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Fitz-Gerald leaves state Senate to campaign for congressional seat

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By AJ Vicens

State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, announced Tuesday that she is resigning to focus full-time on her campaign to replace Congressman Mark Udall, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

“Right now I’m trying to serve the best interests of the Senate and my caucus and my constituency by letting them get reorganized two months before January,” Fitz-Gerald said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I know they need time to organize, and the vacancy committee needs time to sit, and whoever comes out of the vacancy committee needs time to adjust to being in the Senate, and that was the sense of timing I had right now.

“It’s really about the job I’m leaving rather than the one I’m doing. I could continue to do what I’m doing right up till January with no change in what I’m doing, but I do have a seat and a Senate to think about.”

The Denver Post is reporting that Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, will seek Fitz-Gerald’s seat, which will be filled by a vacancy committee. Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, is expected to fill Fitz-Gerald’s leadership post, and would become the first African-American Senate president in Colorado history. Fitz-Gerald had been the state’s first female Senate president.

Fitz-Gerald spoke to colleagues and the media Tuesday morning at the Capitol and outlined what her national plans are.

“Washington is spiraling off in the wrong direction,” Fitz-Gerald said in a statement. “We have a war our president won’t end, a health care crisis Washington won’t solve, a deficit our politicians won’t work to contain, assaults on civil liberties our leaders won’t oppose, and a climate crisis our president won’t address ee

“We must not wait to restore America’s standing in the world. We must not wait to guarantee every American health care. We must not wait to bring our troops home from Iraq.”

She said in the phone interview Tuesday afternoon that those issues are critical and need to be addressed.

“We’ve made great strides here in Colorado, but the issues keep spiraling out of control at the D.C. level,” Fitz-Gerald said. She added that she wants to “continue (the) momentum” that she has in her race for the Democratic nomination against Boulder multimillionaire Jared Polis to replace Udall, and that it takes “110 percent of my effort, just as my job in the Senate did.”

She added that whomever the vacancy committee appoints to represent Senate District 16 is lucky.

“It’s a big district, and it’s one that’s very diverse and extremely beautiful,” Fitz-Gerald said. “Whoever takes over is very lucky to represent that district. It just demands a lot of time. It’s geographically spread out, and it’s got high-country issues, tourism issues, Western Slope water issues, Front Range water issues.

“It’s got to be someone who’s really willing to put in the time and serve that area of the state.”

Fitz-Gerald was elected to the state Senate in 2000 to replace the late Tony Grampsas. She was re-elected in 2002 and again in '06. She was elected Senate president in 2004 when the Democrats regained control of the chamber.

Contact A.J. Vicens at: aj@evergreenco.com.