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Morgan Carroll to step aside as Colorado Democratic Party chairwoman

Her party has secured more sustained power in the state than ever before
Morgan Carroll, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, at a Highlands Ranch event in September 2018. (Marvin Anani/Special to The Colorado Sun)

Morgan Carroll, who has served as chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party since 2017 and presided over her party as it secured more sustained power in the state than ever before, will not run for a fourth two-year term in the leadership position.

Carroll will step down as chairwoman when the state party votes on a new chair in April, she told The Colorado Sun on Wednesday. Her decision will likely set off a dynamic, and potentially crowded, race to replace her.

“I don’t know what I’m doing next, but I feel proud enough of where I have left the state party that I feel like I can hand this off to somebody else,” she said. “I have loved this so much, and the results make a difference and that is incredible.”

Carroll is stepping down with Democrats in solid control of state government, including every major statewide office, until 2027.

There are no statewide elected offices up for grabs for four years in Colorado, and Democrats’ majorities in the Colorado Senate and House are so large that it’s unrealistic the GOP will have a chance at securing a majority in either or both chambers until 2026.

Democrats’ biggest challenges in the 2024 election will be helping U.S. Rep.-elect Yadira Caraveo win another term in Colorado’s 8th Congressional District and trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Garfield County Republican. Colorado is not expected to be a competitive state in the next presidential election.

Morgan Carroll served as president of the Colorado Senate from 2013 to 2015. (Associated Press file)

Before serving as chairwoman of the state party, Carroll, a lawyer, was president of the Colorado Senate from 2013 to 2015. Carroll served in the Senate from 2009 to 2017 and before that was a member of the Colorado House from 2005 to 2009.

The University of Colorado Law School graduate also ran unsuccessfully in 2016 to represent Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

Carroll said she never intended to run for state party chair but that she was inspired to do so after her 2016 congressional bid and after President Donald Trump was elected that year.

“I started to be concerned that we had a more fundamental structural need to kind of rebuild the party,” she said. “My goal was to win all of our (statewide) seats and to flip or grow the majority of every institution in the state of Colorado. And we did that.”

She added: “I feel like the mission has been accomplished.”

Carroll said she focused her efforts as chairwoman on winning down-ballot contests like the races for attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer, as well as legislative contests.

“We really focused on building the grassroots on developing candidates, on being analytical, on being very voter-centered,” she said. “It’s been absolutely amazing, but it has been exhausting.”

In 2020, Democrats for the first time since 1936 won control of every major statewide elected office, both chambers of the Legislature, both U.S. Senate seats and the balance of the state’s U.S. House delegation. The Colorado Democratic Party says its legislative majorities in the House and Senate have never been so large.

“We can’t take any of these votes for granted,” she said. “We have to reearn them every cycle though. But I think the Colorado Democratic Party is in good shape. I’d rather hand off a strong, well-organized, successful party to somebody else when it’s kind of at the pinnacle of doing well.”

One possible contender to replace Carroll is longtime Democratic strategist Shad Murib, the son of Lebanese immigrants, who told The Colorado Sun it’s more likely than not that he runs to be state party chairman. With Democrats in control of state government for the next several years, he wants to put more party emphasis on winning local races, like those for county clerk, sheriff and commissioner, as well as district attorney contests.

“I want to thank Morgan Carroll for her years of service to the state,” Murib said. “I believe the next frontier of democratic politics is local. When a far-right sheriff doesn’t enforce our gun safety laws, that puts people in danger and, frankly, I’m sick of it. I am excited about our historic wins in recent cycles and now I think it’s time to take on far-right obstructionists at the local level who are standing in the way of progress.”

Murib, the husband of state Sen. Kerry Donovan, has worked for Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and Secretary of State Jena Griswold and served as a top aide in the state Senate. He says his record of winning tough races for Democratic candidates sets him apart from anyone else who will run for the party’s top job.

“I’ve won in races that we’ve had no business winning,” he said, pointing to legislative and board of education contests. “I think one of my calling cards is that if you want to win a tough race, you bring me on to the team.”

On the Republican side, the Colorado GOP will also vote early next year on who should be its chair for the next two years.

Burton Brown

Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown has not said publicly whether she will seek another term. “I’m having a lot of conversations with people,” she told George Brauchler last month on his 710 KNUS talk radio show. “I’ll definitely make sure people know what I’m doing, likely sometime in December.”

A group of far-right Republicans, including indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, held a rally last week calling for new leadership at the state party after another disappointing election cycle.

Burton Brown is the Colorado GOP’s third chair since 2017.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.