The death Sunday of House Minority Leader Hugh McKean will result in a major reshuffle of leadership as every leadership position within the Republican faction of the House of Representatives is now up for grabs.
The GOP faction plans to hold its leadership reorganization on November 10, a few days after the midterm elections.
In addition to the minority leader, the caucus needs a new deputy minority leader, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, a caucus chairman and a caucus whip.
Rep. Rod Pelton of Cheyenne Wells, the minority whip and the third-rate member of the caucus, is likely to win his race for the open Senate seat in southeastern Colorado. Sources said Tuesday he would serve as minority leader until the 2023 session begins on Jan. 9.
Falcon MP Tim Geitner, the deputy minority leader, resigned from his seat last month and a vacancies committee was unable to find a replacement for those two months over the weekend.
The caucus chair, Rep. Janice Rich of Grand Junction, is expected to win her race for the state Senate seat, held by limited-term Sen. Ray Scott.
The clear favorites for the first two positions are MPs Colin Larson of Littleton as Minority Leader and Mike Lynch of Wellington as Deputy Minority Leader. Larson had considered running for the joint budget committee because Rep. Kim Ransom of Littleton, the current caucus representative, is on a tenure. But McKean’s death has changed who’s running and for what.
Rose Pugliese, who is running for the seat of Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs, who has opted not to run for another term, is shortlisted for caucus chair. That could reflect the new look of the 2023 Caucus, where two-thirds of the members will be first-time lawmakers.
Rep. Richard Holtorf of Akron is also credited for Caucus Whip.
As for JBC, Delta’s Rep. Matt Soper, who ran for it in 2020, said he wasn’t interested this time around. Given that Larson is most likely to take the seat, a new candidate has yet to emerge.
The 2022 version of the House GOP caucus has 13 of 24 members not coming back, either due to term limits, running for another elected office, or a decision not to seek another term in the House of Representatives.
Of those 13, at least eight or nine were considered to be to the right of McKean, who regularly challenged his lead. They were allied with Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, McKean’s predecessor as minority leader, and Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs. Eight of those nine won’t come back.
TRACER posts show the work McKean and others have put into campaigning for new GOP House members in his wing of the caucus. Candidates for at least four of those eight seats took input from leadership political action committees controlled by McKean, Larson, Soper and Watkins Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, the latter two considered part of the McKean wing.
Much of McKean and his allies’ work took place during the primaries — to support candidates who were more likely to align with their agenda. Every House GOP candidate that had a hard-fought primary and was supported by the McKean wing won their races.
Additionally, these leadership PACs, as they are known, have contributed to eight campaigns for Republicans hoping to wrest seats from Democrats, including candidates in House District 59, which has its seat in Durango, and Rep. Barbara McLachlan is held; House District 26, held by Rep. Dylan Roberts of Eagle, who is running for Senate; and the seat at House District 38 in Littleton, currently held by Rep. David Ortiz. All but two of the eight are rated as the most competitive by the state Redistribution Commission.
According to several members, a more cohesive GOP caucus will make life easier for their 2023 agenda.
Lynch told Colorado Politics he’s thrilled “with the quality of people that come in and see how well this caucus works together.”
“It’s an embarrassment of wealth,” Larson said of the cherished new class of freshman lawmakers.
With an expected addition of multiple seats, Larson said the new Republican caucus will be the culmination of McKean’s work over the past two years and one that “reflects his pragmatic, business-centric, low-tax, easy-regulation philosophy.” adheres to classic Republican values.
“He was so excited about the future of the Republican faction,” Larson said, adding that it’s sad McKean won’t see the final results of that work.