Maverick Rep. Marostica resigning to join Ritter team

Loveland Republican Rep. Don Marostica has been tapped by Gov. Bill Ritter to become the state’s chief economic development director. A member of the Joint Budget Committee, Marostica shared in the often thankless task of reviewing state revenue and proposing a plan to pay for state services that lawmakers would then wrangle over and shout about. Indeed, Marostica was the subject of a splashy GOP spat this session, where he ended up calling party leaders “has-beens” and “losers” and later told Minority Leader-now candidate for governor Josh Penry and “his lemmings” to go jump in a lake.

But carrying his conservative bona fides in his personal history and strongly reasoned policy stances, square-jawed steady-eyed Marostica seemed born to buck the GOP status quo in the name of smart fiscal policy.

Marostica also withstood the Twitter attack launched by his GOP colleagues when he decided to sponsor the budget reform bill with Colorado Springs Democratic Senator John Morse that repealed the Arveschoug-Bird provision in the state Constitution. Senate Republicans filibustered the bill, calling it unconstitutional and subjecting it to a hopeless round of amendments designed in effect to guarantee funds for transportation.

Marostica paced the Republican side of the senate floor during the debate, nodding his head slowly now and again and smiling at some of the histrionics as the night wore on. He later shepherded the bill through the House with co-sponsor Denver Democratic Rep. Lois Court. The bill benefited from Ritter’s support and deal-brokering but never seemed seriously challenged, Joint Budget Committee member Marostica making his case mostly beyond the glare of the spotlights on the House floor and in the newsrooms.

From the Denver Post:

[T]o the chagrin of some other Republicans, Marostica has also expressed his support for Ritter.

“He’s really out there pushing economic development, and I appreciate that,” Marostica once said. “Business needs to see that out of a governor. The other thing I like about him is he doesn’t act like a politician.”

Mike Feeley, a Lakewood Democrat and the former Senate minority leader, praised the pick.

“This is brilliant,” Feeley said. “It’s a perfect match. The governor will be well served, we’ll all be well served. Don’s a great guy who thinks outside the box and had real-world experience.” Marostica succeeds Don Elliman, who now is Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s chief operating officer.

He has criticized the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the constitutional amendment controlling taxation and spending that many in the GOP revere. He has also proposed privatizing higher education and taken occasional potshots at other Republicans.

Former chief economic development director Don Elliman is now Ritter’s chief operating officer.

Marostica’s resignation will add to the growing list of vacancies in the state legislature. Senate President Peter Groff’s surprise resignation to lead faith-based education initiatives in the Obama Administration was just the fourth of at least six dominoes to fall in the State Legislature since the 2008 election. He was replaced by Mike Johnston.

Republican state Rep. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud was tapped to replace state Sen. Steve Johnson, who resigned after winning election as a Larimer County commissioner. A vacancy committee then picked B.J. Nikkel, a Loveland Republican, to take Lundberg’s place. In March, the House District 3 vacancy committee selected Cherry Hills Village Democrat Daniel Kagan to fill the term of state Rep. Anne McGihon, who resigned because of increased demands from a legal and lobbying job.

A vacancy committee May 20 chose Pat Steadman to replace State Sen. Jennifer Veiga, a Democrat who represents Senate District 31 in northwest Denver. Veiga announced in April she would be leaving at the end of the session to move to Australia to help care for her partner’s ailing mother.

Democratic state Rep. Gwyn Green of Lakewood announced in April that she planned to relinquish her House District 23 seat because of health issues. Her replacement, Max Tyler, was picked in May.

Democrat Sen. Jim Isgar of Durango stepped down to take a position with Department of Agriculture. A vacancy committee has yet to meet to name a replacement for his sprawling southwestern Colorado district.

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