Tuesday night long time Sheridan County State Representative Rosie Berger not only lost her bid for re-election, but also her chance to be the Speaker of the House.
Berger was defeated in the Republican primary by Bo Biteman, who painted her as anti-gun and was critical of her support of the state capital renovation project. The loss was shocking to Cheyenne Representative Dan Zwonitzer.
“She’s tried to make good decisions and work as hard as she could on behalf of her constituents, and I think it was a real shock for a lot of the longer serving legislators who’ve seen how hard she’s worked for a decade.”
Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns added that the loss also hurts the county and its elected representatives.
“It’s a huge impact on our delegation,” said Burns. “Rosie had the 2nd most seniority of anybody in the delegation and was gonna be, I believe, the first speaker ever from Sheridan County. And apparently that didn’t matter to the voters who voted against her.”
The loss will have a ripple effect on the House of Representatives. Current Speaker Kermit Brown is retiring, Berger was second in command, and Tim Stubson, who was third in command, chose to run for the U.S. House instead. House Revenue Chairman Mike Madden says it’s a mess.
“I don’t know what…to me this is unprecedented. To me we have no leadership.”
Madden said it’s usually up to the House leadership to take charge of the post-election caucus and to get the body ready for the next legislative session. He added that now there is no one with the experience to do that.
Madden also said it’s possible that the right wing of the House may push hard for more power.
Newcastle Republican Hans Hunt is the last remaining member of the House leadership team, and he said he’s not worried.
“I wouldn’t call that a concern or a worry if the House ends up being more centered toward the right wing of the party. That’s just how it’s gonna be.”
Hunt served with Berger for five years and while he will miss her, he said the House will be fine.