By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
State Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, announced Wednesday she is halting her re-election campaign to take an out-of-state job running a national political organization.
Middleton plans to commute to her new job in Northern California until after the election and then leave Colorado for good. She revealed her plans to Democratic legislators in an e-mail obtained by The Colorado Statesman. House Democrats later issued a press release.
“This was a difficult decision for me but is primarily based on my family and personal needs and many of you know I had a difficult year with family issues,” Middleton wrote in the e-mail.
“I have accepted a wonderful new position as president of a national political organization. This is hot off the press, so they have to notify some folks before I publicize where I am headed,” Middleton wrote.
“It has been a privilege to work with 99 of the most committed public servants one could ever hope to meet, an honor to serve the engaged and active residents of House District 42, and a blessing to have had the opportunity to make Colorado a little bit better for the next generation,” Middleton said in a statement.
“We made significant progress in moving Colorado to a world-class, 21st century education system, by working to improve high school graduation rates and to expand access to postsecondary education opportunities,” she added.
Saying that Middleton “will be sorely missed,” Gov. Bill Ritter praised her work on education reform.
“Most recently, she forged a bipartisan compromise on how colleges and universities set their tuition, and took a leadership role in determining the future of student loans under the CollegeInvest Program in Colorado. More importantly, Karen successfully balanced her role as an educator and a legislator with her deep commitment to her family,” Ritter said in a statement.
House Speaker Terrance Carroll, a Denver Democrat, echoed Ritter.
“It’s been an absolute honor to serve with Karen,” Carroll said.
“She’s a true champion for education in this state,” he continued, “and epitomized the principle that every child deserves a chance at success. She always fights hard for the people of Aurora and all Colorado families. She will truly be missed. I wish her all the best in her next endeavor.”
The former member of the State Board of Education was appointed to the House District 42 seat in 2008 to fill a vacancy created when state Rep. Michael Garcia, another Aurora Democrat, stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment. She was elected to the seat that fall.
In her first full legislative term, she was elected to chair the Majority Caucus. She sits on the House Education Committee, the Transportation and Energy Committee and the Legislative Council.
In 2007, Middleton was named one of Colorado’s “Movers and Shakers” by The Statesman.
Middleton’s replacement for the general election will be chosen by a Democratic Party vacancy committee, scheduled to meet August 7.
Potential candidates include longtime party activist Eileen Bond, former legislative aide Sean Bradley, and Rhonda Fields, whose son, Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancé were gunned down in Aurora five years ago to keep him from testifying in another Aurora murder case. Fields lobbied state lawmakers to bolster witness protection programs with a bill that was sponsored by Garcia and has been a frequent advocate for victims at the Capitol since then.
Middleton told The Aurora Sentinel she hopes Fields takes her place on the ballot.
Republican Sally Mounier is running for the seat in the heavily Democratic West Aurora district.
According to the Colorado Department of State, in June the district counted 9,315 Democrats, 4,071 Republicans, 5,534 unaffiliated voters, and 117 voters registered with other parties on its active voter list.
Middleton’s husband, Larry Beer, lost his bid for re-election to the Aurora City Council last year and moved to Pleasanton, Calif., earlier this year for work.
He wrote Wednesday on the Colorado Pols political blog that the couple is thrilled Middleton will be able to join him full-time soon.
“We could have kept up the whole commuter-marriage thing for years, I suppose,” Beer wrote, “but — to paraphrase the immortal words of Hannibal Smith — I love it that this plan came together.”
— with additional reporting by Jody Hope Strogoff