DENVER — On Thursday, two Republicans will raise their right hands and repeat an oath — and, in that moment, the Democrats will see their five-seat majority in the state senate trimmed to just one vote.
The incoming senators both won recall elections last month that booted two Democrats from office over their support of gun control legislation (although, in Pueblo, the defeat of Sen. Angela Giron was clearly about more than just those votes).
Bernie Herpin, a former Colorado Springs councilman, will take the Senate District 11 seat that has been held by Senate President John Morse, a Democrat, since 2006.
Morse released a statement saying he left the legislature “with no regrets.”
“A neighborhood in my district bears the troubling distinction of having the most gun deaths in the entire state. As a Senator, I served families who expect, at a minimum, that we will prevent criminals from getting guns,” Morse said.
George Rivera, who was elected to take Giron’s place, will fill the Senate District 3 seat.
“I’m leaving, not on my own terms, but with my integrity intact and with the sure and certain knowledge that Colorado and Pueblo are safer with these modest gun safety laws,” Giron said in a statement.
Both rookie lawmakers will have to defend their seats in 2014.
Colorado Republican Committee Chairman Ryan Call said in a statement that the recall election “sent a strong message to arrogant and out-of-touch politicians everywhere: Our elected officials work for us, not the radical special interests.”
“As we did during the recall elections, the Colorado GOP will continue to stand by Sens. Herpin and Rivera, and look forward to their many years of service in the state Senate,” Call said.
Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to figure out who to elect to replace Morse as senate president.
The smart money is on Majority Leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora, but a few within the caucus are contemplating going with a more moderate Democrat like Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton.
But regardless of whether Hodge is leading the caucus, she and two other more conservative Democrats, Sen. Lois Tochtrop of Thornton and Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge will enter 2014 as the most important lawmakers in the chamber.
Republicans, should the caucus stick together, would need to pick off just one of them to form an 18-vote majority bloc able to pass or kill any bill should it get to the floor.