Committee selects Holtorf to complete the late Rep. Lewis’ term |

Committee selects Holtorf to complete the late Rep. Lewis’ term

Five candidates stepped forward for the opportunity to fulfill the late Rep. Kimmi Lewis' remaining term. They are, left to right, Richard Holtorf, Keenan Orcutt, Scott Wills, James Vigil, and Mack Louden.
Photo courtesy Las Animas County Republicans

Delegates from House District 64 braved long drives in wintry road conditions on Dec. 28 to attend a vacancy committee meeting in Kiowa, Colo.

The 115 delegates from the vast district that encompasses Baca, Bent, Crowley, Elbert, Kiowa, Las Animas, Lincoln, Prowers and Washington counties were tasked with selecting the individual to finish the late Rep. Kimmi Lewis’ term. House Minority leader Patrick Neville told the crowd “no one will ever fill her shoes, but they can walk in her footsteps.” He said Lewis was loyal, always riding for the brand, and asked delegates to exhibit the same loyalty.

Bob Lewis, chair of the House District 64, Republican Central Committee, (no relation to Rep. Lewis) said he first and foremost extends his condolences to the Lewis family, many of whom were present at the meeting. A quorum, he said, would have required only 87 delegates but an impressive 115 attended despite challenging timing and weather.

“It was humbling that 115 people came out in a blizzard on a holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s when everyone has something going on,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the candidates who stepped up were quality people and he said he believes Kimmi would be proud of her district and its people.

Five candidates began the process, including James “Jim” Vigil, a native of Trinidad, a Marine who served in Vietnam, and a retired auditor for Amoco Corporation; Mack Louden, a rancher and retired two-term commissioner from Las Animas County who has the support of the Lewis family; Richard Holtorf, a rancher, cattle feeder and retired U.S. Army Colonel from Washington County; Scott Wills, a former Elbert County Republican chairman; and Keenan Orcutt, a former Marine and rancher from Elbert County.

After a series of six votes, Richard Holtorf was selected to complete Lewis’ remaining year in office. Holtorf is a third-generation producer, spent 29 years in the United States Army, completed five overseas tours including two combat tours, to Afghanistan, and earned three master’s degrees. He has served in his community as a 15-year Washington County Farm Bureau president, VFW Post 8064 Commander in 2017, served the Washington County Stockman’s Association for over 20 years as well as service to the Washington County Republican Committee and others.

“I’m going to listen, and I want to follow your lead as a delegative legislator,” Colorado Politics reported Holtorf told the crowd at the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa. “It’s your district, not mine. I’m just your representative. If you want to send a bulldog up there, you’re looking at one.”

Holtorf said he has watched changes in Colorado for 20 years and having grown up, worked, and raised his family in rural Colorado, he recognizes that rural Colorado needs a great leader. Kimmi Lewis, he said, was a great leader and her absence creates a vacuum.

A businessman, Holtorf said he understands the deep challenges rural Colorado faces with underfunded schools, a lack of easily accessible medical staff, facilities, and technology, and challenges from voters who don’t understand agriculture.

“I told the delegates we need somebody who can go toe to toe with 20 or 30 Democrats and hold their own,” he said. “Kimmi was that kind of a person. I know Kimmi and every time she came to Washington County, I sponsored her, I welcomed her and watched and admired her. I admired what she did.”

Holtorf said he will take up Lewis’ fight for transparency in conservation easements and supporting production agriculture, the backbone of his district. He said he plans to visit every county and will not forget any of the counties.

“I will represent these people,” he said. “I come from the same kind of country they come from and I understand it.”

Holtorf has identified a number of issues important to rural Colorado, including discounted farm to market overweight vehicle permits, speed limit modifications, increased broadband and cell phone coverage, funding of livestock depredation reimbursement if the gray wolf is forcibly reintroduced, and tax incentives to encourage physicians to practice in rural areas.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-District 1, said another ag producer is always welcome at the capitol and said Holtorf was one of a number of great candidates willing to step up and finish Rep. Lewis’ term. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 392-4410.

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