On Tuesday, voters will decide the fates of State Senators John Morse and Angela Giron. The Democrats were forced into recall elections for championing gun control legislation. It’s the first time any Colorado state lawmaker has faced recall, and big bucks are pouring in to try to influence the races.
State Senator John Morse says he spends a lot of time walking his Colorado Springs district, knocking on doors urging people to get out and vote.
“The more people who participate the better I’m going to do, said Morse. “That’s just all there is to it.”
One of his supporters, 87-year-old Margaret June Theodore, tells Morse she’s upset she can’t vote by mail because of a recent court decision. Morse offers to have someone take her to a voting center.
He knows winning this election could be an uphill battle. There’s confusion about the voting process, plus he’s a Democrat in a conservative district. He’s well aware his votes for expanded background checks on gun purchases and ammo magazine limits could cost him his job.
“If sacrificing my political career is the price that needs to be paid to make Colorado safer from gun violence, I’m happy to pay it,” he said, “happy to pay it.”
State Senator Angela Giron of Pueblo agrees. She’s also facing a recall, and she argues that in the wake of the Newtown and Aurora shootings, something had to be done.
“It would have been a travesty to go to the legislature in 2013 and not address it,” she said.
But some gun owners’ groups want to make an electoral example out of her and Morse.
Back in March, at signing ceremony for the gun bills at the state Capitol, the head of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Dudley Brown, warned that Democrats had sealed their fate.
“Democrats here have just handed our organization a sledgehammer,” said Brown, “and we get to walk through their china shop and destroy this Democrat party.”
Former police officer George Rivera seized on the issue and jumped into the Pueblo race against Giron. The Republican says the gun control bills are pointless.
“The people with evil intent in their hearts are going to commit evil regardless,” said Rivera, “and the people that are good, law-abiding citizens must have a means to protect themselves and defend themselves from those evildoers.”
Many in the district agree, but the money advantage in both recall elections belongs to the Democrats. Rivera has raised only a fraction of Angela Giron’s staggering $825,000. A big chunk of her support comes from outside the state. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, an anti-gun billionaire, gave $350,000 to a group supporting both Giron and Morse.
“To me that kind of wants to shake this whole myth that the Republicans are the party of the rich and the Democrats are the party of the poor,” said Rivera. “Come on now, lets look at what the numbers say in this particular race.”
There’s been outside money on his side too. The NRA has spent more than $300,000 on mailers and TV ads in both races. But Democrats are still outspending Republicans 3-1 so far.
Longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli says the Republicans have passion, “but their passion is now matched by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been put on the side of the Democrats to balance that out.”
Ciruli says it’s unheard of to have millions of dollars flowing into a state senate race.
The financial advantage may be why, despite the demographics of his district, State Senator John Morse is so confident he’ll defeat his GOP challenger, Bernie Herpin.
“They see me as vulnerable. Me? Not so much,” Morse said.
He says, tune in September 10th to see who’s right.
[Photos: Courtesy Colorado Senate]