News of the recall elections against two Colorado Democratic state senators, John Morse and Angela Giron, for their role in tighter gun control legislation may seem distant thunder to some state voters, involving as it does only two of the state’s 35 senate districts and their respective voters.
But it’s clear that what happens in Giron’s Senate District 3 and in Morse’s Senate District 11, in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, respectively, is of much broader importance, with money pouring into the campaigns from across the country. Many view it as a major proxy fight over guns.
On the ground, the fighting is fierce and has drawn thorough coverage from each city’s newspaper. Both The Gazette of Colorado Springs and The Pueblo Chieftain have covered the back-and-forth of the campaigns with an even hand in their news columns.
In a Sunday editorial, The Gazette was explicit about its opinion: “Senate President John Morse and his extreme, jobs-killing agenda should be recalled Sept. 10 and replaced with Bernie Herpin – a well-known moderate conservative public servant of Colorado Springs.”
The Chieftain’s editorial page hasn’t endorsed either candidate, but told its readers, “All things considered, Senator Giron has frequently shown poor judgment and a metro-centric bent during her term in the state senate.”
The recalls – election day is Tuesday – have featured court challenges, a mid-stream change of election rules, and various and sundry charges of unfair tactics.
Herpin is a former Colorado Springs City Council member. Republican George Rivera, a retired Pueblo deputy police chief, is squaring off against Giron.
The Associated Press reported this week that the National Rifle Association had contributed another $250,000 to pro-recall forces, for a total of about $361,700, roughly equivalent to the $350,000 contributed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fight the recall.
The Gazette’s Megan Schrader, whose coverage has been exemplary, reported on Aug. 28, that the pro-recall groups are being heavily outspent by the efforts to keep Morse and Giron in office, including $100,000 donations from two national unions. The AP’s updated figures for the week of Aug. 23-29 shows that trend continuing. Pueblo United for Angela, fighting Giron’s recall, has raised $825,400. That’s up $239,400 from the reports released last week. A Whole Lot of People for John Morse has raised $658,230, up about $52,000 from last week’s report, according to The AP.
The Gazette has published an interactive graphic that shows the amazing extent of nationwide contributions, for and against recall.
Bloomberg’s involvement was condemned in a Chieftain’s editorial, and drew particular ire from The Gazette’s editorial page. Both accused the New York mayor of trying to buy the elections.
Why did the billionaire mayor, a strong gun control proponent, become involved with two local elections in Colorado?
One answer was offered by The New York Times, in its own summation of events.
“The recall effort is seen nationally as a test of whether politicians, largely Democrats, outside big cities and deep-blue coastal states can survive the political fallout of supporting stricter gun laws,” wrote reporter Jack Healy.
Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University poll released on Aug. 22 found that Colorado voters statewide opposed the recalls by wide margins, while also being against the gun control legislation that led to the recalls.
“Colorado voters say 60-31 percent that when people don’t agree with a legislator, they should wait for reelection rather than attempt a recall,” Quinnipiac stated. From afar, The Denver Post has offered that very opinion in its editorial columns.
On the other hand, 87 percent of Republicans and 56 percent independents said the new gun control measures went “too far,” according to Quinnipiac.
The measures limited the size of rifle magazines to 15 rounds and expanded required background checks for those purchasing firearms. Early voting has now begun in both counties, with neither using mail ballots because of timing issues. And this is the first election in which, under recent state law, a limited number of voting centers will replace the old precinct system.
Given the political makeup of the two districts, Morse would appear to have the steepest hill to climb. The 69,016 registered voters in Senate District 11 are 38.3 percent unaffiliated, 33.7 percent Democrat, and 26.2 percent Republicans, according to the Secretary of State’s Office as of Aug. 1. In Giron’s Senate District 3, where there were 81,846 active voters, Democrats make up 46.7 percent, unaffiliated 29.1 percent, and Republicans 23.3 percent.
After all the sound and fury, after the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, the outcome isn’t likely to have that much impact, at least not immediately, at the Capitol in Denver. Democrats currently hold a five seat advantage, 20-15, in the upper chamber of the Colorado General Assembly.