Recalls of two Colorado state senators head to the polls

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September 6, 2013


By Joel Williams

Denver, Colorado: Colorado will hold its first-ever recall elections for a state official on Tuesday, as residents head to the polls to decide the fates of Sens. John Morse (D) and Angela Giron (D).

Morse, President of the Senate, is facing a recall due to his role in passing a package of gun control legislation as emergency measures. Giron is the target of a recall for her support of the three-bill package, two of which she sponsored. Morse faces Bernie Herpin (R), a former member of the Colorado Springs City Council. George Rivera (R), Giron's opponent, served as Deputy Chief of the Pueblo Police Department and worked in that agency for thirty-four years. Both recall campaigns have survived multiple legal challenges, and now the matter will finally be put to a vote.

Anthony Garcia, leader of the group who organized the recall against Morse, said of the Senator: "He's a very powerful politician and he's the one who pushed all this to go through; he's the man to go after. He also promised to focus on jobs and the economy and he hasn't done that. The bills he passed has caused hundreds of jobs to leave the state; they've lost the state millions in tax revenue."[1] Victor Head, President of the organization leading Giron's recall, said of Giron: “[Her] disregard for the majority of her constituents to vote no on anti-Second Amendment issues and her general disregard of our Constitution and the rights of the citizens of Colorado demonstrates she must be removed from the Senate.”[2]

Morse and Giron have both issued multiple statements about their recall. In response to the recall paperwork being filed, Morse responded by saying: "I have a strong, strong, strong support of the district, and probably the strongest I ever had. I get stopped on the streets for the first time in my political career for taking a true stand, showing true leadership and true courage."[1]

Giron had a similar message, stating that "Over the past several months I have been out in the community and what I do know from speaking with my constituents is they support the work I’ve done. … They know I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and that the bills passed this session were carefully written to strike a balance between protecting our communities and families, while respecting the rights of gun owners.”[2]

On August 29, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) released a statement in support for the senators: "We were only able to pass the law because Democratic legislators had the courage to stand up to outside special interests — but now those groups are trying to make an example of two of them by forcing them into a recall election. These recall elections cost a small fortune and do nothing to improve democracy or representative government. They are intended to intimidate and punish a select number of Democratic legislators for daring to vote their conscience — for daring to do the right thing to make their communities safer."[3]

The recall elections are seen by many as a national referendum on gun control. Michael Bloomberg, who is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), offered $350,000 to a group backing the senators, while Eli Broad gave the same group $250,000. On the other side, the National Rifle Association has contributed more than $100,000 to the groups opposing Giron and Morse, while the conservative-linked Koch brothers have provided undisclosed amounts of support through "voter education." When asked what this recall meant to MAIG, Giron offered the following statement: "For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that." Naturally, both sides are pointing to the others' outside spending in hopes of garnering support.[4]

Aside from guns, however, a number of other issues have cropped up. Much like a general election, questions have been raised on both sides about key issues such as abortion, the environment, healthcare, and taxes. Herpin and Rivera each have anti-abortion backgrounds, prompting Planned Parenthood to get involved in the recalls. Conservation Colorado, a group dealing in environmental issues, donated $75,000 to an anti-recall group. Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the Koch brothers, has made the senators' records on the Affordable Care Act, taxes, and renewable energy the focus of a "voter education" campaign. Because it is claiming its actions do not directly involve the recall election, Americans for Prosperity is not required to report its spending.[4]

The outcome for these recalls is uncertain.

A statewide poll conducted by Quinnipiac University revealed that 54 percent of voters disagreed with the gun control legislation, but also opposed the recall by a 2-to-1 margin. 54 percent of voters also supported Morse, with 35 percent supporting his recall. Giron garnered slightly less support at 52 percent, while 36 percent supported her recall.

Aside from the national gun control debate, stakes are high for Democrats in Colorado. If both of these recalls are successful, the Democratic majority in the Colorado State Senate would be reduced to one seat, leaving them vulnerable in the 2014 election.[5]

A concern for both sides is getting out the vote, as mail-in ballots were ruled out due to a court-mandated condensed timeline. In 2012, 77 percent of voters in Colorado cast their ballots through mail.[6]

See also

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