Leroy Garcia, president of the Colorado Senate, resigns to take Pentagon job

Leroy Garcia, president of the Colorado state Senate since 2019, says he is resigning his position on Feb. 23 to take a new one in the federal Department of Defense.

The Pueblo Democrat, who is three weeks into his final session as a state legislator, has long been rumored as a possible candidate for a federal post, given that he is term-limited and that he is close with the administration of President Joe Biden. Garcia served as a leader of Biden’s Latino leadership council during the president’s 2020 campaign.

Garcia previously served as minority leader in the Senate, and also served in the state House of Representatives. His new title, the Senate Democratic caucus said, will be special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs within the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.

“For nearly a decade, I have had the immense honor to represent the People of Pueblo at the Colorado State Capitol, and the privilege to serve as Senate President since 2019,” Garcia said in a written statement. “I am incredibly grateful that my community and my colleagues entrusted me with this responsibility, and I have been humbled by the opportunity to serve the state I love. While my time in the Senate is coming to a close, I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished together to move Colorado forward, and I am confident that whomever is selected to fill these vacancies will serve with the integrity and tenacity that Coloradans deserve.”

Garcia’s seat in the state Senate will be filled by a vacancy committee.

The Senate Democratic caucus did not immediately name a likely replacement for the role of president. Most were unaware of Garcia’s new job until today.

Garcia’s second-in-command, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, told The Denver Post that he plans to seek the job of president once Garcia leaves.

“It’d be an honor to do it,” the Boulder Democrat said.

It remains to be seen whether any others will challenge him. Democrats control the chamber by a 20-15 margin, so it is a certainty that the next president will come from that party. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat who is also term-limited, sought the job before Garcia won it ahead of the 2019 legislative session, but could not be reached for comment immediately following Garcia’s announcement, as she was busy chairing a committee meeting.

Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Douglas County, the top Republican in the Senate, said in a statement, “I appreciate the president giving me a heads up on this announcement. That is a clear indication of how we’ve come to trust each other and communicate over the last three years as part of Senate leadership. I wish him the very best in his career and life after the General Assembly.”

Garcia, who served in the Marines and is a trained and still-practicing first responder in Pueblo, has been known as a hands-off leader who generally does not interfere with his members’ policy pursuits. He’s been a reliably liberal vote for the caucus, though notably stood apart from his colleagues by voting in 2019 against a “red flag” gun bill that allows courts to order firearms seized from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

But now and then Garcia did champion big or controversial changes, including in 2020 when he helped lead landmark police reform legislation that was inspired by Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.

In addition to the rumors that Garcia might one day take a federal position, he has for years been rumored as a potential congressional candidate. He passed on running for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020, when Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert won the seat.

This is a developing story and it will be updated.

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