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Dillon’s McCluskie named state House speaker in win for Western Slope

November 13, 2022, 8:01 am
Dillon’s Julie McCluskie will be the next Colorado Speaker of the House (Faith Miller photo).

Colorado House Democrats chose Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon on Friday to serve as speaker of the chamber for the upcoming legislative session.

“It is an enormous privilege to serve the great state of Colorado, and I’m honored to lead one of the largest and most diverse Democratic majorities in our state’s history,” McCluskie said in a statement. “The diversity of this body is our strength. As public servants, we are called upon to answer the expectations and needs of the people in our districts and to govern responsibly on behalf of every person in our state — those who voted for us and those who did not.”

She will oversee a caucus of 46 Democrats in the 65-seat House chamber.

Friday’s meeting was a continuation of one on Thursday. During that first meeting, representatives voted for speaker, but the three-way leadership race between McCluskie, Chris Kennedy of Lakewood and Adrienne Benavidez of Commerce City was too close to call. The results weren’t announced, as three House district races had not yet been called after the election Tuesday — the votes from the members in those races could have potentially been voided, and the result of the speaker vote could have changed. Colorado House Democrats elected leaders on Nov. 11, 2022. The are, from left: Rep. Andrew Boesenecker of Fort Collins, majority co-whip; Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora, majority co-whip; Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge, majority leader; Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon, speaker; Rep. Jennifer Bacon of Denver, assistant majority leader; Rep. Brianna Titone of Arvada, majority caucus co-chair; Rep. Mandy Lindsay of Aurora, majority caucus co-chair. (Courtesy of Colorado House Democrats)

But on Friday, former Speaker Alec Garnett said caucus staff felt comfortable enough that the three races would be called in the Democratic candidates’ favor, so the vote went forward. There was no majority from Thursday’s results for speaker, so there was a runoff between Benavidez and McCluskie.

McCluskie has served in the state House since 2019.

House Democrats also chose Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge as majority leader, Rep. Jennifer Bacon of Denver as assistant majority leader, Rep. Andrew Boesenecker of Fort Collins as majority co-whip, Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora as majority co-whip, Rep. Mandy Lindsay of Aurora as majority caucus co-chair, and Rep. Brianna Titone of Arvada as majority caucus co-chair. The Colorado Senate Democratic caucus elected leaders at the Colorado Capitol Nov. 10, 2022. They include: from left, back row: President Pro Tempore James Coleman, D-Denver, Assistant Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder and Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City; and, from left front row: Majority Whip Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, Majority Caucus Chair Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, Joint Budget Committee Member Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Joint Budget Committee Chair Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada. (Courtesy of Colorado Senate Democrats)

The the leadership election results mean the Colorado House will have a woman serving as speaker, majority leader and assistant leader for first time in state history, according to a caucus press release. Titone will be the first transgender state lawmaker in a leadership position in the country, the release says.

With 39 women in the state House and 12 women in the state Senate — meaning a total 51 women in the 100-seat Legislature — it will be the first time in the Legislature’s history that women are in the majority, according to longtime Capitol reporter Marianne Goodland of Colorado Politics.

Senate leaders

In the state Senate, Democrats selected leadership on Thursday.

Sen. Steve Fenberg of Boulder will return as Senate President and Sen. James Coleman of Denver will serve as president pro tempore. Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City was selected as majority leader, Sen. Robert Rodriguez of Denver as assistant majority leader, Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver as majority whip and Sen. Janet Buckner of Aurora as majority caucus chair. For the Joint Budget Committee, Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada will serve as chair and Sen. Jeff Bridges will be a member.

House and Senate Republicans chose their leadership on Thursday as well.

The legislative session convenes on Jan. 9, 2023.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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