Here’s who Colorado lawmakers are bringing to the 2023 State of the Union

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Atrevida co-owner Richard Fierro speaks with a patron during a fundraiser at his brewery on Nov. 29th, 2022.

As President Joe Biden lays out his agenda tonight in a new era of divided government, many lawmakers will signal their key policy issue by the guest they bring.

It’s the first time since 2020 that members of Congress are able to invite a guest to the State of the Union address.

This year, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet will have Colorado rancher Paul Bruchez from Kremmling, seated next to him to highlight the western megadrought.

“In the months and years ahead, the entire Colorado River Basin is going to look to Colorado’s family farmers, ranchers, and water users for their leadership and example of how to do more with less,” Bennet said in a statement. “Paul Bruchez leads by example every day as he works to protect the Colorado River for the next generation.”

For Democratic Reps. Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, gun violence continues to be a top policy priority, and they chose guests who highlight its toll on Colorado.

Neguse is bringing Ellen Mahoney. Her husband, Kevin, was killed in the 2021 King Soopers mass shooting in Boulder. 

“It’s devastating and life-altering to lose a loved one to senseless and ruthless gun violence. Yet gun violence keeps happening over and over again in this country,” she said in a statement. “We can and must do better. I believe that most humans are loving and creative individuals at their core. Instead of picking up a gun—how about reaching for a guitar, a paintbrush, or a pen? The pain of broken hearts and broken families from gun violence needs to end.”

Crow will be joined by Richard Fierro, the Army veteran who helped disarm the Club Q shooter. Fierro’s daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was one of the victims that night.

This isn’t the first time these congressmen have invited guests who have lost loved ones to gun violence. In 2020, Neguse had Tom Mauser, whose son was killed at Columbine. In 2019, Crow invited Mary Majok, a Sudanese refugee whose son was killed in Aurora by gun violence.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo has invited Liliana Soto of Commerce City as her first State of the Union guest. Soto and her family own and operate a tortilleria called Las Dos Americas. Not only does she want to honor Latino-owned businesses with her pick, Caraveo is also hoping to highlight the urgent need to lower costs to help small business owners and working-class families.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lauren Boebert has invited John Marshall, president of Colorado Mesa University, to the address. “[Marshall] shares my commitment to rural Colorado by combining higher education with vocational education that prepares students to succeed in the workforce and reinvest in their local communities,” Boebert said in a statement, adding she also supports the school’s healthcare education initiative with St. Mary’s Education Center. 

Last year, Boebert made headlines by heckling Biden as he gave his address.

Many other Colorado lawmakers will use their guest slot to let their spouses attend the address. Sen. John Hickenlooper will be joined by his wife, Robin. Rep. Doug Lamborn will bring his wife, Jeanie, and freshman Rep. Brittany Pettersen will bring her husband, Ian Silverii, to the State of the Union.