Nov 14, 2022 - News

How Colorado Democrats will govern with new majorities

Gov. Jared Polis celebrates re-election at the Art Hotel in Denver on Tuesday. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

Gov. Jared Polis celebrates re-election Tuesday at the Art Hotel in Denver. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

The Democratic grip on the state Capitol only strengthened in the midterm election, and now the party's leaders are preparing to govern with a renewed mandate.

What happened: Instead of losing ground, as predicted with redistricting and an unfavorable national political mood, Democrats added five seats in the state House to get a 46-19 majority, if preliminary results hold.

Why it matters: With Gov. Jared Polis at the helm, and Democrats controlling other statewide offices and boards, the party has free rein to continue its overhaul of state policy and push an aggressive agenda.

  • The question is how they use the power and whether they push too far and lose the public's support.

What they're saying: So far, state Democrats are taking a careful approach in public statements.

  • Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) called Democratic numbers a "generational majority," but cautioned the party must use it wisely.

Zoom in: Polis is echoing the tone. In an exclusive interview, the governor tells Axios Denver that he's focused on implementing the priorities from his first term — such as expanded preschool education in 2023 and boosting renewable energy use — and he set two major priorities for his next four years: "Health care and housing..." he says.

  • Polis said he wants to see legislation to reduce the costs in both areas, but declined to elaborate on policy specifics.

Between the lines: One of the most vexing and consequential issues Democrats will face in the next two years is crafting a new formula for property taxes after voters repealed the Gallagher Amendment in 2020.

  • The final formula must "prevent property taxes from going up too much and pricing people out of where they live," the governor says.

Zoom in: Colorado lawmakers met Thursday to pick their new leaders for the next legislative term, which begins in January.

In the House, Democrats named Julie McCluskie of Dillion to the powerful post of speaker and Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge as the majority leader who controls the flow of legislation.

  • On the Republican side, Rep. Rod Pelton of Cheyenne Wells is the minority leader and Rep. Mike Lynch of Wellington is the assistant minority leader. The elections followed the sudden death of Rep. Hugh McKean, who laid in state at the Capitol on Thursday as the party picked his successor.

In the Senate, Democratic leadership changed little. Fenberg retained the top job as president and Sen. Dominic Moreno as majority leader. Sen. James Coleman of Denver will serve as Senate President Pro Tem.

  • For Republicans, Paul Lundeen of Monument will serve as minority leader.

Editors note: This story has been updated to reflect that Colorado Republicans announced leadership changes on Tuesday, including Rep. Rod Pelton of Cheyenne, who was elected House minority leader, and Rep. Mike Lynch of Wellington as assistant minority leader, not minority leader as originally stated.

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