Shaffer’s new Senate Prez

By Jason Kosena

Sometimes the transfer of power is easy.

After Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, announced he was accepting a position in the Department of Education working for the Obama administration, a number of names for his replacement began to float through the Capitol.

Sen. Brandon Shaffer, second from left, receives congratulations from current Senate President Peter Groff, left, and fellow Senate colleagues.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

President Pro-tem Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and Sens. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, had all expressed an interest in replacing Groff who will resign his seat on May 7.

But, when it came time for the caucus to nominate a new president only one name was put forth, Brandon Shaffer, and every Democrat in the Senate was standing tall behind him.

After his unanimous election as the next president, Shaffer thanked his colleagues while offering a glimpse of his leadership style.

“We have an incredible group of people in this caucus who have a great depth of knowledge and experience and by working together we can build a better Colorado,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer specifically thanked Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, an early political supporter of his long before coming to the state Capitol, as well as Groff, who Shaffer called an inspiration.

“If you look at successful leaders, they are people who can lead us to the future,” Shaffer said before sitting back down. “Those who come up with a plan that leads to capability and confidence in our government. A philosopher once said the best way to predict the future is to invent it and that is what I plan to do as president.”

Morse, a former police chief in Fountain, was unanimously chosen by the caucus to take over Shaffer’s duties as Senate Majority Leader, a position he will fill May 7.

“We have an awesome team here this session and I know we are going to continue moving forward,”said Morse, who is in the middle of his first four-year term as state senator. “The reality though is there is always room for improvement and we will improve. I will be happy to help Sen. Shaffer guide this team (to that).”

Groff, who has had many compliments for Morse this year, said he has been sure of Morse’s political abilities since the first time he and former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald saw him speak as a candidate and welcomed his leadership.

“I think Sen. Morse is fast-becoming the moral compass of the caucus,” Groff said.

Although the feeling in the room was that the caucus was behind Shaffer, there was a sense that Tapia was somewhat disappointed during his comments to colleagues before nominating Shaffer.

Tapia, one of the more senior Democrats in the Legislature and a former Joint Budget Committee member, said he is concerned about the lack of diversity that could beseech the Legislature after he, Groff and Sen. Paula Sandoval leave in the coming year and half.

“I think our state is lacking in its diversity, diversity in its representation,” Tapia said. “We are going to lose some very valuable people and I don’t know who will replace us.”

Tapia then said that he has had personal conversations with Shaffer and said he believes he understands the importance of diversity to Colorado and the caucus and was confident the Party would work hard to recruit and maintain a diverse group of Colorado senators.

“We really are the diversity party,” Tapia said of the Democrats. “We need to make sure we continue that tradition here at the Capitol through the people we recruit to run.”

Boyd, who many believed had enough votes to take over the President’s chair, didn’t say much during the caucus hearing except to throw her support behind Shaffer.

“I want to thank the people who were supportive of me,” Boyd said. “But, I am strong in my support of Brandon Shaffer.”