While Mark Ferrandino and his fellow legislative Democrats were thrilled on election night to take the State House majority, one Colorado Democrat was probably less enthused: Governor John Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper has been able to essentially coast his first two years, encountering almost no controversial legislation on his desk thanks to split control of the two legislative chambers since taking office. That is all about to change, with left-wingers like State Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) taking the legislative reins.
DENVER–For Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the newly elected Democratic majorities in the General Assembly can be seen as a blessing and a curse.
The blessing is that he no longer has to deal with a pesky Republican House getting in the way of the liberal Democratic agenda. That’s also the curse.
“In some ways, this is John Hickenlooper’s worst nightmare,” said former Colorado Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams. “He had Frank McNulty and the House Republicans to be his backstop for a lot of crazy legislation that would have otherwise passed. Now he has an unfettered Democratic majority.”
…“As a moderate Democrat, he’s much better off having a check and balance that acts as a moderating influence on the legislature,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “The Democrats will have to be disciplined, and he has to be much more active than he was. It’s going to be a lot more work and it’s not like it can’t be done, but it’s going to be more difficult.”
….For an example of what not to do, Hickenlooper need look no further than 2007, the first year of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s term. Fresh off a hard-fought victory over Republican Bob Beauprez, and presented with a Democratic House and Senate, Ritter promptly hit a political minefield when a pro-union bill to modify the Labor Peace Act landed on his desk.
Ritter vetoed the bill, much to the chagrin of labor unions, but a few months later signed an executive order granting collective-bargaining rights to state employees. The executive order, seen as a peace offering to organized labor to make up for the veto, hurt his standing with moderate voters and touched off a 2008 ballot battle over union rights.
“No sooner had Bill Ritter taken office than the legislature modified the Labor Peace Act,” said Ciruli. “He was never able to get ahead of the agenda after that.”
Union pressure on Democrat politicians in Colorado is on the rise, with a number of unions running an ad targeting US Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet on the fiscal cliff, and a teachers’ union in Colorado demanding Hickenlooper intervene in their negotiations with the Douglas County School Board.
While Hickenlooper might be able to resist the lobbying from Big Labor, he is likely to have a considerably harder time dealing with his party’s left-wing leadership, such as now-Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll – a darling of the far-left set with higher ambitions of her own.
There has long been a simmering liberal frustration with Governor Hickenlooper — from his unequivocal support of fracking to his refusal to take the lead on pushing for higher taxes. (Has anyone noticed the increasingly annoyed tone Colorado Pols takes with the CEO of our state?)
Due to the split chamber last session, the Guv could avoid confronting this liberal anger head-on in the form of legislation. With a liberal’s liberal, Senator Carroll, we’d expect we’ll be seeing some of the issues rearing their head in legislative form.
Let the fracking fights begin!