Did Democrats sleep through the recalls?

The historic recall elections of Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron have caused some Democrats to reflect on the sharp leftward shift their party took in the last legislative session. While some openly pine for a more moderate agenda, it’s not clear that Democrats will take that path.

As Lynn Bartels of The Denver Post reported:

With the swearing-in comes a power struggle for new leadership, and an attempt by Republicans to have a say, although Democrats will still hold the majority, at 18-17.

Conventional wisdom says Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, would be the logical choice to succeed Morse as president, but not everyone thinks that’s the direction the Senate should go when the leadership election is held later this month or in early November.

Carroll has declined to discuss the leadership race, but several Democrats said she has told them she is running for the post and they believe she has the votes.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, is running for majority leader, a position that would be vacant if Carroll is elected Senate president.

The problem for Democrats is both Carroll and Heath are left wing politicians from the metro area – the exact recipe that got Democrats in the bind they’re in right now.

Former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter warned about this in the New York Times the day after the recalls:

“The Democratic Party cannot be the party of metro Denver and Boulder. It has to be the party who understands the values, views and aspirations of people who live outside of those areas.”

In an implicit repudiation of Carroll and Heath as outside the mainstream, Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) told Lynn Bartels she thinks that leadership team would be lacking a “moderate voice”:

“I don’t really care as much about being president as I do care about moderating the tone of our caucus,” [Hodge] said. “I do think one of the top two positions should have a more moderate voice.”

It’s not just Hodge that is concerned that a Carroll/Heath team would be a signal Democrats aren’t heeding the lessons of last session.

Two conservative Democrats, Sens. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge and Lois Tochtrop of Thornton, clashed with their caucus at times during the session.

“I think everybody wants some moderation in the House and the Senate,” Jahn said.

When the most recent Quinnipiac poll of Colorado finds that 50% of the state disapproves of the Democrat-led legislature, you would think they would take it as a sign to change. Doesn’t seem like they’re listening.