A year from now, Coloradans will be nearly finished with the process of hiring their congressional representatives for the next two years.
In just 52 weeks, ballots will start going in the mail to Colorado’s registered voters — and if past performance is a guide, most Coloradans will take the time to fill them out and return them.
Barring unforeseen complications or extremely difficult hiring decisions, the next crop of lawmakers should learn that they’ve been hired within a few hours of the polls closing on election night.
Colorado’s honorable workforce will increase by a little over 14% after next year’s election, with the number of House members from the state climbing from seven to eight, due to the state’s swelling population relative to the populations of the other 49 states.
The additional congressional district — bestowed thanks to the results of the once-a-decade census — means Colorado’s delegation will have at least one new member, though, theoretically, the D.C. contingent could include more fresh faces.
House member is a position that traditionally comes with plenty of job security, though, even when times are tough. Through the last several hiring cycles, in fact, there’s been very little turnover, as is common in Colorado.
For a well-paying job with good benefits, the gig has remarkably few job requirements.
According to the employment listing — that’d be Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution — applicants for the U.S. House of Representatives must be 25 years old and have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years. They also have to live in the state they represent.
That’s it, though left unsaid is that applicants must be willing to relocate at least part of the year.
Unlike many jobs, being a House member doesn’t require any particular experience or educational attainment, nor does it require any skills or language proficiency. There doesn’t appear to be any drug testing involved, either.
Those applying to a more senior position in the U.S. Senate must be 30 years old and have been U.S. citizens for nine years and also have to live in the state they represent.
Applications are already starting to trickle in for the new position opening up in a little over a year, the House member from Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District.
While the congressional map submitted last week by an independent redistricting committee won’t be set in stone until later this month — as the Colorado Supreme Court renders its own assessment and sorts though some looming legal challenges — it doesn’t appear to be too early for some job-seekers to start the application process.
Earlier this summer, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat and a pediatrician, threw her hat in the ring. Jewels Gray, a Republican who says she was inspired to seek the position after seeing how the 2020 election turned out, has also been vying for the job for a while.
This past week, another Democrat joined the pool — Adams County Commissioner Charles “Chaz” Tedesco, a former president of the local United Steelworkers of America union.
When Colorado Politics shared a story about Tedesco’s candidacy on Twitter, a longtime election watcher replied with an observation, noting that Colorado hasn’t ever elected a county commissioner straight to the U.S. House.
A quick review of the annals of the state’s elections — followed by a more thorough bout of research in the archives — confirmed that this is true.
It’s also true that a few current and recent members of the state’s delegation came from previous positions that haven’t been among the traditional fields that prepare job-seekers to become U.S. House members.
Serving his second term since winning election first in 2018, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, for instance, is the first former University of Colorado regent elected to the House, though he spent some time between those positions running the state’s Department of Natural Resources and also ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state.
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who served two terms from 2003-2007, is the only former state chairman of a major political party to later win election to the House from Colorado. Republican Jack Swigert, who won election to the House in 1982 but died before taking office, is the only astronaut to win the position in Colorado.
It’s true, as they say: There’s a first time for everything.
The Twitter user who made the original point about county commissioners later refined the point, noting that the job of county commissioner is difficult to convey to voters who aren’t steeped in government or politics, which is also true. In most of Colorado’s 64 counties, three elected commissioners handle legislative and executive functions for the county, making the rules and running the departments that carry them out. They also exercise judicial powers occasionally, ruling on zoning and other decisions, making for an unusual amalgam of officialdom. (A few larger counties have boosted their number of commissioners to five, and the state’s two city-and-county entities, Denver and Broomfield, handle their operations differently.)
But it raised an intriguing question about the experience and past positions Colorado’s U.S. House members bring to the job.
It’s an exclusive club. Since 1960, just 39 Coloradans have served in the U.S. House of Representatives, including the seven incumbents there now.
Widening the scope all the way back to statehood after 1876, covering another 84 years, the ranks grow by only another 36 to 75 human beings who have represented Colorado in the House — fewer over the longer stretch, in part, because the state had fewer congressional districts over those decades.
Considering the modern era, though, covering the period from 1960 to the present, most of the 39 people who served in the U.S. House came from remarkably similar backgrounds.
Twenty-eight of the 39 served in the General Assembly before being elected to Congress, and 16 of the legislators-turned-congressmen or -women were attorneys.
Included on that list of one-time state lawmakers with law degrees are Wayne Aspinall, Roy McVicker, Peter Dominick, Don Brotzman, Frank Evans, William Armstrong, Ray Kogovsek, Ken Kramer, Hank Brown, Scott McInnis, Diana DeGette, David Skaggs, Doug Lamborn, Ed Perlmutter and Cory Gardner.
The former legislators who weren’t attorneys but went on to Congress include Dan Schaefer, Joel Hefley, Wayne Allard, Mike Strang, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Bob Schaffer, Mark Udall, Tom Tancredo, John Salazar, Marilyn Musgrave, Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman. Their varied backgrounds range from veterinarian (Allard) and rancher (Strang) to jeweler (Campbell) and owner of a pottery company (Tipton).
Of the others, who didn’t serve first in the legislature, two were district attorneys — Mike McKevitt and Ken Buck — while Jim Johnson sat on a school board, Jared Polis served on the State Board of Education and Neguse was once a CU regent.
Six of Colorado’s House members since 1960 hadn’t served in elected office before winning their seats — Pat Schroeder, Tim Wirth, Betsy Markey, Jason Crow and Lauren Boebert.
Just three of the seven members of Colorado’s current House delegation are former state legislators — DeGette, Perlmutter and Lamborn — and all three are also attorneys.
That leaves a former DA, a former regent and two who were newcomers to the ballot — Buck, Neguse, Crow and Boebert, respectively — filing out the incumbent ranks.
Across the decades — but especially lately — it appears that Colorado voters are less inclined to pick their U.S. House members from the traditional fields that yield federal lawmakers, underlining the maxim that there’s a first time for everything, possibly even county commissioner.