ColoradoPolitics.com l By Joey Bunch
Democrats elected the state’s first Latina House speaker Thursday, choosing Rep. Crisanta Duran of Denver, as the parties selected their chamber leaders for the next two sessions.
House Republicans chose Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, one of the Capitol’s strongest conservatives, to lead their caucus. The move was a surprise, as Rep. Polly Lawrence from the Douglas County side of Littleton, was thought to be a frontrunner. She instead was not nominated at her request.
Senate Democrats re-elected Sen. Lucia Guzman of Denver as their minority leader, and Senate Republicans elected Sen. Kevin Grantham of Canon City as the chamber’s president.
The GOP retained its one-seat majority, 18-17, in the Senate on Election Day, while House Democrats expanded their majority by three seats to 37-28.
“For me it is important that this speakership recognizes the diversity in our state, but also that we lead for everyone, that we don’t leave anyone behind,” said Duran, who served as the Democratic House leader last year under Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, who was term-limited. “We don’t leave our workers behind, we don’t leave undocumented students behind, we don’t leave our ranchers and farmers.
“We need to work together together to make our state as wonderful as it can possibly be, and I look forward to working with people across the state to do just that.”
Duran won the top job without challenge.
Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder was elected House majority leader over Mike Foote of Lafayette and Faith Winter of Westminster.
The House Democrats elected Alec Garnett of Denver as assistant majority leader, Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood as whip, Jovan Melton of Aurora as deputy whip, Daneya Esgar of Pueblo as caucus chair and Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins as assistant caucus leader.
Besides Neville, House Republicans elected Cole Wist of Centennial to be assistant majority leader and Lori Saine as whip.
Senate Democrats chose Leroy Garcia of Pueblo as assistant minority leader, Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs as whip and freshman Sen. Lois Court as caucus chair.
The Democratic caucus in the upper chamber chose Matt Jones of Boulder for a new leadership position to work on environmental issues, though in the minority they’ll need help from Republicans to pass anything.
After Grantham, Senate Republicans chose Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling president pro tem, Chris Holbert of Parker to be majority leader, Ray Scott of Grand Junction as assistant majority leader, Vicki Marble of Fort Collins as caucus leader and John Cooke of Greeley as whip.
Caucus leadership for each party is important, because it decides which bills parties propose and oppose, and the majority in each chamber picks which committees bills are assigned to—friendly where they can make it to the floor for a vote, or unfriendly where they are killed.
The legislative session begins Jan. 11.
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