Ellen Roberts resigns from state Senate; Coram eyes position

Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 1:20 AM
State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, talks with Democratic state senators Morgan Carroll and Pat Steadman during the 2012 session of the Colorado General Assembly. On Sunday, Roberts announced she is resigning from the Colorado Senate to focus on her family and private law practice.
State Sen. Ellen Roberts talks to people who lost their homes in the Lower North Fork Fire near Conifer in 2012. Roberts, R-Durango, announced she will leave the state Senate. “I am looking forward to new work possibilities that will build on my past legal practice and my legislative experience and that will allow me to spend more time at home, with my family and friends,” Roberts said in a statement.

Republican state Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango announced Sunday that she is resigning to focus more on family and her private law practice.

Her move is likely to set into motion shifts within the district, as Republican Rep. Don Coram of Montrose has expressed interest in moving up to the position. Coram’s move to the Senate District 6 seat would also leave a vacancy in House District 58, where he currently serves.

Roberts said that after a decade of service to the district – including six years in the Senate and four years in the House – she is ready to move on.

“I am looking forward to new work possibilities that will build on my past legal practice and my legislative experience and that will allow me to spend more time at home, with my family and friends, in the best area of the great state of Colorado that a person could live in,” Roberts said in a statement.

Roberts will resign as of Dec. 31. Power over the Republican-controlled Senate is at stake this election, with the GOP holding only a one-seat majority. Roberts serves as president pro tem, so her resignation guarantees a change in Senate Republican leadership.

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, is term-limited this year, so he is also departing.

A vacancy committee will be established by Republicans in Senate District 6, which is likely to meet on Jan. 3 to fill Roberts’ seat. Coram told The Durango Herald that he is going to ask to replace Roberts. It’s possible that he won’t face any formidable opposition.

“I probably would be the person with the most experience,” Coram said, who has served since 2010, and would be term-limited in the House in 2018. “We ran a lot of bills together. … She’s (Roberts) done a great job.”

A handful of candidates have already been mentioned to the Herald as possible Coram replacements in state House District 58, including Naturita contractor John Reams and Zandon Bray, the son of Robert Bray, who owns Bray Ranches in Redvale and serves on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission board.

Coram’s departure would also leave a leadership vacancy on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, where he serves as the ranking minority member. Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, a rancher who is in a tight re-election campaign, expressed interest in taking the Republican leadership spot on the committee.

Coram and Roberts have had similar records as moderate Republicans, both willing to buck their party on controversial issues. Coram most recently supported a restructuring of a fee assessed on hospitals that the majority of Republicans opposed. He believed the Hospital Provider Fee change would have freed money for schools and crumbling roads and highways.

Coram also went against the majority of his party last year in supporting funding for a program that provides intrauterine birth control to poor women.

Roberts had an impressive record in the Legislature, which made her an attractive candidate to run against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet this year in the U.S. Senate race, but she decided not to pursue the campaign.

Roberts supported legislation to legalize same-sex civil unions, she was largely a supporter of abortion rights, and she led the push in the Legislature to conserve and store Western Slope water and combat wildfires. She also fought to legalize rain barrels, another issue that some in her party had concerns with.

“I’ve been contemplating this change for over a year and have talked it over with my family, friends and colleagues during that time, so it’s not a result of the rather tumultuous election year we find ourselves in,” Roberts said.

“The time has come for me to move on after 10 years of what has been for me a very positive and productive experience as your public servant.”