Today, at the Colorado State Capitol, as the 74th Assembly began its first day, the Colorado House ran into a few unexpected hiccups.
It has been a long-standing tradition that the House votes unanimously for the Colorado House Speaker. The idea is that as elected officials to the State of Colorado, they are there to represent all constituents, and the goal is to work together for Coloradoans based on the will of the people. Representative Julie McCluskie (D), District 61, was nominated by her fellow Democrats to serve the role. The first time in years that tradition had been broken was in 2021. It was broken again this year.
Freshman Representatives Ken DeGraaf (R), District 22, and Scott Bottoms (R), District 15, had a different idea though. They said this idea came to them watching what was taking place at the U.S. Capitol last week with the election of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House after 15 rounds of voting.
Rep. DeGraaf nominated Rep. Bottoms, who seconded his own nomination.
After being admonished by members of their own party for bringing partisan politics on the first day, they lost the Speaker election 55-8 to Rep. Julie McCluskey (D), District 61.
Both stated that their actions were because of Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB22-279, passed in 2022, which they provocatively and misleadingly referred to as a “fetal harvesting” bill.
HB22-279 protects the rights of women to have an abortion in Colorado and protects those who come to Colorado to have an abortion and was passed in response to multiple Republican-led states criminalizing reproductive healthcare and creating bounty systems for turning in women who seek such care and doctors who provide it. These laws have led to some grotesque scenarios, such as 10-year-old rape victims being denied abortions, a woman being forced to carry a fetus that had no skull and no chance of living, or women being forced to bleed out carrying clinically dead fetuses until doctors were sufficiently convinced that their lives might be in danger.
While the effort appears to be more show than substance, as their candidate was not going to win the position, the greater concern is their lack of understanding of why they were elected and what their task is. Rep. Bottoms repeatedly mentioned he was there to represent Republicans and the Republican mission, making clear that he was not there to represent all the people of Colorado or even all of the people in his own district.
In the spirit of the political posturing, they admitted they were acting under Rep. DeGraaf and Bottoms managed to hit all the buzzwords in their speeches: taxes, principles, communist, frivolous spending, Marxism, Republican values, the Constitution, baseless accusations of corruption and God. In their words, it seems they believe America is a Christian nation, not one that separates church from state, and that it was their duty to push their own beliefs onto everyone via legislation.
The danger in this rhetoric is the ideologies they accuse their opponents of are based on their beliefs and not reality. This was made clear by the framing of their arguments against the Reproductive Health Equity Act. They both repeatedly spoke on protecting fetuses, but neither spared a single thought to women whose lives are affected by religious beliefs masquerading as a political ideology.
Political grandstanding and self-admitted divisiveness are not elements of Democracy, especially when refusing even to acknowledge the intricacies of the rights they are talking about. If equality is what they are fighting for, they would be standing for women’s rights (and every other marginalized segment of society).
Instead of choosing to understand the differences in ideology and working towards a common ground, they openly chose grandstanding and division as their first course of action.
If we can’t trust them to put aside their performative partisanship for a procedural vote, how can we trust them to work for us, Coloradoans and Americans?
YS transcription from today’s Assembly vote for Speaker of the House
Speaker vote from 1:08:03-1:40:20
Representative Ken DeGraaf (R), District 22, Freshman (Nov. 22)
Greeting Colleagues, I appreciate the opportunity to address you having earned degrees from USoph and Columbia University and then flying jets for the Air Force for 30 years I felt my service to the country was complete. Someone unexpectedly, I’m beginning this new chapter with you.
As we watched the drama of our United States Congress unfold last week, we noticed that the House Democrats voted 15 times for the Speaker of the House to be elected from them for the Minority party. So what we’re doing is perfectly legitimate, just as they did and I am requesting a recorded vote.
This is by no means personal, I have no doubt that the speaker designated is a magnificent administrator, but the speaker also provides a vector for the proceedings of this chamber. As you might recall from calculus, a vector has both magnitude and direction and if the direction is not true, no magnitude will get you to the truth.
