but that doesn't mean it's not difficult."

Conservatives crowed over Hudak's resignation.

“Coloradans are sick of the extreme Democrats trying to control their lives," said Kelly Maher of Compass Colorado. "These 'progressives' have overreached so far on so many issues that Colorado families are now ready for a new vision.”

Conservatives also took to Twitter after news of Hudak's resignation surfaced. Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, tweeted "another #gungrab radical fails." And a tweet from Colorado Peak Politics, a conservative blog, read, "GOOD RIDDANCE, EVIE."

Vacancy committee to select replacement

Now, attention turns to finding Hudak's successor. A Senate District 19 vacancy committee will meet in the coming weeks to select Hudak's replacement.

In the meantime, some names have already emerged as possible contenders. Arvada Councilwoman Rachel Zenzinger said "she would like to be considered" as a potential successor.

"I made no secret that I was interested in her seat in 2016 (when Hudak's second term would have ended)," Zenzinger said. "So, with all of these events, I have to rethink that."

Another possible successor is Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada. She said she was going to discuss her options with her family over Thanksgiving, saying, "I have to look at what's best for the district."

While the two may have interest in succeeding Hudak, they are saddened by the recent events.

"I think Evie's name is synonymous with kids and education," Zenzinger said. "And coming up from the state Board of Education, obviously she has is a real commitment for that, that she carried over to the Legislature, which is a phenomenal focus on kids and schools."

"Evie has been a hard-working policy maker," Kraft-Tharp said. "I think the majority of the district knows she's been working hard for us."

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