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A 68-person vacancy committee gathered Saturday at Regis University to select a replacement for the House District 4 seat after Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez resigned. (Elliott Wenzler, The Colorado Sun)
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A 68-person Democratic vacancy committee on Saturday selected Aurora Public Schools teacher Tim Hernández to replace Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez as the representative for a state House district in northwest Denver. 

Hernández, 26, was chosen after one round of voting at Regis University. He will add to the progressive ranks at the Capitol.

Gonzales-Gutierrez, whose resignation took effect Aug. 4, stepped down from the legislature halfway through her third, two-year term after she was elected to the Denver City Council in April. She was one of the more progressive Democrats at the Capitol.

During a forum before the vote, Hernández and two other candidates for the job laid out their policy positions. Hernández, who was nominated by state Sen. Julie Gonzales, said he would focus in the legislature on boosting housing density, fighting gun violence, increasing wages and reducing Colorado’s incarceration rates. 

“I’m a very proud Democrat and I’m also a progressive Democrat, which means that I push us on our values,” Hernández said.

Hernández made headlines in 2022 when his contract as a Denver Public Schools educator wasn’t renewed. He told 5280 his position wasn’t renewed because “white school leaders did not appreciate the ways that I advocated for students.”

Hernández was frequently at the Capitol this year, joining students calling for tougher gun laws.

He will represent House District 4 and serve for the duration of Gonzales-Gutierrez’s term, which ends in January 2025. The district is based in northwest Denver and has a large Latino population. 

The House District 4 vacancy committee on Saturday was made up of party insiders.

Hernández adds to the growing list of Colorado lawmakers who got a job at the Capitol through a vacancy committee. A Colorado Sun analysis found that nearly a quarter of all Colorado lawmakers serving in the statehouse this year were appointed to a House or Senate seat by a vacancy committee. 

The other candidates vying for the vacancy included former state Rep. Rochelle Galindo and former appellate immigration judge Cecelia Espenoza. 


Galindo, a former state representative for House District 50, abruptly resigned from her position in 2019 after just one session. She stepped down as she was facing a Republican recall effort and accusations that she provided alcohol to a minor who worked on her statehouse campaign. The progressive Democrat was acquitted by a Weld County jury of criminal charges.

Espenoza described herself to Axios Denver as a “mainstream Democrat.” 

Espenoza and Hernández served on the vacancy committee and didn’t have to recuse themselves for the election.

Hernández received 39 votes. Espenoza received 27 votes and Galindo received two votes.

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her reporting and photography. Elliott graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in editorial journalism and minors in both business and Spanish. She is also an avid rock climber, snowboarder and hiker. Twitter: @ElliottWenzler