The great experiment of our Republic was the recognition of an individual sovereignty over Government which eventually ended the ageless institution of slavery in this country and took us from the mud streets of a nascent backwater to the moon in the stars, and created a standard of living where even our poor are the envy of nations who flocked to our shores to be part of this great and vibrant adventure. Why, then would we return to them the monotonous gray and slaving subordination of the individual to some higher phase of communist society of servitude to the state. Yet every day, this Congress drags us down that path.
Representative Bottoms is the right vector for the estimate position, Representative Bottoms is currently the full-time pastor at the church at Briar Gate in Colorado Springs. He is a strong leader who has ministered for 30 years in rural and urban communities to the poor as well as the rich to the joyful and the despondent to the addicted and the suicidal he earned a Master’s Degree in church ministries and a PhD in intercultural ministries and it has served on multiple executive boards and shared service home for the restoration of girls rescued from human trafficking. Representative Bottoms is a Navy veteran of eight years and has worked with multiple veterans organizations he and his wife Linda have been married since 1990. Together they have been blessed with three children, two daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren.
The values of our Republic are simple but profound, they are unprecedented and they are revolutionary. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
We just swore an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Colorado, thus acknowledging that our just powers as legislators are derived from the consent of the governed for the purpose of preserving the endowed unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unjust powers are everything else. We took an oath to secure these rights, not obscure them under voluminous acts of subjugation.
So when I see from watchdog groups like LibertyScorecardco.us that a nominee for Speaker of the House has scored an 8% in defending the ideals of limited government, free markets, equal protection of the law, and fiscal responsibility, I must at least present the option of affirming our rights not further subordination them to a soulless bureaucracy.
As a citizen Representative Bottoms is aware of the damage done to our economy by the frivolous spending of this body and understands that we must remove the jackboot of good intentions from the neck of liberty to enable human thriving. As Marx noted, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
My main reason for nominating Representative Bottoms is Mario. Mario was due on December 8, but on November 2, he was shot through his mother’s abdomen. The bullet penetrated his arm and severed his umbilical cord, and he choked on his own blood before he could be rescued by emergency C-section. His killer was charged merely with an unlawful termination of a pregnancy at class five felony instead of murder because in 2013, HB1311-54 dictated nothing shall be conferred to confer the status of a person upon a human embryo, fetus or unborn child at any stage of development prior to live birth. But it did acknowledge that the unborn child was human. Last year fetal harvesting bill HB22 Dash-279 took that further and not only specifically removed any rights of personhood, but even any mention of humanity of the unborn human for the purpose of specifically denying the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments, stating a fertilized embryo or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state and authorized extermination via any medical procedure, any instrument any agent or any drug, and any is a very broad range. The only thing illegal about Mario’s death is that his mother didn’t want it.
This is a very dangerous vector. What we learned from history is that we never learn from history, but if we did, we would recognize that normalizing the stripping of any creator-endowed image of God of humanity or personhood leads to subjugation, slavery, and genocide. That is a vector we should avoid not champion as a growth industry.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “I read once in a law book a slave is a human being who is not legally a person but a thing.” And if the safeguards to liberty are broken down as is now attempted when they have made things of all the unborn babies, how long, thank you, before they’ll make things of you?
I cannot endorse with my vote someone who has made a thing out of another human being, especially for the purposes of revoking the endowed right to life, which thereby vacates the rights of all mankind, making us merely subjects of a tyrannical state. And leaves the unborn subject to child on the subject of man, mechanical dismemberment, chemical burning exsanguination or any other contrivance in the dark heart of man. Representative Bottoms recognizes and affirms the inherent value of all humanity and embraces the ideals of our Republic. Representative Bottoms values truth because the truth will set you free. Representative Bottoms is the vector we need.
