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Colorado Rep. Dominick Moreno speaks during a news conference outside the Governor's mansion Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, the No. 2 Democrat in the Colorado Senate, is stepping down from his position to take a job in the new Denver mayor’s administration.

Moreno’s departure, announced Friday, represents a major shakeup of Capitol leadership and he may not be the last senator or representative to depart the legislature to take a top job in the Mile High City.

The Commerce City lawmaker will be Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s deputy chief of staff for strategy. Moreno said he will oversee legislative and policy initiatives on the local, regional, state and federal levels in the new role. He will also work on labor and immigration issues.

“It’s a pretty vast portfolio,” Moreno said. “I’m excited about it.”

The senator said he was approached by Johnston about the job and that he didn’t seek out work in the administration.

Moreno said he will resign from the legislature around Sept. 1. He starts his new job on Wednesday.

A Democratic vacancy committee will select Moreno’s replacement for the final year of his term. Moreno was term-limited and couldn’t run for reelection in 2024.

State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, was already running for Moreno’s Senate District 21 seat in 2024 and announced Friday that she will seek the vacancy appointment.

“Dominick has moved Colorado forward in innumerable ways, and although he leaves behind big shoes to fill, I am committed to continue providing Senate District 21 with the thoughtful, tenacious, and dedicated public service exhibited by Sen. Moreno,” Michaelson Jenet said in a written statement.

Roughly a quarter of the lawmakers serving at the Capitol this year had at some time been appointed to a seat through a vacancy appointment, according to a Colorado Sun analysis. A vacancy committee — made up of a relatively small number of party insiders — is set to meet later this month to pick a replacement for Democratic Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez in House District 4 in Denver after Gonzales-Gutierrez was elected to a Denver City Council seat.

Moreno’s exit, first reported by The Denver Post, means the Senate Democratic caucus will have to elect a new person to serve as majority leader. The senator who holds the powerful position determines the chamber’s calendar and is responsible for running day-to-day business on the floor. There will likely be several candidates for the job.

Whoever is elected majority leader will be next in line to succeed Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat whose term ends in January 2025. Fenberg is term-limited and can’t run for reelection.

Flanked by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, left, and Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, right, Senate President Steve Fenberg considers a question during a press conference in the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Denver. The Democratic leadership spoke about the recently concluded legislative session. (Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado via AP)

Moreno was first started in the legislature as a state representative in 2013 when he was 27 years old. At the time, he was the youngest member of the General Assembly. He was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2016 and was reelected in 2020. He is now 38.

During his time in the legislature, Moreno worked on complicated budget and policy issues, including as chair of the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

Johnston, a former state senator, may recruit other lawmakers to serve in his administration. State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat who ran against Johnston in the mayoral race earlier this year, was a co-chair of Johnston’s transition team.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, to correct when Dominick Moreno was first elected to the legislature. He was first elected in 2012.

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....