The party leadership in both chambers is set for the 2019 session. Many of the selections made by the four caucuses were predictable, but there were some surprises.
As expected, Democratic Rep. KC Becker of Boulder was elected speaker of the House, and Democratic Sen. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo was elected president of the Senate. Becker was House majority leader for all of last session, and Garcia became minority leader in the middle of the 2018 session.
Becker has served in the House since being appointed to her seat in October 2013. Garcia was elected to his second four-year term on Tuesday. He’s the first Latino Senate president and previously served in the House.
Senate Republicans, now in the minority, provided a bit of a surprise when Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, who has been president pro tempore, didn’t run for any leadership posts. He’d been expected to be Senate president if the GOP had held the majority. House Republicans basically re-elected their current leadership.
House Democrats had a long caucus but only one contested race, while the Senate Democrats saw four of seven races contested and decided by secret ballots.
Statehouse observers had been anxiously awaiting the caucus meetings to learn who would be selected to serve on the Joint Budget Committee, which lost four of six members to term limits. Here’s who was selected and who may be named later:
• Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, who’s been on JBC since 2015
• Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, who’s served on the committee for two sessions and will be chair in 2019
• Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Broomfield, is an educator who’s served three sessions and hasn’t previously been involved with budget issues
• Sen.-elect Dennis Hisey, R-Fountain, a former El Paso County commissioner
House Democratic leadership will name two members of the JBC. They are expected to be:
• Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, who has been vice chair of the Capital Development Committee, which is kind of a “mini JBC” with oversight over capital spending requests
• Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, who also has served on Capital Development
Each chamber has three seats on the budget committee, with the majority party getting two. Because of split party control, the committee has had three Democrats and three Republicans for the past few sessions, making bipartisan compromise on the budget essential.
Here are the results of all leadership elections:
(38-42 of 65 seats, had 36 last session)
Democrats will control the House in 2019; the only question is how big their majority will be. Tuesday’s election gave them 38 seats, but the winners of four races remain to be determined because of razor-thin differences in vote totals. Democrats are currently ahead in 3 of those 4 races, with votes still being counted. The caucus decided to go ahead with leadership elections even though the membership isn’t fully determined.
The Democratic members overflowed the benches in one of the Capitol’s largest meeting rooms, and several members commented with some amazement about the size of the caucus for the upcoming session.
• Speaker – KC Becker
• Majority leader – Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, who was assistant majority leader last session and helped organize Democratic campaigns this year
• Assistant majority leader – Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood (nominee Rep. Lesley Herod, D-Denver, was defeated.)
• Caucus chair – Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder
• Deputy caucus chair – Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City
• Whips – Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver, and Rep. Jeff Bridges, D-Cherry Hills. (The caucus decided to change the old designations of whip and assistant whip to co-whips)
(27-23 of 65 seats, had 29 last session)
Given existing divisions within this caucus and the fact that Republicans lost seats, there was some speculation that leadership might change. But members were in a unified mood in public Wednesday. Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, had been interested in running for minority leader but withdraw her name during the caucus. (She was nominated by Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida.) So, all current leaders except the assistant minority leader were re-elected.
• Minority leader – Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock
• Assistant Minority Leader – Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch
• Caucus chair – Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone
• Whip – Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor
• JBC member – Rankin, R-Carbondale
(19 of 35 seats, had 16 last session)
Several leadership positions were contested and decided by written ballots after contending candidates made brief speeches. The new Senate Democratic caucus is a diverse group with 11 women (eight white, two black and one Latina) and nine men (six white and three Latino). Though, both Jones and Kefalas won races for County Commissioner and will be replaced in the Senate, likely by women.
• President – Garcia
• President pro tempore – Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver. She was elected over fellow Denver Democrat Angela Williams
• Major Leader – Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. He was not up for election this year so helped coordinate other Democratic Senate campaigns. He defeated Zenzinger
• Assistant majority leader – Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora
• Caucus chair – Sen.-elect Faith Winter, D-Westminster.
• Whip – Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail. She defeated Williams
• JBC members – Moreno and Zenzinger
(16 of 35 seats, had 18 last session)
The Senate GOP lineup is much the same as last session, with the exception of Sonnenberg and Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, who’s leaving because of term limits.
• Minority leader – Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker (was majority leader last session)
• Assistant minority leader – Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley
• Caucus chair – Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins
• Whip – Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction
• JBC member – Sen.-elect Dennis Hisey, R-Fountain
This report was prepared by Frontline Public Affairs staff and Todd Engdahl of Capitol Editorial Services, a statehouse reporting and research service.