As Colorado Gov. Jared Polis looks on in the background, Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia speaks during a news conference on the west steps of the State Capitol about legislative plans for the upcoming session Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Denver. Leaders are aiming to expand access to health care as well as reduce costs, make the state more affordable by reducing child care and housing costs, improving the education system and taking steps to insure safe communities. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia will resign from the legislature to accept a position in the Biden administration, leaving one of the two most powerful positions in the General Assembly vacant in the middle of a lawmaking term.

The Pueblo Democrat, who is in the last year of his second and final term in the state Senate, will work at the Pentagon as the special assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs. Garcia is a retired U.S. Marine who served in Iraq in 2003.

As Senate president, Garcia is the No. 1 Democrat in the chamber. His resignation will be effective Feb. 23.

The Senate Democratic caucus will now have to vote on who should replace Garcia as president. A vacancy committee in Pueblo will choose his Democratic replacement to serve for the rest of this year’s legislative session, which runs into early May.

“For nearly a decade, I have had the immense honor to represent the people of Pueblo at the Colorado Capitol, and the privilege to serve as Senate president since 2019,” Garcia said in a written statement. “I am incredibly grateful that my community and my colleagues entrusted me with this responsibility, and I have been humbled by the opportunity to serve the state I love.”

He added: “While my time in the Senate is coming to a close, I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished together to move Colorado forward, and I am confident that whomever is selected to fill these vacancies will serve with the integrity and tenacity that Coloradans deserve.”   

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in a written statement that”Garcia’s appointment is a great loss for Colorado.”

“Since the day I decided to run for office, President Garcia has been a mentor for me, just like he’s been for many of my colleagues,” Fenberg said. “I’ve learned so much from him over the years about public service, leadership, and responsibility.”

Fenberg, of Boulder, expressed interest in running to be president when asked Thursday by The Colorado Sun.

If Fenberg becomes president, there will likely be competition to fill his majority leader position.

Colorado Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg makes a point during a news conference on the west steps of the Capitol on Jan. 10. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, said she will also seek to replace Garcia. Donovan, like Garcia, is in the final year of her final term in the Senate.

Gov. Jared Polis, in a written statement, congratulated Garcia on his new job and thanked him for his work on behalf of Colorado.

“Under President Garcia’s leadership we have led trailblazing health care reforms to save Coloradans money, created a state park at Fischer’s Peak and we are poised to move forward in making Front Range rail a reality,” the governor said.

Garcia was elected to the Colorado House in 2012. He was then elected to the Senate in 2014.

Garcia is the first Latino Senate president in Colorado history.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....