Leroy Garcia, the president of the Colorado state Senate, is trapped between two opposing worlds. He has to choose which one he’s going to represent.
Should he represent his constituents from Pueblo who elected him into public office or his progressive caucus of fellow Democrat senators who elected him Senate president? (Quick civics lesson: the senate president is chosen by the state senators themselves; the majority party selects who fills the spot.)
So, he’s won two different elections by two wildly different crowds.
His constituents in Pueblo voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. By contrast, none of his fellow Democrat senators voted for Trump. In fact, they voted to put Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact which would have prevented Trump’s victory had it been in place at the time. So, certainly, it’s not a well-liked bill in Garcia’s home senate district. He voted for it anyway.
Even though there are no active oil wells in Pueblo his constituents there voted devastatingly against last year’s fracking ban, Proposition 112, by the third highest vote in the state, behind oil-rich Weld and Mesa counties. Yet he voted against this sentiment and instead with his state Senate allies when it came to Senate Bill 181, the new regulations which could cripple the oil and gas industry and lead to a de facto moratorium in some counties on new wells.
In 2013 the voters of his Senate district recalled his predecessor Sen. Angela Giron by a mindboggling 56 percent to 44 percent due to her anti-gun votes. This earned her the distinction of being the first legislator ever recalled in Colorado.
Garcia’s Democrat colleagues under the gold dome rammed through a gun confiscation bill called “Extreme Risk Protection Orders.” This reasonable-sounding bill actually creates a lower legal standard to take someone’s guns than is does giving them back, completely upending the presumption of innocence. It doesn’t allow the accused to face her accuser in the first hearing and encourages no-knock raids, all the things liberals of yore fought against.
Even the Denver Police Union stood up up against this gun grab.
This bill is so unpopular in Garcia’s hometown he wisely announced he would finally align with his Pueblo constituents instead of his usual anti-Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendment caucus associates in the Senate. That made him the only Democrat in the state legislature to vote against it.
It’s a survival move given the recalls that took the political lives of two of Garcia’s predecessors: his senate-district predecessor, Giron, and the 2013 president of the Senate, John Morse, who was also recalled for voting for “common-sense gun control.”
So, he’s really choosing his Pueblo constituents over his caucus? Doubtful.
With Garcia as the only Democrat “no” vote, the gun confiscation bill still passed by one vote. That makes his “no” vote a Pontius Pilate impersonation, purely theatrical, and patronizing to his voters back home.
It’s also the opposite of leadership.
People might not realize that no bill, absolutely no bill, passes out of the Senate without the Senate president’s blessing, even the ones he symbolically votes against.
He has all the power.
He controls the committee every bill is assigned. He can schedule the Senate vote for any time it is most likely to fail, say when folks are absent. Senate presidents, and Speakers of the House do this as standard operating procedure. It’s why people want to become Senate president or speaker.
If Leroy was really working for his Pueblo voters, this bill wouldn’t have seen the light of day after committee. Likely it wouldn’t have been introduced by the urban gun-phobes to begin with, at least not in the illiberal form that passed.
To date there is scant evidence our Senate president has chosen to value his Pueblo voters over his progressive gold dome contemporaries.
There is an old saying among state legislators: “When in doubt, vote your district.”
Leroy Garcia must have no doubts.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.