As the Prophet Moses laid before the people of Israel, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and cursings, now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that your descendants, you and your descendants, might live.” I strongly urge a yes vote for representative bottoms for Speaker of the House. I thank you for your time and consideration. I asked for a recorded vote.
Majority Leader and Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Before we continue, I do want to make sure that for so many new members here in the house, We never question the motives of any member in this house, and we do not talk about specific legislation within the well. Representative Bottoms.
Scott Bottoms (R), District 15, Freshman (Nov. 22)
Madam Speaker, I accept this nomination, and I believe very strongly in believing very strongly.
I think that people of principle also include integrity with that. I believe that it is important that we stand on our principles and we stand on our values. If the roles of this were reversed and the supermajority was Republican, I would expect a Democrat to nominate a Democrat and vote for a Democrat. The Democrat voters didn’t send you here to vote for Republicans. They sent here to vote for Democrats. My Republican voters sent me here to vote for Republicans. And that’s what we’re trying to put forward today is that we stand on principle, and we stand on value of Republican values. On the Democrat side, I’m sure that there are many that are very principled voters. I respect that. That’s very important to me. Also, on the Democrat side, I assume that there are some that vote for party purposes or for personal gain. I, that is suspect to me. On the Republican side…
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
I apologize, Madam Speaker.
The Republican principles and values that we are espousing as something that we were sent here to vote for. Our Republican platform is what we were put here to vote for. The 19 Republicans, we’re not going to have any power this session, we understand that, but we do have principles, and that’s what we’re going to be standing upon. And that’s why we vote Republican is because we were sent here to do that and to uphold the Constitution in every vote that we have.
The Republican platform that we’ll be standing on is that we start with life. That God created life, and they created conception. He created male and female, He created them at conception.
We also know that we stand for the Second Amendment under all circumstances. And we stand for the Second Amendment, even if it’s in the parking lot of the Capitol building. We stand for the Second Amendment.
We stand for lower taxes at all circumstances. We stand for smaller government at all junctures. We stand for rights of the individual over the state, including rights of parents over the state for their own children.
I accept this nomination because I’m a Constitutional Conservative Republican, and I will stand with my 19 Republican Caucus members to stand for the unity of the Republican platform. And that there’s a potential that this 74th General Assembly that we could end up being the most conservative Republican caucus in recent history, and we will stand together in those conservative values.
Thank you, and in a parting thought, because of all the checks and balances and because there’s such a huge Democrat supermajority, it would kind of make sense to have a Republican Speaker.
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Also, I will remind guests and new members as well, there’s no clapping when we are in the middle of debate. Thank you very much, Representative Herod.
Representative Leslie Herod, (D), 8th District
Thank you, Madam Speaker, members of this body, I strongly second and support the nomination of my good friend and colleague, Madam Speaker elect designee Julian McCluskey.
Representative McCluskey has done so much for this body. That is it is important that we stand up and stand with her for this nomination.
I’ll remind you all that this is unprecedented. And it’s not in forgotten on me that is lost on me that someone who has worked so hard to build bridges across the aisle is stood up against as we selected as a Democratic majority representative McCluskey to lead us because she committed to working on both sides of the aisle for the greater good of Colorado.
That’s what we all should be here for today. Not about Democrats or Republicans, but about leading the state.
Must I remind you all that we are facing some of the toughest times Thank you, Representative Michaelson. Today the toughest times that Colorado has faced Coloradans are struggling right now to make ends meet every single day. And in Denver, we have seen some of the worst air quality that our city has seen. We have seen migrants coming into this state in unprecedented numbers. We need to rule for the people of Colorado, not our partisan differences.
Representative McCluskey has consistently set up for all of Coloradans. And as a chair of the Black Caucus, she has also made sure that underrepresented Coloradans have a voice at the table. But the thing I think most important for this body, and that we need to reiterate representative McCluskey has led the Colorado General Assembly and this state through some of the toughest economic times that we have seen in the history of our state as someone who led the Joint Budget Committee, I’m proud to have served with her under her leadership. We have seen a $36 billion balanced budget with an overflow of federal dollars coming in.
