U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday appointed Senate President Peter Groff, a Denver Democrat, to head the department’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Center. Groff said in a statement he plans to serve out the legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude by May 6, then resign to take the federal post. A vacancy committee made up of Democratic party officials will appoint a senator to fill out Groff’s term, which ends next year.
Carroll, who is term-limited next year, is the only member of the Colorado House who lives in Senate District 33. This led to speculation that he had a difficult choice between serving another term as House speaker or applying for the state Senate vacancy. Whoever wins appointment to Groff’s seat can probably count on serving two four-year terms representing the overwhelmingly Democratic district. If Carroll passes on the vacancy, it effectively prevents him from stepping into the upper chamber once his own term ends in 2010.
Groff and Carroll are the only African-American members of the Colorado Legislature. The pair made history in December when Democratic legislators chose them to head the state Senate and House of Representatives, making Colorado the first state in the nation to have African-American leaders of both legislative chambers.
Legislative vacancy committees have been busy this year and will only get busier once the current session ends.
Early in the session, Republican state Rep. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud won appointment to replace state Sen. Steve Johnson, who stepped down after winning a seat as a Larimer County commissioner. Another vacancy committee tapped GOP activist B.J. Nikkel of Larimer County to fill Lundberg’s seat.
Last month, a Democratic vacancy committee picked Cherry Hills Village attorney Daniel Kagan to fill the term of Denver Democrat Anne McGihon, who resigned her House seat because of the demands of a new job.
A week before the Groff announcement, Denver Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Veiga said she planned to resign her seat at the end of the session to move with her partner to Australia. This leaves a vacancy looming in Senate District 31, which covers north Denver and southwest Adams County. And over the weekend, the Durango Herald reported Democratic state Sen. Jim Isgar, whose Senate District 6 covers eight counties in southwestern Colorado, has applied for a job and could soon be announcing his departure from the Legislature. Isgar is rumored to be in line to be Region 8 administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.