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Rep. Julie McCluskie speaks on June 11, 2021 before Gov. Jared Polis signs SB 268, aimed to increase statewide funds per student at the Boettcher Mansion in Denver. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

State Rep. Julie McCluskie was selected Friday by her Democratic colleagues to serve as the next speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives when the legislature reconvenes next year, bringing a Western Slope voice to one of the top jobs at the Capitol. 

The three top leadership posts in the chamber will be held by women.

McCluskie, who lives in Dillon, was first elected to the House in 2018 and has served on the powerful Joint Budget Committee, most recently as its chairwoman. She was reelected to her third term Tuesday. Her professional background includes stints in communications and human resources.

“The diversity of this body can and should be our strength,” McCluskie told her caucus in asking for their support. “We are a body of urbanites and mountain dwellers, educators, veterans, nurses, lawyers, economists, city council members and entrepreneurs. We are a body rich in racial, ethnic, LGBTQ status, age, and gender. We are not all the same brand of Democrat.”

McCluskie will take over for term-limited House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and will oversee a caucus of 46 Democrats. There will be 19 Republicans in the House next year, down from 24 over the past two years after the GOP’s big Election Day defeats

Sixty percent of the state representatives next year will be women.

McCluskie beat out Reps. Chris Kennedy of Lakewood, the architect of the House Democrats’ election strategy this year, and Adrienne Benavidez of Commerce City for the top House job. 

McCluskie’s selection must be approved, as a formality, by the whole House when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The last House speaker from the Western Slope was Russell L. George, a Rifle Republican who held the post for the legislative sessions in 1999 and 2000.

The House Democratic caucus picked Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge as their majority leader and Rep. Jennifer Bacon of Denver as assistant majority leader.

The Republican caucuses in the House and Senate and the Democratic Senate caucus chose their respective leaders on Thursday

The 2023 legislative session begins Jan. 9.

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....