Colorado Uses ‘Side-Door’ Tactic to Appoint Unelected Officials to State Legislature

Iman Jodeh is hoping to be selected to fill a Colorado Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Kagan, who resigned as an investigation was heating up about his repeated use of the women’s rest room in the State Capitol.

Jodeh, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants who was born and raised in Colorado, is competing with two others for the seat. The appointee will be chosen in January by a Vacancy Committee, not by the governor.

According to a recent analysis by The Colorado Sun, the “side-door entrance” to the Colorado Legislature has been used increasingly of late to choose lawmakers whom the voters themselves might not have wanted.

The replacements won’t get picked by voters, but rather by a vacancy committee of activists from the party that holds the seat. Colorado is one of only five states to use this kind of partisan process, which gives appointment panels outsized influence in shaping the legislature and public policy.

According to The Sun, one in four sitting legislators were given the seat by the Vacancy Committee.

Jodeh, 36, wants the job of representing Senate District 26, which includes Littleton, Englewood, and parts of Aurora. She told Westword that her community includes a statewide Muslim population of 75,000, 60 percent of whom are immigrants or refugees.

Her record as a political activist includes the establishment of a non-profit group Meet the Middle EastShe is also the first female spokesperson for the Colorado Muslim Society and deputy policy adviser for the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado

In her role at the Colorado Muslim Society, she was responsible for putting on a special voter registration event in August as part of the National Muslim Voter Registration Day in the run-up to the November midterm elections.

She told Colorado 9News that the Muslim population of the state is growing rapidly due to the arrival of refugees and other immigrants.

“In the 90s there were probably about 30,000 to 35,000 Muslims in Colorado and there were probably under 10 mosques to serve those Muslims. In 2018, we are over 75,000 Muslims pushing 30 mosques up along the Front Range,” she said.

Colorado’s meatpacking industry, which has drawn many Somali workers to the state, is often cited as a reason for the increasing population.

In her lengthy interview with Westword Thursday, Jodeh claimed that she was “blessed” to fight for the Colorado Civil Rights Division in the last session in the wake of the “Masterpiece Cakeshop” Supreme Court decision.

She also says she helped State Rep. Joe Salazar “to pass resolutions that would ensure that Colorado would not participate in a Muslim internment camp if that came down through Congress.”

Asked about the significance of becoming the first Muslim in the Colorado Legislature, she responded that “it’s time” and is “overdue.”

After flipping the Senate in the midterm elections in November, Colorado is now firmly in the hands of Democrats in both houses of the General Assembly.

The Vacancy Committee is scheduled to make its decision on January 5, 2019.

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Anna Marie Bolton is a reporter for Battleground State News.
Photo “Iman Jodeh” by Iman Jodeh. 

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