New Colorado Senate leader calls for higher standards as Democrats take over

The next president of the Colorado state Senate called for higher standards and “common-sense solutions” Thursday, signaling a new tone for a legislative body that has been bitterly divided by partisan politics and sexual assault investigations.

State Sen. Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat and former Marine, was unanimously selected by his peers to lead the state’s upper chamber after Democrats won a 19-seat majority. Republicans previously controlled the chamber by one seat.

“It’s my hope to bring a back a new energy and standards to the Senate,” Garcia said. “Because my success is your success, and ultimately the success of this great state.”

The shift in power in the Senate gives Colorado Democrats complete control over state government. After voters opted not to approve tax increases for roads and schools, state lawmakers and Gov.-elect Jared Polis will be forced to tackle these perennial issues.

“We’re going to face some tough challenges,” Garcia said. “The state faces tough challenges. But I’m absolutely confident with this dynamic caucus, with these leaders, we’ll be able to represent every Coloradan, we’ll be committed to finding common-sense solutions to move our state forward.”

Garcia, who was previously minority leader, will lead the Democratic caucus along with state Sens. Lois Court of Denver and Steve Fenberg of Boulder. Court was elected president pro tempore and Fenberg majority leader. Their roles are subject to a final vote by the entire Senate after the legislature resumes business in January.

Republican senators also selected their leaders. State Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, will be the minority leader. State Sen. John Cooke will be assistant minority leader.

In a statement, Holbert who was majority leader the last two years, warned Democrats against abusing their power.

“The people have spoken and our Democratic colleagues now have control of the state Senate, which gives them an advantage in terms of getting legislative action approved,” he said. “But that’s not a license to run roughshod over the 46 percent of district residents in Colorado who didn’t support their candidates or ideas but still need to be heard, represented and respectfully treated at the statehouse.”

State House Democrats were expected to choose their leadership Thursday afternoon. State Rep. KC Becker of Boulder — currently the majority leader — is likely the next speaker.

State Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, was re-elected as House minority leader. And Rep. Kevin VanWinkle, R-Highlands Ranch, is the new assistant minority leader.

Other lawmakers selected for leadership in the Senate are:

  • Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, assistant minority leader
  • Faith Winter, D-Brighton, caucus chair
  • Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, whip
  • Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, Joint Budget Committee
  • Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, Joint Budget Committee
  • Vicki Marble, R-Fort Colli, caucus chair
  • Dennis Hisey, R-Fountain, Joint Budget Committee

Other lawmakers selected for leadership in the House are:

  • Lori Saine, R-Firestone, caucus chair
  • Perry Buck, R-Windsor, House republican whip



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