Speaking of Speakers

Governing recognized Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as a Public Official of the Year last month for his "unflagging commitment to bipartisan comity," ...
by | December 8, 2008

Romanoff Governing recognized Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as a Public Official of the Year last month for his "unflagging commitment to bipartisan comity," especially in the Democrat's efforts to get a five-year reprieve from fiscal limitations imposed on lawmakers by the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). Now that the term-limited speaker is out of a job, Romanoff is angling to become Colorado's next secretary of state.

A seven-member panel is reviewing all the candidates for Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who will make the appointment. The Colorado Statesman noted that Romanoff has plenty of competition, but "probably would be the most politically appealing choice."

If Romanoff gets the job, he will succeed current Secretary of State Mike Coffman, a Republican who starts work as a U.S. Congressman next month. (Here's the video of Romanoff from our annual awards dinner here in Washington last month, just a few days before he formally applied for the secretary of state gig.)

Nunez Another term-limited speaker, California Democrat Fabian Núñez, also is making some career moves now that he's left office, accepting new posts as a partner and co-chair of an influential public relations firm as well as a board member of a large workers' compensation insurer. Governing honored Núñez as a Public Official of the Year in 2007. Like Romanoff, Núñez was recognized for his bipartisanship. We cited his role as "the bridge between a Republican governor and a strongly liberal majority Democratic caucus."

Those ties will serve Núñez well at Mercury Public Affairs LLC, a firm that works at "the intersection of business, government, politics and media," as its Web site puts it. Mercury has strong ties to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: The head of the governor's 2006 re-election campaign, Steve Schmidt, is a partner in Mercury's California office, where Núñez also will work with Schwarzenegger's former deputy chief of staff, Adam Mendelsohn.

"Núñez's presence in the GOP-leaning firm gives the public affairs group a foothold among Democratic interests in California," a Sacramento Bee report said. But as the Los Angeles Business Journal pointed out, state law prohibits the former speaker from lobbying in the capital for at least a year.

As for Núñez's other job, a Bee article raised questions about whether the speaker's new post with Zenith National Insurance Corp. was unseemly, given how the company benefited under an overhaul of California's workers' compensation system that Núñez helped secure in 2004. A watchdog quoted by the newspaper called the speaker's high-paying board appointment "the revolving door working at its worst." But Núñez told the Bee that linking the workers' comp measure to his new post was completely unfair. "That's a pretty damned big leap, man," he said.

(Images: Ray Ng; Marc Longwood)