In Uphill Battle To Recall Polis, Some Invoke Apollo Missions, Others Fear Backlash

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Originally published on July 17, 2019 5:55 pm

In a Denver ballroom filled with red "Make America Great Again" hats and hundreds of conservatives, Ann Howe doesn't appear daunted by the task of gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures to attempt to recall her governor.

"I like to tell people we're celebrating the anniversary of the Apollo missions going up, and people said that couldn't be done," she said last week at the Western Conservative Summit as she collected signatures on a recall petition targeting Gov. Jared Polis. "When you involve the human spirit, there are things that seem impossible to do but we can overcome that. We can get it done. We proved that 50 years ago and we can do it again."

Howe said she's circulating the petition against Polis because she thinks he's approving policies against the will of the voters, including Senate Bill 181. The measure gives local governments more power to regulate the oil and gas industry.

But only two governors have successfully been recalled in the history of the country. In fact, Americans have landed on the moon more often. And those who want to recall Polis need to gather more than 630,000 signatures by Sept. 6 to get it on the ballot.

But not all conservatives are on board with the strategy of ousting the politicians they don't like from office. Patricia Arcuri, of Aurora, is wearing a red "Trump Girl" hat a short distance from Howe's recall booth.

"He's already there, he's already done his thing," she said of Polis. "To recall him is probably going to stir up a hornet's nest of people who don't normally vote because they're going to be mad. Let's just go to the next election and get them all out."

Arcuri said instead of supporting recall efforts, she's been encouraging conservatives to be more vocal about their policy positions.

"If we all run away, if we hide ourselves, it's just going to keep getting worse," she said. "It's why I became a delegate for Arapahoe County, I volunteer, I walk on streets. I knock on doors. Everything to get the conservative message out."

But back at the recall booth, Howe, who drove to the summit from El Paso County, doesn't think conservatives should wait for the next election.

"I respect election results, but I also know there have been things, a number of things … that have been, I believe shoved down some Coloradoans' throats that we are opposed to," she said. "We don't like the direction and that's why we're doing this recall effort. It's our legal process to voice our concern after an election. If we don't agree with it, this is the way we do it."

Meanwhile, other conservatives in the room aren't sure if they'd sign a petition against Polis.

"He would probably be kept in office is my guess because there seem to be more blue-leaning voters than red-leaning voters in the state," said Steve Lloyd, a Wyoming resident with a second home in Colorado.

But Lloyd sees a possible benefit to a recall effort.

"I think maybe one thing it would do is bring attention that 'hey, not everybody is happy with what you're doing,' and people think you're infringing on their freedoms and independence," he said.

In a surprise move, attendees at the Western Conservative Summit got to hear directly from Polis last week when he became the first Democrat in history to address the crowd.

After joking that his staff initially thought the invitation came from the Western Conservation Summit, Polis touted a record of bipartisanship and his desire to build a "Colorado for all."

"We can and we do work together," he said. "I was proud that this last legislative session here in Colorado, 96 percent of the bills I signed were passed with bipartisan support."

His speech didn't stop Howe from circulating the recall petition. But she did have some praise for the governor.

"I'm glad he came," she said. "He is our governor. It's also nice and refreshing to have the other side actually accept an invitation."

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

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