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New Leader of Colorado House GOP just Elected

Rose Pugliese elected new leader of Colorado House GOP caucus following Mike Lynch’s resignation

By Jesse Paul8:44 AM MST on Jan 25, 2024 The Colorado Sun

In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Rose Pugliese, right, speaks during a news conference in Denver, to announce that their campaign has turned in thousands of voter signatures in hopes of repealing a new law that would pledge the state's presidential electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. She was elected House minority leader on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Republicans in the Colorado House of Representatives on Thursday elected a first-term lawmaker from Colorado Springs to be their new leader, replacing Mike Lynch, who stepped down from his leadership role a day earlier following revelations about his 2022 arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. 

Rose Pugliese, a Colorado Springs Republican, is in just her second year as a state representative, but she had been serving as assistant minority leader in the House.

She beat out state Reps. Matt Soper, R-Delta, and Ken DeGraaf, R-Colorado Springs, for the job in two rounds of voting by secret ballot. DeGraaf was the lowest vote getter in the first tally, which meant he was dropped from the contest. Pugliese beat Soper in a final, 11-8 vote.

“I love this caucus and I want to see it grow,” she said in a speech before the votes were taken. “I want to make sure that we are stopping Democratic policies that are hurting the people in our state.”

Pugliese, a former Mesa County commissioner, is taking the helm of a 19-member caucus that is bitterly divided between more moderate and more conservative factions even as it contends with a 46-member Democratic supermajority in the House. 

Pugliese said she wants to unite the factions.

“We’re all different and diverse and unique,” she said. “We bring talents to this caucus and perspectives that help make us stronger and better.”

Pugliese has long been a figure in Colorado’s Republican circles, first on the Western Slope and more recently in Colorado Springs, where she moved during the pandemic. She considered running for secretary of state in 2022 before making her statehouse bid. Earlier this year, she mulled a campaign to represent Colorado’s 5th Congressional District to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, but opted instead to pursue another term as a state lawmaker.

Pugliese told House Republicans on Thursday that she is committed to remaining at the Capitol.

Additionally, Pugliese ran the unsuccessful campaign in 2020 to block Colorado from joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact that would seeks to abolish the electoral college process of electing presidents.

Lynch resigned from his leadership position Wednesday in a speech on the house floor, a week after it became public that he was arrested in September 2022 on suspicion of drunken driving and being in possession of a gun while intoxicated. Fellow House Republicans appeared imminently poised to oust him as minority leader.

“I am stepping down because it is the right thing to do — because I have become a distraction for my caucus and that is getting in the way of the hard work that we have to do in this building,” said Lynch, who is also running for Congress this year.

Lynch was driving an electric Ford Mustang Mach-E when he was pulled over by a state trooper on Interstate 25 between Fort Collins and Wellington on Sept. 30, 2022, for speeding. He was traveling 90 mph in a 75 mph zone, according to a summons. A trooper said he smelled alcohol on Lynch’s breath, and the Wellington lawmaker’s blood-alcohol level, when tested by a Breathalyzer, was about 0.16 — double the state’s driving limit of 0.08. 

Lynch was charged with driving under the influence, speeding 10-19 mph over the speed limit and being in possession of a gun while drunk. He pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, a lesser offense, and the gun charge. Prosecutors dropped the other charges. 

The representative was sentenced in December 2022 to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service. Lynch told The Sun he still has some community service hours to complete and that his probation term — during which he is prohibited from possessing a gun — will end in June.

The Colorado House Republican caucus will meet Friday morning to elect a new assistant minority leader to replace Pugliese.

The 2024 legislative session in Colorado ends May 8.

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