DENVER - Democrats elected the state's first Latina speaker of the house Thursday, choosing Crisanta Duran of Denver, as the parties selected their chamber leaders for the next two sessions of the Colorado General Assembly.
House Republicans chose Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, one of the Capitol's strongest conservatives, to lead their caucus. The move was a surprise, as Rep. Polly Lawrence from Roxborough Park was thought to be a front-runner. Lawrence requested not to be nominated.
Senate Republicans elected Kevin Grantham of Cañon City as president of the state Senate, while Senate Democrats re-elected Lucia Guzman of Denver as their minority leader,
The GOP retained its one-seat majority, 18-17, in the Senate on Election Day, while house Democrats expanded their House majority by three seats, to 37-28.
"For me it is important that this speakership recognizes the diversity in our state, but also that we lead for everyone, that we don't leave anyone behind," said Duran, who served as the Democratic House leader last year under Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, who was term-limited. "We don't leave our workers behind, we don't leave undocumented students behind, we don't leave our ranchers and farmers.
"We need to work together to make our state as wonderful as it can possibly be, and I look forward to working with people across the state to do just that."
Duran won the top job without challenge.
Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder was elected house majority leader over Mike Foote of Lafayette and Faith Winter of Westminster.
House Democrats elected Alec Garnett of Denver as assistant majority leader, Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood as whip, Jovan Melton of Aurora as deputy whip, Daneya Esgar of Pueblo as caucus chair and Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins as assistant caucus leader.
Besides Neville, House Republicans elected Cole Wist of Centennial to be assistant minority leader and Lori Saine as whip.
Senate Democrats chose Leroy Garcia of Pueblo as assistant minority leader, Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs as whip and freshman Sen. Lois Court as caucus chair.
The Democratic caucus in the upper chamber chose Matt Jones of Boulder for a new leadership position to work on environmental issues. Though in the minority, they'll need help from Republicans to pass anything.
After Grantham, Senate Republicans chose Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling president pro tem, Chris Holbert of Parker to be majority leader, Ray Scott of Grand Junction as assistant majority leader, Vicki Marble of Fort Collins as caucus leader and John Cooke of Greeley as whip.
Caucus leadership for each party is important, because it decides which bills parties propose and oppose, and the majority in each chamber picks which committees bills are assigned to - friendly where they can make it to the floor for a vote, or unfriendly where they are killed.
The legislative session begins Jan. 11.