Carroll named first black speaker of Colorado House
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Democratic Rep. Terrance Carroll was chosen Thursday to be the new speaker of the Colorado House, the first black named to the position.
The Denver lawmaker was nominated by majority Democrats on Thursday and will be formally elected by the full House in January, when the next session convenes.
Ratification is usually unanimous. It would be the first time the state has black leaders in both houses after Senate President Peter Groff re-nominated to that position on Thursday.
“It just shows how, with the selection of Sen. Groff and president-elect Barack Obama, that there are no limits to what we can do. It really shows we made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done,” Carroll said.
It was a bittersweet day for House Democrats, who also said goodbye to Rep. Bernie Buescher, a Western Slope Democrat who was expected to be the next speaker before he suffered a surprising defeat in Tuesday’s election.
Buescher told his colleagues they need to stay true to core Democratic values, but the party also needs to be flexible and understand that some of its members may have to break with the caucus on difficult issues to represent the wishes of their constituents, including members of both parties.
He said moderation is the standard for most Colorado voters.
“Find that steady hand that will help you maintain this majority in a sustainable way,” Buescher warned.
Buescher, a Democrat who represented strongly conservative voters in Mesa County, lost to Republican challenger Laura Bradford. She attacked Buescher’s record, including his support for Gov. Bill Ritter’s initiative to raise taxes on energy companies in a region with strong support for oil and gas exploration.
“I voted what I believed. I wouldn’t change a single vote,” Buescher said.
This year Republicans won back two seats in the House, but that still leaves Democrats with a 38-27 majority. In the Senate, Republicans remained even at 20-15, with one still-undecided race that could give them back one seat.
Outgoing House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is term-limited, told Democrats they need to keep their majority in 2010, with a crucial battle over redistricting looming in 2011 that will determine the course of politics in Colorado for the next decade.
Romanoff said Republicans dismissed Democratic Party gains in Colorado four years ago as a fluke, claiming they were caught off-guard when Democrats outspent them. They also called it a fluke in 2006, saying it was part of a national wave of Democratic support.
“This is the third fluke in a row. I think it’s no longer a fluke, it’s the beginning of progress in Colorado,” Romanoff said.
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