Democrat Shakeup at Legislature Suggests Growing Labor Union Influence

November 28, 2012

MORSE MASSACRE: Incoming Senate President John Morse (D-Colo. Spgs.) unexpectedly replaced a number of high-ranking Democrat staffers

DENVER – In what seems like a game of musical chairs, you might not recognize the tune of changing state House committee names – or the revolving door of Senate staffers. But, most politicos will recognize the growing influence of labor unions.

Senate President-elect John Morse (D-Colo. Spgs.) dismissed numerous staffers Tuesday, including former chief of staff John Cevette who was replaced by Kjersten Forseth.

“I am sorry the Senate lost an experienced team of professionals,” said Cevette. “They will be hard to replace.”

Like Morse, Forseth is from Colorado Springs and has a passion for politics and deep connections to unions.

Forseth was executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, state director of Change That Works, state director for SEIU, union organizer for Colorado WINS, state director for Colorado for Health Care, and CEO for Red Rock Strategies from 2003 – 2007 (an entity not listed on the Secretary of State’s online records).

In a fundraising letter to ProgressNow supporters, Forseth asserted that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler was “elected by accident” and accused him of trying to “do as much damage to Colorado’s elections – and the right of Coloradans to vote – as he possibly can.”

That was shortly after the 2010 election – but the basis of attacks against Gessler picked up steam over the past two years.

In addition to Cevette, Eddie Stern, a former journalist who served as the Senate Majority Communications Director; MacKenzie Lintz, who was executive assistant to Democrat Senate leadership; and at least three other staffers are out.

“After five years of working here, I knew the score… and started looking for a new job,” Lintz told the The Observer “I landed a job at Dish Network.”

Questions about other staffing changes were intercepted by Jessica Bralish, who continues to serve as public relations director for the Senate Majority. Bralish, however, had been instructed not to answer inquiries from the media.

“I think you need to talk with Senator Morse,” Bralish said repeatedly. Previous calls had been made to Morse of Colorado Springs, none were returned.

House Democrats also changed the name of several committees, some say to pay homage to the labor unions that pumped thousands of dollars into their campaigns, in one case.

The House Economic and Business Development Committee is now called the Business, Labor & Economic & Workforce Development Committee.

Health is now divided into two committees: Health, Insurance & Environment Committee, and the Public Health Care & Human Services Committee.

The House Transportation Committee again includes “Energy” in the title – a reference removed by House Republican leadership in 2010.

At least one Republican lawmaker joked that the word “green” was missing in the title.

“The toughest part about making these selections was having to choose from such a talented and experienced group of legislators,” said House Speaker-elect Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). “With our caucus and committee leadership now in place, I’m really excited about the 2013 legislative session.”

“We are ready to lead,” Ferrandino added.

The 2013 House committee chairs and vice chairs are:

Agriculture: Reps. Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins) and Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland);

Appropriations: Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), and Crisanta Duran (D-Denver);

Business, Labor & Economic & Workforce Development: Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) and Rep.-elect Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada);

Education: Reps. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and Cherylin Peniston (D-Westminster);

Finance: Reps. Lois Court (D-Denver) and Jeanne Labuda (D-Denver);

Health, Insurance & Environment: Reps. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge);

Judiciary: Reps. Daniel Kagan (D-Cherry Hills Village) and Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs);

Local Government: Reps. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), and Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont);

Public Health Care & Human Services: Reps. Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield) and Dave Young (D-Greeley);

State, Veterans & Military Affairs: Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) and Rep.-elect Joe Salazar (D-Thornton);

Transportation & Energy: Rep. Max Tyler (D-Lakewood) and Rep.-elect Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City)

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