Seelig to lead House Democrats
House Democrats elected Rep. Jennifer Seelig to be the Legislature's minority leader, ensuring for the first time in Utah history the lower chamber will be led entirely by women.
Seelig's selection comes less than a week after House Republicans picked Becky Lockhart of Provo to serve out a second term as House speaker.
Seelig said she was honored to be chosen to lead the Democrats.
"We have a dynamic and dedicated team committed to fighting for the well-being of our constituents and the state of Utah," Seelig said.
Seelig, who has been in the House since 2006, will take over for current Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, who opted not to run for re-election. Seelig was minority whip in the last session.
The vote for Democratic leadership comes days after the party saw its numbers whittled down on Election Day to 14 members in the House marking its lowest percentage share of representatives since 1967. There will be 61 Republicans in the House when the 2013 Legislature kicks off in January.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, was voted caucus manager and didn't ignore the lack of balance in power.
"I told them we may only be 14, but there are no other 14 I'd rather be working with," Briscoe said.
Democrats also made history by choosing Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck of Salt Lake City to be assistant whip. Chavez-Houck becomes the first Latina to serve in House leadership.
Chavez-Houck will work with Rep. Tim Cosgrove, who was elected Democratic whip.
"Our caucus is very cohesive and united and we can work on all of the issues on behalf of the people," Cosgrove said. "I'm very humbled and honored to be in this position."
Chavez-Houck said she believed the leadership team of the Democrats reflects diversity and changing demographics.
"We have people from diverse backgrounds representing diverse constituents and experiences in a variety of fields," she said. "We can depend on each other as we provide information coming from that diversity."
The Utah State Senate will also see lopsided totals in its chamber as Republicans outnumber Democrats 24-5. Democrats are waiting to see who takes over Ben McAdams' seat when delegates vote in Senate District 2 before choosing a leadership team. McAdams won election to Salt Lake County mayor on Nov. 6.
Democrats made history in the upper chamber last session by voting for Ross Romero as Senate minority leader making him the first Latino to serve in Utah legislative leadership.