Democrats elect Pace House minority leader

Republicans appear headed to majority party in House chamber.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DENVER — State Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, will set the pace for Democrats in the Colorado House of Representatives.

House Democrats on Thursday elected Pace to be House Minority Leader, the top party position in that chamber of the Legislature.

"I'm really honored that my colleagues placed me in this position and that they had faith in me," Pace said. "I'm going to use this position working with my Pueblo colleagues - Reps. Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland), Keith Swerdfeger (R-Pueblo) and Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) - to enhance the position of Pueblo in the Legislature."

The last party leader from Pueblo in the Legislature was Bill Thiebaut, now the district attorney in Pueblo. A decade ago, Thiebaut was Senate Majority Leader.

Although they held elections for minority party leadership positions on Thursday, Democrats have not conceded that they lost  two close House seat races where suburban-Denver incumbents trail their Republican challengers with provisional and overseas military ballots still to be counted.

"We felt like we needed to get prepared for the session and doing the people's work, so we held leadership elections to get our team in place," Pace said. "There are two races so close they could go to automatic recounts. Potentially, we could win either or both of them."

But Republicans have declared themselves the winners in those races, which appear to give the GOP a 33-32 majority in the House.

If the outcomes of the two outstanding House races favor the Democrats, Pace said another leadership vote would be held. He said the mixed makeup of the House speaks to Colorado's status as "a swing state" and will require Republicans and Democrats to work together.

"You can't be in the minority with any more members than we have," Pace said. "The reality is it's 33-32 favoring one party or the other. We'll all have to work in a bipartisan fashion, and people will have to reach across the aisle to be successful."

House Republicans on Thursday crowned Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, Speaker of the House, and Rep. Amy Stevens, R-Monument, House Majority Leader.

Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, was elected Assistant Majority Leader. He formerly worked as a prosecutor with the district attorney's office in Pueblo.

Along with Pace, House Democrats elected Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Minority Caucus Chair Lois Court, D-Denver. Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, was elected House Minority Whip, Rep. Dickey Hulllinghorst, D-Longmont, was named House Minority Assistant Whip, and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, was selected House Minority Assistant Caucus Chair.

Republicans chose Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, as the Majority Caucus Chair in the House, and Rep. B.J. Nickkel, R-Berthoud, was elected House Majority Whip.

In the Colorado Senate, where Democrats hold a 19-16 majority, Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, retained their leadership roles. Senate President Pro Temp is Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, and Assistant Senate Majority Leader is Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton. Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, is Senate Majority Caucus Chair.

Republicans elected Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, R-Littleton and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, was named Senate Republican Caucus Chair, and Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, was elected Senate Minority Whip.