Last week’s surprise news that Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia will soon resign from office has led to some natural speculation about Garcia’s potential replacement. Governor John Hickenlooper will reportedly name a replacement LG sometime within the next few weeks, and that person will need to be confirmed by a highly-partisan Colorado legislature.
Aside from being the next person in line to serve as Governor in the event that the big office is vacated before the next election, we couldn’t tell you a whole lot about what the LG actually does on a daily basis. We could tell you even less prior to 2010, when Hickenlooper expanded Garcia’s role by also naming him head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The LG’s office has not historically been a stepping stone to…anything in Colorado politics
The Colorado Statesman is running a couple of online polls speculating about the next name to get the LG title (here’s Poll 1, and here’s Poll 2). While we haven’t heard much about who might get the nomination from Hickenlooper, there are a few names from the Statesman polls that we can probably already cross out.
If Hickenlooper chooses an LG from the ranks of the state legislature, there are three Democratic lawmakers in the Statesman polls that can probably go ahead and cross themselves off of any list: State Rep. Crisanta Duran, and State Senators Linda Newell and Angela Williams.
Back in May 2015, Duran, Newell, and Williams all signed onto a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper stating that they had “lost confidence” in the leadership at the Department of Human Services and urging Hickenlooper to make leadership changes at DHS. We’re not going to use this space to debate the relative policy merits of the DHS letter; from a political perspective, you’re not earning points with your Party’s own Governor when you publicly sign your name to a letter questioning his decision making.
This would hold true in any state, or any organization, for that matter. When you give somebody in your professional circle a public wedgie, you probably shouldn’t hold out any hope that you might get a big promotion 6 months later.
On the flip side, it makes sense that state Sen. Mike Johnston would be on the Statesman’s list of potential LG candidates. Johnston and fellow Democrat Millie Hamner are two high-profile legislators who did NOT sign onto the DHS letter last spring. If you are Gov. Hickenlooper and you’re thinking about who to select as your Lt. Governor, you’re probably going to start your search with people whose support you don’t need to question. That’s not just politics — that’s human nature.
It’s possible — perhaps even likely, given recent historical trends — that Hickenlooper will pick a Lt. Gov. who is not a sitting legislator. Both Garcia and Barbara O’Brien, Gov. Bill Ritter’s LG, were working outside of state government when they were selected as running mates. But if Hick does decide to go with someone already under the Gold Dome, it’s going to be a Democrat — and it’s going to be somebody Hickenlooper knows will stand behind his decisions.