They campaigned against each other for secretary of state, but on Wednesday Republican Wayne Williams and Democrat Joe Neguse sat side by side in a Senate confirmation hearing, praising each other.
Williams, who beat Neguse by 2.2 percentage points, took office in January 2015. Gov. John Hickenlooper last spring appointed Neguse to head the Department of Regulatory Agencies, better known as DORA. The post requires Senate confirmation, which is why Neguse appeared before the state Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.
Neguse sailed through the hearing after Williams and members of the Republican-controlled committee praised his performance. Neguse’s confirmation now goes before the full Senate where it has been deemed such a sure thing it was put on what is called the consent calendar, where all 35 senators are expected to be “yes” votes.
“Politics often sounds nasty,” Williams said, referring to the recent Iowa caucus.
“And that’s a different level of dialogue than Americans and Coloradans really want and I am here as kind of a testament that you can run a campaign without wallowing in the mud or engaging in rancor. Joe and I had the opportunity to both run for secretary of state for more than a year and as we went across the state and showed up at different forums. There were some things we disagreed on but there were also a lot of things we agreed on. And we did throughout the campaign keep it civil.”
Williams also praised Neguse’s performance as the DORA chief.
“I think it’s a good place to have someone who understands things from the regulated entities perspective and to understand what the correct role of government is, to foster commerce and protect the people at the same time,” the secretary said.
Neguse returned the compliment when he thanked Williams for presenting him to the Senate committee.
“And as I prepared for this hearing today I thought a lot about the campaign we had two years ago and the secretary and his bipartisan efforts to work across the aisle,” Neguse said. “I can only second what the secretary said about how lucky we are to live in a state with public servants like Secretary Williams and members of this committee who are willing to work together for the common good.
“His willingness to join me this afternoon is certainly a testament to his character. And as fate would have it one of the silver linings of my campaign nearly two years ago for SOS was being able to have the privilege of getting to know my then opponent but now someone who I can call a colleague in state government but more importantly a friend so thank you Secretary Williams.”
The committee chairman, Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said he appreciated Neguse’s take on the department’s role: protecting consumers but still focusing on how to create jobs and prosperity.
Holbert and Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, also complimented Neguse on his performance during “Smart Act” hearings, where departments outline their agenda and performance plan for the year before legislative committees.
“Your participation in the smart hearings impressed us all and we really appreciated the way you took that on. The smart hearings, which we introduced a couple of years ago, frankly they never met expectations until what you did,” Heath said. “We are blessed to have you.”
Neguse is an attorney and former member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents. He twice received the Colorado Democratic Party’s Rising Star award and on the campaign trail noted that he was the son of African immigrants who came to America for a better life.