A top state Senate leader is stepping down for a job in Denver mayor’s administration

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate Dominick Moreno at the Capitol, March 1, 2023.

The number two leader in the Colorado State Senate is stepping down to join the new administration of Denver Mayor Mike Johnston. State Sen. Dominick Moreno will serve as the deputy chief of staff. 

His replacement will be selected by a Democratic vacancy committee.

Moreno was first elected to the House in 2012 and then moved to the state Senate after two terms. He’d previously served on the Commerce City Council. The 2024 legislative session would have been Moreno’s last due to term limits. 

He was well-liked at the Capitol, winning praise from both sides of the aisle. Some Republicans, like state Sen. Perry Will of New Castle, credited Moreno for helping to foster a collaborative and respectful relationship with the minority party and listening to their concerns. 

“We all get along,” said Will at the end of the session, reflecting on the dynamics in the Senate and Moreno’s role. “I think people watch sometimes at the national level, but we're all friends here, you know, we might have different ideas and opinions on policy, but at the end of the day we're all friends.”

As the majority leader, Moreno held considerable power, he set the agenda for Senate floor work, including the timing of debates. He also appointed lawmakers to committees and determined each panel’s size and political split.

However, during the last session, Moreno received some pushback from progressive members of the legislature.  This last year, even as Democrats held a near supermajority in both chambers, closely divided Senate committees frequently blocked or watered down some progressive priorities.

Moreno defended the makeup of the committees as a good reflection of the Senate’s general views and noted that when some progressive bills did reach the Senate floor, they didn’t have the votes to pass.

 “Yes, we have a historic majority,” Moreno told CPR News last session. “It doesn't mean that we have a super majority of progressive members. It means that everyone votes their own conscience in their own district.”

Still despite some frustrations, Moreno was one of the most respected voices under the Gold Dome. Prior to his role as majority leader he served on the powerful joint budget committee, which crafts the state budget. 

“I will miss his quick wit and policy intellect, expansive knowledge of the state’s budget, and keen ability to broker compromise,” said House Speaker Julie McCluskie in a statement.

McCluskie served with Moreno on the budget committee. 

Senate President Steve Fenberg also praised Moreno for what he said was his relentless hard work, thoughtfulness and razor-sharp sense of humor. 

“Dom’s leadership has helped move Colorado forward in innumerable ways, and his ability to cut through the noise, have tough conversations, forge compromise, and find solutions to our toughest challenges is unparalleled,” said Fenberg in a statement. 

Last session Moreno was front and center as he tried to spearhead the massive land use bill through the Capitol. The proposal to require denser housing developments was Gov. Jared Polis’ top priority. It ultimately failed on the final day of the session, after each chamber passed vastly different versions. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.