Polis Recall Supporters Fall Short In Signature Drive

September 6, 2019
190906 POLIS RECALL PETITIONS FALL SHORT190906 POLIS RECALL PETITIONS FALL SHORTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Karen Kataline, a spokeswoman for Dismiss Polis, the group behind an effort to recall the governor, talks to reporters Friday Sept. 6, 2019 on the steps of the state Capitol. Behind her are boxes of signed recall petitions.

Updated 12:29 p.m.

The mountain to climb to collect enough signatures to get a recall of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on the ballot was always a tall one. Recall supporters had to wait for Polis to be in office for six months, get the petition approved and then collect 631,000 signatures.

On Friday, organizers announced they collected half of what they need.

Karen Kataline, the spokeswoman for recall group Dismiss Polis, stood on the steps of the state capitol surrounded by boxes of signature petitions but did not reveal the exact number of signatures they had received. 

She did say it was more than 300,000.

“Everybody today who heard the numbers for the very first time is heartbroken that they couldn't get them all done. But this is extraordinary,” Kataline said. “I consider it an accomplishment of enormous proportions.” 

The group had two months to collect signatures. The effort spanned the state at fairs, gun stores, corner cafes and outside the Western Conservative Summit Conference. This was the sixth recall effort in Colorado this summer. None have been successful so far.

“This doomed-from-the-start effort was never about a recall — it was a thinly disguised scam designed to line the pockets of consultants and help them gather data for the next election,” said Curtis Hubbard, spokesman for Democracy First Colorado. “Today's announced failure is another sign that these bogus recalls will continue to be met with a resounding 'no thanks' from Colorado voters who are not interested in what these scammers, extremists and sore losers are selling.”

190906 POLIS RECALL PETITIONS FALL SHORTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Supporters unload boxes of signed petitions Friday Sept. 6, 2019 on the steps of the state Capitol.

The recalls have been divisive in conservative circles. Some feel it’s a waste of time while others say it can help with fundraising and is a way to speak to voters and get them interested.

“We didn't do it for data mining, but the valuable idea of being able to identify people who are just as angry about what's happened in this legislature as, as we are, it's valuable to know who those people are. There's nothing illegal, nor should it be. Everything in politics is identifying your voters. That is not why this campaign was done,” Kataline said.

Recalls used to be a rarity, but have gained new attention as a political tactic. The campaign against Polis wasn’t the only active attempt in the state. The most recent target is Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo. Recall signature petitions are due next week for Democratic state Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

An earlier high profile attempt to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan fizzled after grumbling from political operatives and when support from national big-name Democrats started to flow in to fight the move.

190906 POLIS RECALL PETITIONS FALL SHORTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sheena Kadi of One Colorado asks a question of Karen Kataline, a spokeswoman for Dismiss Polis, the group behind the effort, Friday Sept. 6, 2019 on the steps of the state Capitol

In a statement, Gov. Polis said he was “pleasantly surprised that they didn’t turn in a single signature on the recall.”

“I hope the remaining misguided efforts against others see the same results as Tom Sullivan’s did before,” the governor added. “Recalls should not be used for partisan gamesmanship.”

In most cases, the reason given for the recalls has been Democratic majority moves in the legislature with gun control or oil and gas development. A so-called “red flag” bill was passed this session that created a process where a judge could temporarily remove a weapon from the possession of someone considered a danger to themselves or others. 

State regulators are also working their way through a new mission for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Lawmakers changed the focus of the regulator to health and safety, rather than the development of energy resources.

The National Popular Vote bill is another commonly cited target, but voters will get the ultimate say there. A separate drive gathered the necessary signatures to get the question on the 2020 ballot.

CPR's Jim Hill contributed to this report.