Colorado Democrats select new leadership after preserving trifecta in state government

Pueblo’s Esgar is state House majority leader; Garcia re-elected Senate president

Colorado Democrats announced their new leadership team on Thursday, two days after the party successfully preserved its trifecta in state government.

Overall, Democrats successfully defended 40 incumbent seats while flipping one in Senate District 27. They head into the 2021 legislative session holding 41 of 65 seats in the House, the party’s largest delegation since 1965. They also control 20 of 35 seats in the Senate.

The party elected seven new leaders in the House, with Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, replacing Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, as the House speaker. Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, will be the House majority leader and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, will serve as assistant majority leader.

Esgar was elevated because she successfully chaired the Joint Budget Committee as it “responsibly crafted a balanced state budget during the worst economic and public health crisis in a generation,” House Democrats said in a statement.

Last session, Esgar co-sponsored a bill extending a state law that limits the circumstances under which state departments can make transfers or incur over-expenditures. The executive branch is limited to $5.0 million and the judicial branch is limited to $1 million in any fiscal year. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law in July.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead, and I am humbled Coloradans have overwhelmingly chosen Democrats to continue leading in the House,” Esgar said. 

Senate Democrats re-elected Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, as president. Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, was elected as president pro tem and Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, is the new majority whip.

Previous House members James Coleman, D-Denver, Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, will be joining the Senate.

“I am incredibly proud of the team we have assembled. Looking across the diverse, thoughtful, and tenacious members of this leadership body, I have no doubt that while our challenges may be enormous, we will approach them with grace and fortitude – working together to bring healing and relief to the incredible people of Colorado,” Garcia said in a statement.

Democrats gained their trifecta in 2019 after flipping three Senate seats. That same year, a legal battle ensued after Democrats used computers to speed-read lengthy bills when Republicans moved for them to be read at length on the Senate floor.

A district judge ruled the practice violated the state constitution. To pay for their defense, Democrats appropriated $40,000 in taxpayer funds without the necessary congressional approval, according to a Colorado Sun investigation.

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