DENVER – Senate Republicans on Tuesday celebrated taking back the majority by looking to the future with their newly elected president, Sen. Bill Cadman, of Colorado Springs, and president pro tem Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.
Cadman – headed into his 15th year at the Legislature – was elected unanimously by the Republican caucus, offering a gracious acceptance speech that promised to work with the soon-to-be minority Democrats when he takes over as president in January. He served as the caucus’ minority leader.
Durango also was brought into the celebration with the unanimous election of Sen. Ellen Roberts to serve as president pro tem. Roberts, an attorney who lives just outside Durango, said she was honored to serve as the second-highest-ranking official in the Senate Republicans’ caucus.
She is believed to be the first woman to hold the pro tem position for Senate Republicans.
“I’ve only been in the minority, so I assume there will be some changing dynamics,” Roberts said, referring to her four years in the House followed by four years in the Senate.
She pointed to 2013, when Democrats ran several controversial bills – including a package of gun-control measures – that Republicans called a partisan over-reach.
“2013 was so hard for me as one who likes to work across the aisle and focus on policy issues,” Roberts said. “2013 was such a disaster to me in terms of that kind of approach. (Democrats) are going to have to figure that out.”
Cadman said Roberts’ passion for policy and her ability to work across the aisle made her a perfect nomination.
“Sen. Ellen Roberts, you always exhibit such tremendous character; such poise; such intellect,” Cadman said. “We don’t always agree, but I always understand why you believe what you believe.”
Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time since 2004 with several key victories after last week’s election, giving them an 18-17 majority. Democrats had previously controlled it with the same one-seat majority.
Republicans have three brand-new members joining their Senate caucus, as well as three members coming up from the House after the election. Another member is returning to the Senate after winning a seat back.
Highlighting the magic 18 seats it takes to control of the chamber, all the Republican members were presented with jerseys for Denver Broncos star quarterback Peyton Manning, who wears the cherished No. 18.
“We have to stay focused on what brings us together as a caucus, not what divides us,” Cadman said. “We have to stay focused on what brings us together with our Democratic colleagues, not what divides us. We do this by building relationships.”
Senate Republicans also elected Sen. Mark Scheffel, of Parker, as their majority leader, bumping him up from his current position as assistant minority leader.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud, was elected assistant majority leader; Sen. Randy Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, was elected majority whip; Sen. Vicki Marble, of Fort Collins, was elected caucus chair; and Sens. Kent Lambert, of Colorado Springs, and Kevin Grantham, of Cañon City, were chosen to represent the caucus on the powerful Joint Budget Committee, which crafts the state budget.
Roberts said the caucus is still working on its agenda. She said Republicans are eager to hear from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who won re-election, on his priorities. The governor and lawmakers will now have to balance policy and politics within a split Legislature after Democrats narrowly held onto the House.
“We’re going to really try and be focused on what we understand to be the priorities of the people in Colorado,” Roberts said. “We are very interested in governing responsibly and with an ear to what we heard people were concerned about. The economy is a big one.”
Senate Democrats are expected to hold their leadership elections on Saturday.
Current Senate President Morgan Carroll, of Aurora, offered a fiery statement on Saturday when it was determined Republicans would control the Senate, suggesting that Democrats would hold Republicans accountable.
Carroll scaled back those comments on Tuesday.
“We look forward to working together to serve the people of Colorado and continue Colorado’s recovery,” she said.