Kathleen Collins Becker, better known as KC, will become the fourth woman speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives.
Here's a look:
Family: Married to Miles Kunkel, two sons, Leo and Ryder.
District: House District 13 includes Boulder, Grand, Jackson and Clear Creek counties
Education: Law degree from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College (Portland, Oregon, master's in real estate development and construction management from the University of Denver Sturm School of Business, bachelor's in government from College of William & Mary.
Outside the statehouse: Becker spent six years at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, working on policy and public-lands issues. After a brief stint in real estate, Becker was elected to the Boulder City Council in 2009 and was the council's representative to the Denver Regional Council of Governments.
How she got to the House: Becker was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of state Rep. Claire Levy on Nov. 4, 2013.
She was elected House majority leader for the 2017-18 sessions, which exposed a sometimes prickly relationship with Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver. Becker will be term-limited in 2020.
What you didn’t know: Becker was raised in a Republican household, but the environment and “choice issues” drove her to the Democratic Party during her college days, she said.
Becker is the first speaker of the House to represent a largely rural district since Republican Lola Spradley of Beulah (2003 to 2005). While Becker’s home is in west Boulder’s tony Flagstaff neighborhood, her district is far more rural than urban. It includes a tiny part of Boulder and then heads west to Boulder mountain communities like Jamestown, Ward and Eldorado Springs.
It also includes rural counties (Clear Creek, Grand and Jackson), including the towns of Winter Park, Central City, Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand Lake and Granby. The district’s far north end hits the Colorado-Wyoming state line.
Representing such a diverse district “goes back to the Colorado way of bridging divides," she said. "I bring in both perspectives. Legislators who have that mix make for a broader way of looking at things.”
Becker also will be the first mom with young children to serve as speaker of the House; Her two sons are ages 7 and 10.
Becker was once an avid rock climber (it’s how she met her husband), although she says she gave that up when she started having kids.
She didn’t take her husband’s last name when they got married, and at first he was “bummed” about that. But once she got into politics, “he was grateful.”
She also likes country music, and names Kenny Chesney and Florida Georgia Line as among her favorites.
Legislative accomplishments: Becker was one of the "gang of four," along with Republican Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan (no relation), to finagle the most complicated and important bill of the 2017 session: Converting the state's hospital provider fee into an enterprise fund, freeing up revenue under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights for transportation and education. It took more than a few late-night negotiating sessions to bring the omnibus bill to fruition.
In 2018, Becker was one of the House sponsors of SB 200, a fix to the underfunded Colorado PERA state pension plan. She cobbled together enough Democratic votes for the measure to pass, despite opposition from the Colorado Education Association over increasing the age of retirement for K-12 teachers. B
This year also saw the passage of SB2, a Becker-sponsored bill that revamped the way the state finances rural high-speed internet, a goal for many rural legislators for at least a half-dozen years.
What 2019 will bring: Becker said she has a two-year plan for the House to address the increasing cost of living for Coloradans in a variety of areas. “Coloradans want a functional, thoughtful government and that’s what we’ll focus on," she said.
Becker will lead a House that is different from any of its predecessors, with a larger percentage of women than ever before -- possibly even a majority.
There are one and possibly two House positions still to be filled that could shift the chamber to majority female. Rep. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins was appointed to the state Senate in early December; her successor is expected to be appointed Jan. 3. And Rep. Jeff Bridges is vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village; should Bridges be appointed to that seat, a vacancy committee will select his House successor in early January.
At least two dozen of the women reps in the House are Democrats, making up a majority in the 41-member caucus. Becker says that majority will be reflected in how they legislate.
“That’s part of the story of the next two years," she said. "It’s exciting and speaks to opportunity and innovation and a lot of new blood.”
That new blood also includes minorities: Seven Hispanics were elected to the House, all Democrats, in November, which means the Democratic caucus will have 10 Hispanics as well as the largest LGBT caucus ever.
Becker will be leading a House with at least 18 new members, and there are signs that the new members are not going to be playing by the old customs. The new Democrats have insisted on a couple of changes, including asking Becker for a liaison to leadership. That will be Rep. Alex Valdez of Denver, who was elected by the "first year" class. (That title is also a change; one new lawmaker said she didn’t want to be referred to as a freshman.)
The newcomers are eager and willing listeners, Becker said. “It speaks to a lot of opportunity and new, fresh ideas. ... With such a big caucus, your time is limited, so this creates a link and a way to involve another person in leadership discussions.”
That diversity is also reflected in who was chosen as committee leaders; nine out of the 11 "committees of reference" that act on legislation and oversee agencies have either a minority chair or vice chair.
“It’s a big vocal, diverse group,” Becker said. “I wanted to make them feel included and that they have a lot of opportunity.”
Becker also hopes for a good relationship with Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Franktown, noting that she felt they worked well together when she was majority leader. “I consulted with him and always gave him a heads-up on things,” she said.
One of the question marks for the 2019 session is just what Gov.-elect Jared Polis will set forth as his agenda, and how that will fit in with what the House wants to do. Becker said House leaders have been talking with Polis' team about what the next governor wants the House to work on, such as increased funding for K-12 education, renewable energy and reducing health care costs, the latter a big issue for her district. And the time is ripe to address climate change, Becker said.
Becker also addressed her decision to create a rural affairs committee, to be chaired by Rep. Dylan Roberts of Eagle. (It replaces the agriculture, livestock and natural resources committee.)
Becker said she had been hearing for years from rural Colorado about issues that weren’t necessarily being addressed through a rural lens, such as health care, which is substantially more expensive in rural Colorado than it is in the Front Range. Economic development and affordable housing also play out differently for rural Coloradans, she noted.
And Becker said she has a personal goal for the session: To stay out of the Doritos and doughnuts.