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Here’s how the special election to replace Ken Buck will work in Colorado

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado voters in the 4th Congressional District will vote in two separate elections on June 25: the congressional primary for November’s general election, as well as a special election to immediately replace Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who announced on Tuesday that he is resigning and leaving Congress nine months ahead of schedule.

It could add confusion to the a competitive and crowded race in Colorado’s Eastern Plains.

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Colorado Congressman Ken Buck

Buck had already announced his intention to retire and not seek reelection this year, but he surprised the political world this week by announcing that he would leave Congress on March 22, versus sticking around until the end of his term.

That sets off a seldom-used process to fill a congressional vacancy via special election that, according to a decision announced by Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday, will coincide with the June 25 congressional primary election. The winner of that special election will fill the remaining months of Buck’s term, but would still need to win the party’s nomination that day and then the general election in November to secure a full term in Congress.

Each party will convene a special convention made up of party insiders to select one nominee for the special election. According to state statute, those special conventions need to happen within 20 days of the governor issuing a formal order for the special election, which hasn’t technically happened yet.

The 4th District leans more Republican than any in the state, so whoever wins the special Republican nomination will likely go on to win the special election, and whoever wins the Republican primary will likely go on to win the general election.

That opens up a couple possibilities: The district will be represented by the same person from June 25 onward because they win both elections, or the winner of the special election will hand the seat off to the winner of the general election — almost certainly the winner of the Republican primary — early next year.

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Lauren Boebert

I will not further imperil the already very slim House Republican majority by resigning my current seat ...

– U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert

The state Democratic Party said on Tuesday night that it will hold its special convention no later than April 1. The convention will include the district’s central committee members and all the precinct organizers in the district. Ike McCorkle and John Padora have both signaled they will seek the Democratic special nomination.

The state Republican Party has not yet made its special convention plans public and leaders did not reply to requests for comment Wednesday. That gathering will involve officers of the congressional district and the county chairmen in the district, according to party bylaws. The state party’s assembly, where delegates will pick candidates to appear on the primary ballot, is already set for April 5 in Pueblo.

Nine Republicans were vying for the Republican nomination in the district before Buck’s early retirement announcement: current 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, former state lawmaker Jerry Sonnenberg, state Reps. Mike Lynch and Richard Holtorf, conservative radio host Deborah Flora, former state lawmaker Ted Harvey, businessman Chris Phelen, businessman Peter Yu and Justin Schreiber.

Those candidates can all put themselves forward to be considered for the special election nomination.

Sonnenberg, Flora and Harvey have all indicated they will pursue the nomination.

“This new vacancy doesn’t change my race, nor my commitment to proving to Republicans voters why I am the strongest conservative voice to serve them in Washington. I look forward to earning this nomination and getting to D.C. as soon as possible,” Sonnenberg wrote in a statement.

Flora wrote in her own statement that the district can’t afford a “placeholder” between Buck’s retirement and the new term next year.

Holtorf has not indicated if he will seek the special nomination, but he called Buck’s decision a “selfish move” that will “potentially create bias during the election cycle” in a statement Tuesday.

Boebert, however, will not seek the special nomination. If she wins the special election, she would have to resign her current position representing the 3rd District, setting off a vacancy process in that district.

“I will not further imperil the already very slim House Republican majority by resigning my current seat and will continue to deliver on my constituents’ priorities while also working hard to earn the votes of the people of Colorado’s 4th District who have made clear they are hungry for a real conservative,” she said in a statement.

She called Buck’s announcement a “swampy backroom deal to try to rig an election.”

With Buck’s resignation, the GOP’s majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will shrink to 218-213.

The 4th District includes most of Douglas County and the Eastern Plains.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.