Newly elected state Sens. Bernie Herpin and George Rivera were sworn in Thursday after winning the seats of two ousted Democrats, bringing the GOP within a one-vote margin of power.
Herpin and Rivera were the victors of the Sept. 10 recall elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, respectively.
They take the seats of former Senate President John Morse and first-term Sen. Angela Giron, who were targeted for recall by a group opposed to gun-control legislation passed during the 2013 legislative session.
Herpin and Rivera will start the 2014 legislative session in a house that is now split 18-17 with Democrats holding the edge.
Herpin, a former Colorado Springs City Councilman, and Rivera, a retired deputy police chief, gave their oaths of office and swore to uphold the Constitution in a ceremony led by Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender.
"We are witnessing today the peaceful transfer of responsibility from one elected official to another, a freedom that many people in other nations have never known," Herpin said. "I realize I have much to learn, but I pledge to work hard, serve with honor and never forget the lessons of this summer that this is truly a republic of the people, by the people, for the people and we serve at the pleasure of those who represent us."
Herpin said he will work during the session to restore citizens' rights, protect children by passing a law that carries mandatory sentences for sexual offenders and improve the economy. He also said the state has much work to do in recovering from the floods.
Herpin will serve one session before he faces re-election for Senate District 11 in 2014. Two Democrats have already announced their intention to run for the seat.
Rivera thanked his wife who he said encouraged him to run, and the voters of Senate District 3 who made his election possible.
Herpin and Rivera were the only candidates on the recall ballot as potential replacements if the recalls were successful.
The event in the Senate chambers was filled with Republicans from both the House and Senate and 2014 Republican candidate for governor Tom Tancredo, who said he hopes the recall election results weren't aberrations but were a sign of what's to come for the GOP in coming years.
"I think it puts us in a good place to guard the people of Colorado from an extremely liberal agenda that is being pushed through here from outside interests," said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.
Morse and Giron issued a statement about officially leaving office.
"I leave the Legislature with no regrets," said Morse who served seven years in the Senate and would have faced term limits after the 2014 session.
Morse has repeatedly said he stands behind the five gun laws enacted by the Colorado General Assembly.
"Bernie Herpin was used as a pawn in an election where almost 80 percent of voters did not even participate and only 11 percent of the district elected him," Morse said. "Make no mistake about it - he was elected in a myopic recall where he ran on only one issue. Senate District 11 has dynamic needs and is not defined by one issue."
Herpin is a founder of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, one of El Paso County's largest gun clubs.
Morse has held a variety of jobs as a paramedic, chief of police and an accountant. He said after the recall election he plans to set up an accounting firm and continue his work in politics and public policy.
Giron, whose first term in office was cut a session short, said she will return to the role of citizen advocate.
"I'm leaving, not on my own terms, but with my integrity intact and with the sure and certain knowledge that Colorado and Pueblo are safer with these modest gun safety laws," she said.
Since Morse was the sitting Senate president when he lost the election, Democrats must elect new leadership for the Senate in the months leading up to the legislative session.
There are frontrunners in the political power struggle; it is impossible for a Republican to take the seat.
Contact Megan Schrader