Colorado House Democrats elected Rep. Alec Garnett of Denver as the new House speaker on Nov. 5, replacing Rep. KC Becker, of Boulder, who is term-limited.
Garnett faced no opposition, but the battle for House majority leader was more competitive — with Reps. Adrienne Benavidez of Commerce City, Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, Chris Kennedy of Lakewood and Leslie Herod of Denver all vying for the position.
After two runoff elections and a technical problem with the virtual platform the caucus was using, Esgar emerged victorious and will be the next majority leader in the House.
Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver was elected as assistant majority leader after winning more votes than Rep. Yadira Caraveo of Thornton.
The new leadership team is expected to preside over a 41-member caucus in the House, after Democrats managed to maintain their wide margin over Republicans.
Garnett’s ascension to House speaker was largely expected by Democrats in the months leading up to the Nov. 3 general election.
“Once you enter the chamber and start working with Alec, what we all, I think, feel about Alec is that he genuinely cares about every single member,” Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, said before the caucus voted. “I think he loses more sleep than probably anyone in the House worrying about not just how people feel, how they’re doing, but their district — if they’re serving the district, if he’s doing everything he can to facilitate that.”
“In the upcoming session, it’s up to all of us to ensure that we build back a better, stronger Colorado,” Garnett said during the virtual meeting.
Esgar, who chairs the Joint Budget Committee, was lauded for her role in reworking the state budget after massive cuts were necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Her experience on JBC I think will be invaluable to our leadership team,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs.
“I think it is so vitally important when decisions are being made for this entire caucus that there are people from all areas of Colorado in on those decisions,” Esgar said before the vote, arguing that her residence outside the Denver metro area would prove an advantage. “What may be good for Democrats in Denver may not be good for Democrats in Durango, Democrats in Pueblo, El Paso County, and we have to make sure we’re having those conversations.”
Colorado Democrats gained one seat in the Colorado House with the victory of David Ortiz over incumbent Republican Rep. Richard Champion in House District 38, encompassing parts of Littleton and Centennial. They lost a seat with the victory of Stephanie Luck over Rep. Bri Buentello in House District 47, which encompasses Pueblo and stretches from Penrose east to La Junta.
In the Senate, Democrats gained one seat in House District 27, where Chris Kolker beat Suzanne Staiert in an area that includes Centennial. There, Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder and Assistant Majority Leader Rhonda Fields of Aurora were reelected to their leadership positions.