Failed marriage a minus as legislator reflects on Capitol years

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/Daily Sentinel file photo—Steve King decided to run for Mesa County sheriff rather than for re-election to the Colorado Senate. The Grand Junction Republican is shown at an election-night gathering in 2010.



Here are some of the proposed measures state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, is considering introducing in the 2014 legislative session, which begins Jan. 8:

• A measure to end the practice of deducting gifts from the old-age pension payments some Coloradans receive.

• Changing the Colorado Lottery Commission into a panel that acts on its own and doesn’t have to report to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

• Raise to 21 the legal age to be able to purchase and consume tobacco products.

• Continue his battle to create a state-owned firefighting air corps.

• Require flaggers on Colorado Department of Transportation construction sites to be adequately trained to direct traffic.

• Make it a felony for receiving a third DUI or more.

The last seven years serving in the Colorado Legislature have taken their toll on Sen. Steve King.

The Grand Junction Republican, who isn’t running for re-election next year, reflected on that in a recent interview as he prepares to enter his last session in the General Assembly, which convenes on Jan. 8.

Though King has been in the minority for his entire legislative career, he’s managed to accomplish a thing or two, including winning a hard-fought battle to establish a threshold for being too stoned to drive.

All that work has come at a price, though, the biggest of which has been his marriage.

After 22 years, he and his wife, Daun, are getting a divorce.

“All that time away from home, and then having to work weekends after coming home, it destroyed my marriage,” King said. “It’s my biggest regret for sure.”

Shortly after marrying in 1991, King and his wife founded American National Protective Services, a company providing self-defense instruction to women and incident management and robbery prevention instruction to businesses.

He worked there and as an investigator in the complex crime unit of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office until after his first term in 2007, replacing Josh Penry, who went on to the Colorado Senate. King ended up replacing Penry there, too.

Ironically, Penry’s marriage also ended in divorce after serving eight years in the Legislature.

That’s the main reason why King has opted not to run for a second four-year term in the Senate. Instead, he’s vying to be Mesa County’s next sheriff. Current Sheriff Stan Hilkey is term-limited.

King said while some in his party chide him for being too compromising with Democrats who control both chambers of the Legislature, King said nothing will get done right if solutions don’t include everyone involved.

“I learned at a pretty early point in my legislative career that Colorado is a very diverse state with very diverse issues and very diverse population,” he said. “Today’s enemies are tomorrow’s allies, so be nice.”

Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, took King’s seat in 2010 when King got elected to the Senate, and hopes to replace him again next year as he departs the Legislature.

But while Scott said he feels for King and what he’s going through, he isn’t worried he’ll follow the same trend set by King and Penry.

Scott’s wife of 36 years, Roxy, often travels to Denver with him during the session.

“There is a tremendous difference having your support mechanism being your wife there with you versus legislators who can’t do that,” he said. “I see it especially with the young legislators who have kids. To leave your wife at home to deal with all those stresses and strains, man, that’s tough.

“I’ve been blessed because she can go, and when I’m having a rough day I’m able to go home and not go to the bar,” he added. “We go out to dinner, we relax, versus the alternative. That’s why you got married, to spend time with your spouse. I don’t know if I could do this if I didn’t have that because it is stressful and it does take a toll.”

While Scott and his wife have two grown daughters, only one of King’s three sons is out of the house, and that one only in the last month.

King said he doesn’t blame his wife for anything, just the opposite.

“She has done a great job as a single parent, and has been a great service to the people of (Senate) District 7 by letting me do my job,” he said.

King said if nothing else, he hopes that what’s happened to him serves as a warning to others who are or would commit to public service to not let it impact their families.

“They have to come first,” he said.


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Steve, if your family has to come first, why did you run for the Legislature?

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