Democrats gained control of the Colorado legislature on Tuesday, and on Thursday they chose new leadership for both chambers.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino of Denver was unanimously selected as speaker by his party caucus, and Sen. John Morse of Colorado Springs was chosen as president of the Senate over Sens. Pat Steadman of Denver and Rollie Heath of Boulder.
All four party caucuses met at the Capitol Thursday morning to congratulate or commiserate and to elect leaders. Senate Democrats have retained a 20-15 majority, while the election took House Democrats from a 32-33 minority to a 37-28 majority.
“The time for politics and elections is behind us. Governing is hard, and it takes pulling everyone together,” Morse said. “Let’s move this state forward.”
Ferrandino, the first openly gay speaker in state history, told his caucus, “Your job is to reach across the aisle, find partners and come up with the best policy for the people of Colorado.”
The 21 leaders selected by the four caucuses are generally a seasoned group, although one incoming freshman, Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, was elected assistant caucus chair.
Only three have education backgrounds. Among Senate Democrats, new president pro tem Lucia Guzman is a former Denver School Board member and Gail Schwartz of Snowmass, elected majority whip, is a former University of Colorado regent. Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley and caucus chair, served on the Eaton school board.
Ferrandino and Morse both voted for Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark legislation that established a new education evaluation system based partly on student growth. Ferrandino said at the time that it took a lot of soul searching for him to support the bill. Morse initially voted against the bill but changed his mind for the final Senate vote.
The new majority leaders both voted against SB 10-191. Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, were elected to those posts Thursday.
The Colorado Education Association, an important financial supporter of Democratic legislative campaigns, opposed the bill at the time.
Rep. Mark Waller was chosen as House minority leader, and Sen. Bill Cadman will return as Senate minority leader. Both represent Colorado Springs districts.
Current Senate President Brandon Schafer of Longmont, who ran an unsuccessful race in the 4th Congressional district, isn’t returning to the Capitol. Current GOP Speaker Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch didn’t seek a leadership post after his party lost its majority.
Ferrandino and Morse won’t formally take their posts until they’re elected by members of their chambers after the legislature convenes Jan. 9.
Both will have some training to do among their members.
Thirty-two lawmakers are new to the 100-seat General Assembly, and seven more are new to their seats but have prior legislative experience.
There are four brand-new senators, two from each party, and six House members are moving to the Senate, including five Democrats and one Republican. The 65-member House has 28 new members, 15 Democrats and 13 Republicans. One House Democrat won election after being out of the House for two years.
New legislative leadership
Ferrandino, a former state policy and fiscal analyst, was appointed to the legislature in 2007 and elected in 2008. He’s serving his last term. Morse, a former Fountain police chief, has degrees in accounting and public administration and is halfway through his last term in the legislature.
Of the leaders elected by both parties, 10 are men and 11 are women. Nine are Democrats. Six are from Denver, eight from suburbs and all but one from the Front Range, from Canon City to Greeley. (Totals don’t include Joint Budget Committee members.)
- Speaker: Mark Ferrandino, R-Denver
- Majority Leader: Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder
- Assistant Majority Leader: Dan Pabon, D-Denver
- Caucus Chair: Lois Court, D-Denver
- Assistant Caucus Chair: Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
- Whip: Beth McCann, D-Denver
- Deputy Whip: Su Ryden, D-Aurora
- Joint Budget Committee members: Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Claire Levy, D-Boulder
- Minority Leader: Mark Waller, D-Colorado Springs
- Assistant Minority Leader: Libby Szabo, R-Arvada
- Caucus Chair: Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton
- Whip: Kevin Priola, R-Henderson
- President: John Morse, D-Colorado Springs
- President Pro Tem: Lucia Guzman, D-Denver
- Majority Leader: Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora
- Assistant Majority Leader: Irene Aguilar, D-Denver
- Caucus Chair: Jeanne Nicholson, D-Gilpin County
- Majority Whip: Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village
- Joint Budget Committee members: Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and Steadman, D-Denver
- Minority Leader: Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs
- Assistant Minority Leader: Mark Scheffel, R-Parker
- Caucus Chair: Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley
- Minority Whip: Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City