Denver Democrat Robert Rodriguez is the new majority leader of the Colorado Senate, elected by his colleagues Friday to the chamber’s No. 2 role.
Rodriguez, who was the Senate’s assistant majority leader, takes over for Sen. Dominick Moreno, who announced his resignation from the legislature and his job as majority leader last month to take a job in Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s administration.
In his new position, Rodriguez will have the power to determine who sits on Senate committees and will manage the Senate’s day-to-day calendar. He ranks second in the chamber, which is controlled by a near-supermajority of Democrats, only to Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat.
Rodriguez was first elected to the Senate in 2018 and was reelected last year to a second four-year term, which ends in January 2027. Fenberg is term-limited once his current term ends in January 2025, setting up Rodriguez to run for president once Fenberg departs.
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“I will be here for you and will strive to make the goals of the caucus my priority,” Rodriguez said before the vote was taken at the Capitol by the Senate Democratic caucus.
Before being elected to the legislature, Rodriguez was director of business management at Independence House, an organization founded by his father to help criminal offenders reenter society. He was also vice chair of the Denver Democratic Party.
Rodriguez beat out Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, who was nominated by Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora.
Democratic Sen. Faith Winter, of Westminster, planned to run for majority leader but wasn’t nominated Friday. In fact, Winter nominated Rodriguez for the job.
Rodriguez, in turn, nominated Winter to be assistant majority leader. Winter beat out Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, for the job, but not before Fields suggested that a deal had been cut that decided the outcome of the leadership election Friday.
“I believe that every vote should be counted and every vote should be respected and we should not want anything to undermine voting,” Fields said. “Consolidating, staffing — whatever you want to call it. Coming up with some prior agreements — whatever it is.”
Rodriguez denied that a deal had been cut.
“Sen. Winter nominated me and she asked if I would support her for assistant majority leader,” he said. “That’s how it rolled out.”
Several Senate Democrats, however, said that Winter and Rodriguez told them they had reached an agreement through which Rodriguez would become majority leader and Winter would become assistant majority leader — and they provided evidence to back that up.
Winter told her colleagues that she is “committed to ensuring the success of every single member of this team.”
The vote counts were not announced and members of the Senate Democratic caucus cast their ballots confidentially.
There are 23 Democrats in the Senate and 12 Republicans. The legislature reconvenes in January for its 2024 lawmaking term, which lasts 120 days.