Oct 30, 2022 - News

House GOP leader Hugh McKean remembered as a "statesman"

Hugh McKean

House Minority Leader Hugh McKean at an Aug. 9, 2021 event. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado House Minority Leader Hugh McKean is being remembered as a statesman who put people over the party after his sudden death Sunday.

Driving the news: McKean, 55, died early Sunday morning at home in Loveland. The Larimer County coroner said the cause of death was a heart attack. An aide told the Colorado Sun that he didn't feel well the day before.

  • First elected in 2016, McKean served as the Republican leader in the state House and worked as a general contractor.
  • Even though his party held a minority in the chamber, he showed a willingness to work across the aisle on bipartisan legislation. This often put him at odds with his more conservative and combative GOP colleagues.
  • He leaves behind two children, Aiden, 21, and Hanna McKean, 23, as well as his partner Amy Parks, per the Colorado Sun.

The intrigue: In an interview just 10 days before his death, McKean told Axios Denver he was optimistic about the midterm election and GOP chances to cut into the 41-24 Democratic majority. And he expressed a bold vision.

  • "My priority is to change the brand of the Republican Party," he said at a forum hosted by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 20. "We have better ideas and we have common sense solutions. We need to show the people of Colorado that we can govern well."

What they're saying: "Minority Leader McKean cared deeply for his constituents, always had time for a conversation or a laugh, and truly worked every day to build a better future for every Coloradan," Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement shared with Axios.

  • "He never made politics personal, but instead always greeted everyone with a warm smile and an open hand. With his sincere nature and honest approach, he taught everyone what it means to be a statesman," Senate Republican leader John Cooke added.

John's thought bubble: I'll cherish the fact that Leader McKean came up to talk to me after the chamber event. His smile and positive energy were infectious and he made you feel like you were the only person in the room.

  • In true McKean fashion, our conversation ranged from politics and the 2022 campaign to his daughter's new portraits and the house he was building. He joked about being a bad plumber but having to do his own plumbing because of worker and supply shortages. We made plans to talk more soon.
  • He was a person first and a politician second.

Of note: McKean was running unopposed in the 2022 election. Votes for him will still count, state election officials said. His seat will be filled by a Larimer County Republican Party vacancy committee.

  • McKean's deputy GOP leader, state Rep. Tim Geitner, recently resigned from the legislature, creating a current leadership vacuum.

Between the lines: McKean faced a Republican challenger from the party's rightward flank in June. Austin Hein previously worked for the House Republican caucus at the Capitol.

  • McKean won 56% to Hein's 44%, but the race became nasty. McKean faced allegations that he was registered to vote at a vacant plot of land (where he's now building his house), but the complaint was dismissed.
  • His political work also created enemies. A liberal publication recently raised questions about his involvement with a consulting firm based on his testimony in a 2019 divorce.

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