Jerry Kopel

Romanoff-Groff Leadership Near the End


Pueblo Chieftain, May 11, 2008

By Jerry Kopel

One is the 53rd Speaker of the House, and the other is the 46th President of the Senate.

Sometime in early May, 2006, the last page of the House Journal will contain something like this:

"The hour of 11:59 p.m. having arrived and the Senate being in agreement, on notice of Rep. Madden, the second regular session of the 66th General Assembly was declared adjourned sine die.

Andrew Romanoff, Speaker."

Unless there is a special session sometime later in 2008, this will be the last order presided over by Rep. Romanoff in the 66th Assembly. However, he will be back in early January, 2009 and the House Journal will note:

"The hour of 10 o'clock having arrived, the House of Representatives of the 67th General Assembly of the State of Colorado, pursuant to law, was called to order by Andrew Romanoff, Speaker of the 66th General Assembly, State of Colorado. Rep. (name of carry-over representative still in office) was appointed presiding officer."

Thus will end the term of the 53rd Speaker of the House and the election of the 54th Speaker.

The Romanoff tenure, aside from the likely plaudits, differs recently from most of his predecessors. Thanks to the tenure law, he is only the ninth House Speaker to have served more than two years in that office.

Based on what has happened from 1941 on, most people would believe the House has always been run by a few who held office for long periods. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From 1876 through 1940, only one House Speaker served more than two years. He was Thomas Stuart, who served from 1885 through 1888.

Fifty-two of the 53 Speakers were white males, Lola Spradley in 2003-2004 being the exception. Speaker Romanoff was not the first Speaker of Jewish faith to serve.

That honor goes to Ben Bezoff, a journalist of some renown who was elected majority leader for the 1949-1950 session. House Speaker Pat Magill Jr. died in 1949 and Bezoff was elected Speaker for the 1950 special session, which lasted six days in August and passed six of eight bills introduced. Technically, Bezoff remained Speaker until the first day of the 1951 session. In 1950, Bezoff won election to the state Senate.

From the 1941 session through the 2008 session, there were eight Speakers who served more than two years. In that 68 year period, those eight Speakers served 48 years.

At the top of the heap was Carl "Bev" Bledsoe, 1981-1990, followed by Charles Berry, 1991-1998. Three served six years each, Homer Pearson, 1941-46, David Hamil, 1951-56, John Vanderhoof, 1963-64, and 1967-1970.

Another three served four years each: Charles Conklin, 1957-60, John Fuhr, 1971-74, and Romanoff, 2005-2008.

Only two of the nine longer term Speakers were Democrats, Conklin and Romanoff.

Every House Speakers from 1876 through 1900 was a Republican or Silver Republican (Silver meaning use of silver along with the gold standard as backup for money). From 1876 through 2008, there have been 35 Republican Speakers and 18 Democratic Speakers.

* * *

The President of the Senate is more of an evolutionary sideshow. The original constitution gave the task to the person elected lieutenant governor, who may or might not be of the same political party as the governor.

A hairy story: From 1876 through 1916, the winners were almost always bearded or walrus mustached and sometimes both. No one could see their upper lip. There were two exceptions, Warren Haggott in 1903-04, and Erastus Harper in 1907-08.

Beginning in 1917 (the 1916 election) none of the lieutenant governors wore hair on their faces. Heads? OK. Faces? No, not until that Fu Manchu version under the nose of Peter Groff.

Of the first 18 Presidents of the Senate, 14 were Republican, two were Populists and two were Democrats.

The two-year terms lasted until the 1958 election when the term for lieutenant governor became four years. Robert Knous served two terms, eight years,1958-1966, before losing a bid to become governor. From 1970 on, the governor and lieutenant governor ran on a joint ticket.

The lieutenant governor no longer sat as President of the Senate beginning in 1975. A state senator would be elected by his peers to that position, beginning with Fred Anderson from 1975 through 1982. He was followed by Ted Strickland from 1983 through 1992. Next came Tom Norton from 1993 through 1998.

Then we were back to two year terms from Ray Powers, Stan Matsunaka, and John Andrews, followed by three years for Joan Fitz-Gerald, and presently in 2008 with Peter Groff as the 46th President of the Senate; 44 white males, one white female, and one black male.

* * *

Being Speaker or President is not a sure way to be elected governor, or to Congress or the U.S. Senate.

Elected governor? From the Senate, John Vivian, 1943-46, Ed Johnson, 1933-36, 1955-57, and Steve McNichols, 1957-1962. From the House, Teller Ammons, 1913-1915.

Elected to Congress? From the Senate, Robert Rockwell, 1942-1946. From the House, Byron Rogers, 1951-71, and Wayne Aspinall, 1949-1973.

Elected U.S. Senator? From the Senate, Ed Johnson, 1937-1954, and Gordon Allott, 1955-1973.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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