Colorado state lawmaker resigns, citing ‘sensationalistic and vitriolic’ atmosphere

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic state Reps. Judy Amabile and Ruby Dickson at the Speaker’s podium in the House, March 6, 2023.

First-term Democratic state lawmaker Ruby Dickson announced on Friday that she will resign her seat later this month, citing the charged political atmosphere. 

“While I’m proud of our legislative accomplishments, it has recently become clear that the sensationalistic and vitriolic nature of the current political environment is not healthy for me or my family,” Dickson wrote in her resignation letter, which she also posted online

CPR News reached out to Dickson for more details about what led her to resign, but she has not yet responded. She won her south suburban district, which includes the Tech Center, Greenwood Village, and Centennial, with 56 percent of the vote in 2022.

“The people of HD37 and Colorado need someone who can effectively represent them in the legislature, and I am stepping aside now to allow someone more suited for the rigors of the current moment to step in,” Dickson wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

During her brief time serving as a lawmaker, all five of the primary bills she sponsored became law, including a measure to preempt local restrictions to limit growth and updates to the prescription drug affordability board. She is a member of the legislature's LGBTQ caucus and the House Democratic Jewish caucus. 

Democratic House Majority Leader Monica Duran said Dickson called to tell her the news Friday morning. 

“I was surprised,” she said, noting that Dickson had already made up her mind by the time they spoke. “And I had to respect that, as disappointed as I am, and as much as I wish, as a colleague and just as a friend, that she would still be here and bring that charming smile of hers.” 

Just days before Thanksgiving, during the start of a special legislative session on reducing property taxes, Dickson gave no indication that she would soon be stepping down. She had already filed her paperwork to seek reelection in 2024 and was discussing her array of business suits and attire for the upcoming regular session, which begins in January.

Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod, the former president of the Democratic Black Caucus, said the vitriolic and toxic political environment absolutely takes a toll on all of the lawmakers. 

“Women and representatives from traditionally marginalized communities bear a disproportionate burden. From hate mail to outright character assassinations and death threats via social media and in-person — things are getting worse. Rep. Dickson served with a grace in support of her constituents and Colorado that we should all be proud of. While she will be missed, I honor her courage to put herself and her family first.”

“Rep. Dickson impressed me in the relatively short time we worked together; I think she was already a rising star in the legislature,” said Democratic Rep. Mike Weissman of Aurora, in a text. “I certainly understand the strain that public service can place on one's personal & family life and I respect her decision.  But I'm sad to see her go and I know I'm not the only one.”

The state legislature has seen many moments of stress over the past year, most recently at the end of last months' special session, when the war between Israel and Hamas burst into the politics of the chamber, shutting down work temporarily. 

There have been other intense moments of stress and raw emotion over the past year, including the final day of the spring session, which included a walkout by Republican lawmakers angry with how Democrats were running the chamber and an emotional confrontation during a Democratic caucus meeting

In recent years and months, lawmakers in both parties have raised concerns about the increasingly bitter partisan and intra-party divisions, and the at times grueling rigors of the job.

Democratic Rep. Judy Amabile of Boulder said Dickson was an excellent legislator and she’s sad to see her go. 

“We need to figure out how to make the job work for everyone and how to ensure the people doing the work feel safe.”