DENVER (KDVR) — It is an honor you do not see often. In fact, Thursday was only the fifth time it has happened in the last 70 years.
Former House Republican Leader Hugh McKean lay in state as his colleagues and family honored him with a ceremony under the golden dome. McKean passed away from a heart attack late last month at just 55 years old.
People from all parties and walks of life came to the Capitol to remember the man who made everyone feel important, whether he agreed with them or not.
“Hugh’s laughter filled the Colorado state Capitol, but not as much as his heart. Today, Colorado has a Hugh-sized hole in its heart,” said Scott James, Weld County commissioner.
Republicans, Democrats and Independents who hold various titles from across the state converged to honor the late leader.
“Like all of you, I was shocked and devastated to hear of Hugh’s sudden passing. I could not believe my phone’s text messages the next morning that this had occurred. It’s hard to believe we are saying goodbye to somebody who was so vibrant, energetic and taken from us so early,” Gov. Jared Polis said.
Republicans elect new leadership after McKean
McKean’s passing left a position open at the Capitol that his party had planned for him to occupy. Rep. Mike Lynch, of Wellington, was elected to serve as the new Republican leader in the House just two hours before the ceremony for McKean began. A vacancy committee will select a new person from Loveland to fill McKean’s spot as a state representative.
“I’m saddened that vote today didn’t go to Hugh McKean,” Lynch said about his colleagues electing him. “Hugh McKean had worked tirelessly with this caucus and the fact that it is not him today saddens me. We had a plan and Hugh was that plan.”
What did the plan entail? Speaking with him on the campaign trail this past summer as he faced a tough primary, McKean said his goal was to prep the next group of leaders coming after him.
“The [House] speaker and I have had sort of the same job over the last four years, which is we really do all the negotiation. And so I would like to see our younger members or our newer members come up and say, ‘Look, I might want to run for speaker, I might want to run for minority leader. Then now is the time to have that transition,” McKean said in a FOX31 interview last June.
The caucus may already be honoring the late leader’s plan as they elected new leadership: Rose Pugliese was selected to be assistant minority leader just two days after winning her statehouse seat.
McKean’s family will also hold a celebration of life service for him at the Resurrection Fellowship Church in Loveland on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m.