DENVER – Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper got a divided Legislature on Saturday. Democrats lost ground in the House, but they appear to have hung on in that chamber.
Democrats have had the majority in both chambers the past two years, allowing them to easily pass many items on their wish-list, including civil unions and lower college tuition for children who grew up in Colorado but are in the country illegally.
They also steered through more divisive legislation, such as new gun restrictions and allowing driver’s licenses for residents living in Colorado illegally. Democratic leaders insisted Saturday that their ambitious agenda during the last two years wasn’t to blame for losses in an election that favored the GOP nationwide.
Touting his party’s accomplishments, Democratic Leader Rollie Heath said the Democratic caucus would redouble its efforts. “There’s a lot at stake ... we can’t afford to move backward,” the Boulder senator said in a statement.
The GOP plans to announce Monday when it would meet to elect new leaders. Republican Leader Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs was expected to become president.
The Senate switch came despite the Democrats regaining two seats they lost last year through recalls. Democrats in a Colorado Springs district and a Pueblo district were ousted by voters unhappy with 2013 votes on gun control, including a law requiring expanded background checks and another limiting ammunition magazines.
Those districts both returned to Democratic control Tuesday. Ironically, the Colorado Springs district went to a Democrat who formerly worked for a national gun-control advocacy group. “It’s as if the recall never happened,” Michael Merrifield, the Colorado Springs Democrat who won Tuesday, said after his victory.
However, those gains were countered by races where Democrats appeared to be headed for losses in the Denver suburbs.
Democrats have controlled the state Senate for a decade. For eight of the past 10 years, Democrats have controlled both chambers of the Legislature.