For the second election in a row, an Adams County Republican has given the party control of the state Senate.
There were plenty of handshakes and hugs Thursday at the state Capitol when Kevin Priola of Henderson showed up. Priola, a state representative, defeated Democrat Jenise May, a former state representative, 52 percent to 47 percent in unofficial returns.
This is always a fascinating time under the Gold Dome. Two days after the general election, returning members and the freshly elected show up to pick caucus leaders, schmooze, celebrate and console.
It’s a disappointing day for the losing side. House Republicans saw three incumbents defeated, and Democrats next year will have a 37-28 majority. Senate Democrats are again in the minority and again by one seat, 18-17.
House Republicans chose one of the more conservative members of the caucus, Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, as minority leader. It’s not a term Neville embraces.
“I’m the Republican leader,” he said.
Democrat Crisanta Duran of Denver was elected speaker of the House, the first Latina to hold that position. Ruben Valdez served as House speaker from 1975 to 1977.
Two years ago, Duran was elected House majority leader and Dickey Lee Hullingshorst of Boulder was elected speaker, becoming the first women to hold both the two spots in one of the chambers. Hullinghorst is term limited, and Democrat Edie Hooton won election to her seat.
This is the first time since 1998 that Senate Republicans have been in power for two elections in a row. Democrats won the Senate in a shocker in 2000 and when Republicans won it back in 2002 the party thought the planets had realigned and everything was back to normal. Then came the 2004 stunner, when Democrats won both chambers of the legislature for the first time since the 1960 election.
Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014 when Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton won her race. Bill Cadman became Senate president, but is term limited. Senate Republicans today chose Kevin Grantham of Cañon City as president. (If you are a movie buff, you will know why I call him “Gray.”)
For Senate Democrats, Lucia Guzman of Denver will again serve as minority leader, and Leroy Garcia of Pueblo will be the assistant minority leader. It is believed to be the first time the top two leadership positions in a caucus have both been hold by Latinos.
And another first: A record number of black lawmakers, eight, will be serving next year.
Thanks Colorado Capitol Watch for your list of the new leadership rosters:
HOUSE DEMOCRATS: Besides Duran, other leadership posts went to KC Becker of Boulder, majority leader; Alec Garnett of Denver, assistant majority leader; Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, caucus chair; Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins, assistant caucus chair; Brittany Pettersen, of Lakewood, whip; and Jovan Melton of Aurora, majority deputy whip. The two members of the Joint Budget Committee are again expected to be Millie Hamner of Dillon and Dave Young of Greeley.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS: Besides Neville, other leaders will be Cole Wist ofCentennial, assistant minority leader; Perry Buck of Windsor, whip; and Lori Saine of Firestone, caucus chair. Bob Rankin of Carbondale will return to the JBC.
SENATE REPUBLICANS: Besides Grantham, other leadership posts went to Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, president pro tempore; Chris Holbert of Parker, majority leader; Ray Scott of Grand Junction, assistant majority leader; John Cooke of Greeley, whip; and Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, caucus chair. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs will return to the JBC and will be joined by Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud. Grantham was on the JBC the last two years.
SENATE DEMOCRATS: Besides Guzman and Garcia, caucus leaders will be Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs, whip; and Sen.-elect Lois Court of Denver, caucus chair. Sen.-elect Dominick Moreno of Commerce City is going to be on the JBC.