Republican lawmakers told members of the Colorado Republican Business Coalition at the organization’s holiday party last Thursday that, even though Democrats will be in control at the Capitol next year, the minority legislators will have their backs.
“Next year, even though we are outnumbered, we can still stir a pretty mean pot,” said state Sen.-elect Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, who drew cheers from the party-goers when she declared, “I am a capitalist pig, and I’m damn proud of it!”
While Republicans sounded defiant and determined, there was a slight air of resignation about the upcoming legislative session and plenty of “just wait until two years from now!” proclamations at the celebration, an annual affair at the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association headquarters in Denver.
“It’s not going to be an easy session, but our voices are going to be heard — maybe not very loud, but maybe very loud. We’ll do the best we can,” said Sen.-elect Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.
Baumgardner, who is moving to the upper chamber from the House, got the biggest cheer of the evening when he told the crowd, “I want to wish each and every one of you not a ‘happy holidays,’ but a very merry Christmas.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, who returns next year on the short end of the same 20-15 minority he held last session — House Republicans lost their 33-32 majority to the Democrats in November and will be down nine votes — had a more steely-eyed take.
“We are in a minority. It’s a challenge. There are two things that are important in that place — your voice and your vote. We don’t have the votes we need, but we will have a strong voice,” he said. “We’re going to need your voices there too, because you got ‘Republican’ on your back — that’s a target. You’ve got ‘Business’ on your back — that’s two targets.”
But the Democrats’ romp was no reason to abandon ship, he told the several dozen party-goers. “What you bring to the table is good for business, it’s good for Colorado, and we think it’s good for the party — that’s why we’re aligned with you, that’s why we have targets on our backs as well,” Cadman said.
There’s always the next election, he pointed out, and GOP prospects to retake the Senate look good because Democrats will be defending all the swing seats.
“We are gearing up for ’14. We started campaigning on Wednesday, because it seemed like the right thing to do,” Cadman smiled. He continued: “We’re going to win this back. Sometimes good teams lose — we had some really good candidates. We came up a little bit short, but we’re not going to come up short next time.”
At an earlier reception that afternoon for new legislators, Democrats said the firm message they were getting from leadership and the governor’s office was “show some restraint,” but CRBC members said they were concerned that liberal lawmakers might run wild in the wake of their strong showing at the polls. Business owners said they feared Democrats would work to undo tort reform, raise liability limits and pass a state version of “card check,” making it easier for Colorado workers to unionize.
The watch-words for the session, said state Rep.-elect Perry Buck, R-Greeley, would be “less government, fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility.”
She also gave a shout-out to the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and suggested that the group could help sway the electorate next time. “We just need to hang out a little more at those soccer games, talk to those independent women,” Buck said.
Likening the Republicans’ role in the legislature to that of a hockey goalie, state Rep.-elect Justin Everett, R-Littleton, said that even in the minority, GOP legislators can frame the debate.
He described a mock committee hearing held earlier that day when he and Buck steered a budget discussion toward just two possibilities: spend more money to privatize government services or cut some spending. “The Democrats were thinking those were the only two options,” he said. “It’s just about changing the dynamic.”
Please see further photo coverage in the Dec. 21 print edition.