Voters Pick Status Quo - November 2002

Denver Women's Commission
Voters Pick Status Quo - November 2002

November 19, 2002
Prepared for Colorado Woman News


Voters prefer incumbents. Coloradans reelected their Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State. Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton doubles the number of women serving in statewide offices--last year Secretary of State Donetta Davidson was the sole woman. Voters re-elected their U.S. Senator and every incumbent U.S. Representative. U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer chose not to run. Voters in the Fourth Congressional district replaced him with another Republican -- Marilyn Musgrave. Representative-Elect Musgrave also doubled the number of women representing Colorado in Congress. She represents the opposite end of the political spectrum as incumbent U.S. Representative Diana DeGette. Only the photo-finish race for the new seventh district changes Colorado's political balance at the national level. Even as voters returned all incumbents, they also asked to be saved from themselves by clarifying that term limits apply to District Attorneys.

In another show of support for the status quo, voters turned down four of five ballot initiatives. The only initiative to pass was the one by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. It will limit campaign donations and spending by state candidates.

At the state legislative level, we now have 35 women legislators instead of 34. We have just as many Republican and Democratic state legislators as we did before the election. However one small shift caused a big shift. We have one fewer Democratic state senator, and one additional Democratic representative. With this shift, Democrats lost majority status in the Senate. This gives back to Republicans the power to select committee chairs and pick the President of the Senate. In the past two years, many Democratic bills passed the state Senate and were killed in the House. Conversely, many Republican House bills were killed in the Senate. With the change in the control of the Senate, more Republican proposals are likely to pass and be signed into law.

One major glass ceiling did shatter following the election. Rep. Lola Spradley (R-Beulah) was elected the first female Speaker of the House. Rep. Spradley spent an inordinate number of hours in the last two sessions listening to all points of view on how to reduce skyrocketing premiums and ensure health care coverage for small businesses. She was open to any creative idea that could be crafted. Many ideas were combined in HB 1003.

House Democrats chose Rep. Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver) as House Minority Leader. Rep. Veiga is well known for sponsoring (in partnership with Sen. Norma Anderson) legislation on violence against women. This past year she sponsored legislation to waive civil court filing fees and restraining order process-serving fees for victims of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence (HB 1034). She also co-sponsored with Sen. Anderson a bill tightening the sex offender registry (SB 10).

Senator Norma Anderson (R- Lakewood) was elected by Senate Republicans as Majority Leader for 2003. A seasoned lawmaker, Sen. Anderson is known as the architect of Colorado Tobacco Settlement Funding Allocation. Colorado receives approximately $100. million per year from the Tobacco Settlement. Most of that money has been earmarked for health related programs, though recent budget shortfalls are sure to challenge that.

Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Golden) was elected Senate Minority Leader. Senator Fitz-Gerald chaired the 2001 interim committee examining problems in access to small group and rural health care.

Veteran legislator Peggy Reeves (D-Ft. Collins) will be the only woman on the Joint Budget Committee this year. This Committee will have the largest say in how to reduce state spending by about 10% from pre-September 11th levels. No solution can be painless when cuts are that deep.

Coloradans are lucky to have these five competent women serving in leadership in this challenging year.