Garcia Recall Campaign Turns In Four Signatures As A Protest

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Campaign volunteer Joseph Santoro helped gather signatures in the failed recall effort against Democratic state Senate president Leroy Garcia.

The group behind the recall campaign of Democratic state Senate president Leroy Garcia turned in three packets of petitions Friday afternoon, far short of the 13,506 valid signatures needed to force a recall election. 

Recall organizers could have turned in at most 120 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and said they promised those who signed that they would submit something. It was also a protest of what they say were unfair Democratic tactics to stymie their efforts. The state confirmed to CPR News that the group only submitted four signatures

“There was a great test of voter intimidation that we experienced,” said campaign volunteer Dave DeCenzo.

He said the campaign gathered more than 13,000 signatures but didn’t have enough of a buffer to account for signatures that would be found invalid. The Secretary of State’s Office said anywhere from 10-50 percent of signatures can be rejected for various reasons.

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Recall Garcia campaign volunteer Dave DeCenzo.

They opted not to submit most of the signatures because Colorado law would have prevented those people from signing on for any future recall effort against Garcia. DeCenzo said another recall campaign next year is likely.

“So we are not confident that we have the margin that's needed,” Decenzo said. “We would have a much harder problem in the spring.” 

While this recall will clearly not move forward, Friday’s move does make it the first recall campaign this year to make it this far. Five other attempts to unseat Colorado politicians ended without the groups turning over any signatures.

Opponents of the recall said they were not surprised that it failed to gather enough signatures. 

“The scammers behind this year's recalls have flamed out in spectacular fashion — but not before lining their pockets and loading their databases with money and personal data from unsuspecting Colorado voters,” said Curtis Hubbard with Democracy First Colorado. “Sen. Garcia is serving Pueblo well — sentiment voters across the district reaffirmed in the thousands of conversations we have had over the last 60 days.”

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
The boxes that transported the petitions delivered to the Colorado Secretary of State's office, Oct. 18, 2019.

The Garcia recall organizers were behind the successful 2013 recall of former Democratic Sen. Angela Giron in the same district. That’s one reason Democrats were more concerned about this campaign than other recall efforts. Also, a recall election would have happened during the height of the next legislative session.

Democrats rented the parking lot adjacent to the main recall campaign headquarters in Pueblo. The recallers said they were also blocked from gathering signatures in the Walmart parking lot in Pueblo West, a spot they relied on in the Giron recall to connect with large numbers of voters. They said they were also turned away at Home Depot, Target, Safeway and Albertsons.

And organizers said there was also fatigue from donors and volunteers because so many recall efforts were underway this year.

Garcia was targeted as part of the perceived Democratic overreach that critics say is the result of full party control of the state legislature and every major statewide office. They say the party led the state too far left in the last legislative session on gun control, stricter oil and gas regulations and a new law that could commit Colorado’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote.

Petitioners who wanted to challenge the state joining the National Popular Vote Compact successfully got that question on the ballot. Colorado voters will make the final call on that in the 2020 election.Garcia won his office with more than 70 percent of the vote against a Libertarian challenger. He has said the recall election would waste taxpayer dollars and abuses the recall process because his opponents are upset about policies he supports, not an ethical breach. Garcia will be term-limited in 2022.

Editors Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Colorado Secretary of State says the recall campaign submitted four signatures.