GOP unity essential as elected officials face shared power with Dems in the Statehouse

Joey Bunch and John Frank ---- The Denver Post 

When the Colorado legislature opens Wednesday, Republican leaders in the statehouse must find a way for new members to balance campaign promises against the political realities of sharing power with Democrats.

Democrats have been disciplined and forceful with control of both chambers the past two years. But with Republican gains in last fall's election, Democrats must deal with internal fractures between business-friendly, pro-gun members and those who support more liberal agendas on spending, regulations and tax breaks.

Both parties need every vote or the ability to cut deals that lawmakers in the chambers can live with.

The GOP won back the Senate with a one-seat majority and picked up three seats in the House. Democrats remain the majority party in the lower chamber with a 34-31 edge. Their fellow party member, Gov. John Hickenlooper, still has the final word on any bill that might divide the right and left or undo the work the Democrats did the past two years.

"I think it puts more of a burden on (Senate President-elect) Bill Cadman and others to manage that caucus, and that's not going to be an easy lift," said Colorado political analyst and consultant Eric Sondermann. "Theoretically, it only takes one Republican to swing sides. In that situation, every Republican potentially becomes the swing vote on every issue. It's both an opportunity for productivity and an opportunity for mischief."

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