In a 5-2 vote today, the Colorado state Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology approved Ellen Golombek's nomination to head the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Her nomination now moves to the full Senate, virtually assuring Golombek's appointment, given that Democrats control the upper house.
But before Golombek takes her place in an administration that Gov. John Hickenlooper has vowed will tackle economic issues in a "non-partisan" way, consider this exchange between state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Golombek, whose union-friendly résumé includes leadership roles with America Votes, the Service Employees International Union and as one-time president of the AFL-CIO in Colorado.
Mitchell zeroed in on Golombek's experience with previous cabinet nominees in Colorado, such as Vickie Armstrong, who was appointed to the post in 1999 (during the first term of then-Gov. Bill Owens) that Golombek now seeks.
MITCHELL: Which nominations do you recall weighing in on?
GOLOMBEK: Yes. Ironically, we weighed in on the nominee for the Department of Labor and Employment.
MITCHELL: Oh, you mean Don Mares?
GOLOMBEK: No, no this was long before Don Mares.
MITCHELL: Oh, Vickie Armstrong?
GOLOMBEK: Yes, yes, Senator.
MITCHELL: And was your position to oppose that nomination?
GOLOMBEK: Yes it was.
MITCHELL: And what were the grounds on which you opposed it?
GOLOMBEK: Senator, I'd have to go back and try and, I'm sure that it revolved around our concerns around her prior work with the Worker's Comp Coalition.
MITCHELL: I see, which sort of touches on the challenge for some of us here on the committee because you're obviously a tremendously capable person. And the governor [Hickenlooper] did win the election and is supposed to choose his team to support his agenda. On the other hand, it does surprise - again - some folks with some of his selections - and your decision to oppose Vickie Armstrong's nomination - in fact, to this very post wasn't, that I know of based on her competence or ability to do the job. It was based on her views on labor and employment issues, is that right?
GOLOMBEK: That is correct, Senator.
GOLOMBEK: And I...
TOCHTROP: Continue Ellen...
GOLOMBEK: And I, Senator, I appreciate the conundrum that that puts you in. There have been many times that I have agreed with appointees, cabinet staff, in my previous jobs. And many times that I've disagreed. I commit to you that I am here today to do the job that I was appointed to do, in the non-partisan manner that I've committed to do..."
To oppose a nominee based on prior political experience and résumé while bringing an arguably more partisan résumé to the table is a... conundrum indeed.