Colorado GOP Vice-Chair Initiates Recall Against Rep. Tom Sullivan, Who Sponsored ‘Red Flag’ Gun Law

May 13, 2019
Photo: COLEG 2019 Red Flag Hearing | Tom Sullivan - AP
Colorado Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Aurora, who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, waits to speak during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on a bill to get a "red flag" gun law on the books in Colorado, Feb. 21, 2019.

A campaign to try to recall Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial from office is official.  The effort is directly linked to the Colorado Republican Party — which historically has stayed out of many recall efforts and not initiated them.

“Rep. Tom Sullivan needs to be recalled because, like the rest of the Democrats in the legislature this session, he did not represent the families of Colorado,” said Kristi Burton Brown, an attorney and the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party. She filed the request with the secretary of state.

“Colorado moms were shut down again and again when they came to testify, and Rep. Sullivan continually voted against our families' interests. The Democrat overreach this session was simply too far," Brown said.

On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of Secretary’s Office approved the circulation of petitions to begin the recall.

Sullivan was the main sponsor of Colorado’s so-called “red flag” gun law, which allows courts to temporarily remove firearms from people considered a danger to themselves or others. He stands by his bill.

“I won’t be bullied by the gun lobby and I will always keep my promises to my community and my constituents,” Sullivan said in a statement responding to the recall effort.

Brown would have two months to gather 10,035 signatures to put the recall question before voters.

The CEO of the state Republican party Steve House, recently said he wanted the official party to play a stronger role in recalls.

“And we need to, first of all, give a voice to that anger,” House said at Derby Day Lincoln Dinner in Pueblo. “And secondly, the process of identifying more voters for (President Donald) Trump, and for Cory Gardner, and for getting the state Senate back starts as well with those recalls.”

But some Republicans are concerned it could be a risky proposition that may throw the GOP off track on other goals like winning legislative seats, defending vulnerable incumbents, and defeating a tax question on this fall’s ballot.

“Recalls can identify people, but it also can strengthen elected officials that survive them. The long-term strategy has to be to win November elections,” said Republican political consultant Michael Fields, who heads Colorado Rising Action.

Former GOP chairman Ryan Call said initiating recalls is “a dramatic departure from the historic role and practice of the Republican party in Colorado.” He added that the party historically gets behind recall efforts if there’s malfeasance or if someone in public office is acting in a way that doesn’t align with campaign pledges, which he doesn’t see as the case here.

“We have seen a pretty significant shift in public policy under single-party control of state government, but Democrats are pretty much governing how they promised they would,” Call said. “Voters may have hoped for a more balanced and bipartisan approach, but what we saw during the legislative session is consistent with what most Democratic candidates said they would do while they were running.”

Sullivan in particular has made passing stricter gun laws one of his signature issues. His son Alex was was of the 12 killed in the Aurora theater shooting. Sullivan told CPR’s Colorado Matters that he was proud to sponsor the “red flag” law.

“Alex being murdered in the Aurora Theater Massacre was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. Threats from extremists like Rocky Mountain Gun Owners do not scare me, and they will certainly never stop me from protecting other families from that same heartbreak,” he said in a statement to CPR on Monday.

This latest recall effort comes on the heels of former Democratic state Rep. Rochelle Galindo’s sudden resignation on Saturday, May 12. Galindo was also facing a recall campaign but stepped down citing undisclosed allegations against her.

The Greeley police department confirmed to CPR that a police report was recently filed against Galindo. The woman who filed it worked on Galindo’s political campaign, and the contents of the report are sealed.

Galindo’s recall was largely over her support for a bill to pass stricter oil and gas regulations, while representing Weld County, Colorado’s No. 1 oil and gas producer.  Republicans like Fields say they were fully behind that recall.

“Because people in that district were leading it,” Fields said.

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