We need representative McCluskey as our speaker to navigate those waters. I know that regardless of what happens today, with this little display that we’ve seen here this morning, that Representative McCluskey will continue to uphold her values and ensure that she works across the aisle with some of my good friends and colleagues who have done amazing work to ensure everybody here and every district has a voice and is represented and I hope that we could stand with her today as we elect her, the Speaker of this house.
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Representative Matt Soper, (R) District 54
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise in support of representative McCluskey is speaker not because she’s a Democrat, not because she’s from the majority party, but because we have a tradition in the Colorado House of Representatives.
And it’s one that, for the first time, was broken two years ago. So I am going to disagree with my colleague from Denver. There was a precedent set two years ago, but not a good precedent. Historically and in this institution, the Speaker of the House has been a unanimous vote by all the members because it’s a speaker for the entire chamber.
And it’s really important that if someone like myself from the minority party comes to the Speaker, I want her to know that she’s not just representing one party or one caucus, but she’s representing the entire chamber, the entire institution of the House of Representatives, and that she holds that above any partisan fray that we throw.
But the other reason is that over and over again, I’ve heard from my constituents across Colorado saying that I don’t want Colorado to be like Washington. I want you guys to rise above the fray to do better. This is where we can do better than Washington.
Right here. It’s not against one of my colleagues. Its respect for the institution is why I’m down here asking for a vote for representative McClusky as Speaker. I will remind everyone in this chamber we will have healthy debates. There will be long nights we will stomp our feet. We will use whatever tools are available to us to make our voices heard when it seems like policies are going against our core values and our beliefs, but this particular point in time is not that point. This is not that time. It’s the time for us to come together as colleagues, as peers, as members of the Colorado House of Representatives. So I ask for the support of representative Julian McCluskey once again. I can tell you over the last four years, we’ve shared Delta County have to put a nice plug for Delta County there. And I think we’ve done a great job. That’s the type of representation that we need more of in Colorado, where we’re able to get together and solve problems and also have those conversations. So that’s why I really want this particular legislative session to start off on a good foot. Thank you.
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Representative DeGraaf, do you wish to speak again?
Thank you, Madam Chair. It’s the pleasure to serve with you.
I object to the characterization of this as a stunt. This is not a stunt, and this is not partisan. If this was a purely Republican vote, I would vote the same way based on the principles. I just swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Colorado my powers as a legislator are derived from the consent of the governed for the purpose of preserving the unalienable and individual rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The founding principles do not grant us these rights but merely recognize them as entitled by our creation in the image of God. They are a condition for human flourishing instead of floundering. They’re the basis for a man being sovereign over government instead of being subjugated by it. They are the reason the world flocks to our shores, yearning to breathe free tyrants of the self-appointed elite hate individual sovereignty, and we’ll try to suppress it under a myriad of laws, rules, gun grabs, taxes and fees, and will conceal their snares under the platitudes of good intentions.
Madam Chairman, this is purely a request to alter the… to modify the vector of this body it is not an impugn meant on the speaker designate, it is my upholding my constitutional values. That I just swore to uphold and protect.
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Does anyone else wish to speak on the nominations for the position of speaker? Representative Luck?
Representative Stephanie Luck (R), District 60
I wasn’t intending to come down here, but I did write a letter that I was planning to circulate today. It seems an appropriate time to share with the entirety of the body.
Today’s a special day as we open the 74th Colorado General Assembly. Like many who have come before us, we now have the duty of selecting the next Speaker of the Colorado House. This role is a high honor that carries with it an awesome responsibility, not least because the speaker represents and governs on behalf of every representative, regardless of party affiliation. In this sense, the speaker is unique among us, she must rise above partisanship and must be always vigilant to be seen as fair and even-handed.
Over the weekend, the local paper ran a story about an incoming representative who was the victim of a crime last week on these Capitol grounds. This representative had come to attend training for new legislators. His truck contained work-related and personal property, including tools, a generator, and two unloaded handguns. Between Thursday evening and Friday morning, one or more criminals broke into his truck, removed the firearms, and damaged his vehicle. This representative reported the theft to state troopers, and they are investigating. He lawfully possessed his firearms. His vehicle was parked in secured and what ought to be one of the safest locations in Colorado when diligently patrolled by state troopers. His actions were reasonable, and his expectations for the safety of his possessions were normal.
What is not normal is the level of crime in Denver and throughout our state. It is unhealthy and growing more dangerous as criminals grow more brazen. In response to this, however, instead of pointing out the need to address crime in our capital city, and expressing concern for a member of our chamber, a member up for nomination issued a statement to this local paper politicizing the issue and worse, blaming the victim these remarks were not in keeping with the non-partisan role of the speakership.
Thus, I and everyone who is willing to sign on to this letter call on all nominees today to put aside political differences and to reconsider characterizations of the events these characterizations of the events of last Thursday.
Today, the first day of the session, is about coming together. Today is about electing a speaker who can rise above partisan debates and serve all of the members and our upcoming legislative session.
We the undersigned of this letter, hope to find constructive ways to work with all our colleagues to protect the lives and rights of everyone in Colorado, first and most especially, the innocent.
We therefore respectfully expect that in light of the historic and honorable duties of the speaker, the nominees all consider these comments and join with us, alter their opinion if necessary, to commit to the following: We will not blame victims of crime for the harmful actions of others. We will not punish the innocent, too. We will advance policies that protect victims and the vulnerable, and three, and we will work to find common ground with all members as we seek to solve the very real problems that are adversely impacting the residents of our great state. I hope that all of us as members can sign on to this, but especially those who have been nominated for Speaker
Madam Chair Daneya Esgar
Any further discussion on nominations for Speaker of the House Representative Holdsworth?
Representative Richard Holtorf, (R), District 63
To this esteemed body, we find ourselves in a very difficult time in this country. We find ourselves in a very difficult time in this state. I will tell you Representative Bottoms’ motives are noble.
I will tell you that he seeks to lead and make changes from his position and reference as a pastor and as a newly elected representative. I harken back to the comments of tradition. And I really now find myself in a conundrum.
As a Republican in this state, the position of speaker requires experience it requires a level of maturity to manage not only their caucus and both sides of the aisle but the many challenges that confront the state and confront this chamber, and they are many, as we are a state divided in the country divided in my message has always been in the last few weeks a message of unity. We have to. Although many of us find ourselves in different advocacy groups in different causes. We have to find a path forward for all of Colorado.
Despite our differences, that’s going to require leadership. It’s going to require experience so as we move forward, it is my belief that this is probably not the right moment in time for Colorado to have this very complex and difficult debate, and there are in fact, another 119 days to continue this work, but as the web in our party we have something that is precious to all Americans, all citizens and all including elected officials that you are allowed to vote your conscience, your district and your party and I said that in an order that I stand behind, this puts us in a very difficult place because we know as we sit here today before the entire state that speaker, soon to be, Speaker McCluskey will have the votes for this esteemed and honored position and she will guide this chamber as a mature and level headed individual which in speaking with her and the Majority Leader.
They have stated the highest level of respect for the institution and the highest level of decorum which we’re promoting and continue to promote. So at this time, I will tell my esteemed colleagues that we are in a difficult place. And they will hearken back to my previous comments with respect to this, but I will tell you that tradition, leadership, and experience matters. And it’s very important that we understand that because you can’t walk into the gold dome the first day and even begin to think you understand the mechanics and the complexities of Colorado, the chamber, and the workings of this esteemed institution. I’m on my third General Assembly and I still am unable to put my head around Everything that is this body.
Additional recaps of today’s first day back: