Politicians who are advocating gun-control measures in Colorado are facing recall attempts from their opponents. Colorado is the only state outside the East Coast to have adopted significant state-wide gun controls this year.
In Colorado, gun-rights activists are seeking recalls to oust state Senate President John Morse and three other Democratic lawmakers. The targeted lawmakers weren’t necessarily the main advocates for gun control measures, but all come from districts with enough Republicans to give opponents hope they can boot out the Democrats and replace them with lawmakers friendlier to guns. Colorado is the only state outside the East Coast to have adopted significant state-wide gun controls this year.
“Colorado seems to be the testing ground for some of the gun measures, so this has national implications,” said Victor Head, a plumber from Pueblo who is organizing a recall attempt against a Democratic senator.
In Colorado Springs, opponents of Mr. Morse are piling up signatures in gun shops and outside libraries and grocery stores. The National Rifle Association, an influential gun rights lobbying group, sent a political mailer saying it was coordinating the recall effort with local groups, though the local recall petitioners have denied that.
Mr. Morse has mounted a campaign to urge voters not to sign petitions. In an indication of the national stakes, that push is largely funded by a $20,000 contribution from a national progressive group called America Votes.
The recall group’s main funding comes from a $14,000 contribution from a non-profit run by a local conservative consultant, Laura Carno. She said that contribution was made possible by some out-of-state donors.
“People in other states, like New York and Massachusetts, are calling up and saying ‘What can we do to help?’” Ms. Carno said. “This isn’t what Colorado stands for.”
In an interview, Mr. Morse seemed resigned to facing a recall vote after enough signatures are verified. He believes national gun-rights supporters are using his district to make a national statement about the political peril officials will face if they take on gun control.
“That’s what’s going on here. They want to take out the Senate president,” Mr. Morse said.
Immediate accountability seems to be a common thread in recall attempts, said Joshua Spivak, who tracks recall elections nationwide at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York. Technology makes it easier to organize, Mr. Spivak said, and modern-day voters watching political activity in real time on Twitter and TV aren’t content to wait until another election to show their displeasure when they feel ignored. “The other reason,” Mr. Spivak said, “is that they succeed.”
Mr. Spivak said at least 169 officials at all levels of government faced recalls last year, up from 151 the year before. The number this year could go even higher, he said.
In Colorado last year, seven recall efforts made it to ballots, all local races, Mr. Spivak said. Of those seven, two officials were ousted and two more resigned. Nationwide, 108 recalled officials last year lost or left office after a recall. That makes the recall a powerful tool and one likely to be used more often, Mr. Spivak said.
In Colorado Springs, a couple of opponents defended Mr. Morse’s recall attempt as the best way for citizens to keep their representatives accountable.
“I believe in gun rights. And he didn’t listen. He’s supposed to represent the people, and when he doesn’t do that, what are we supposed to do? Nothing?” asked Bianca McCarl, a 40-year-old merchandiser supporting Mr. Morse’s recall.
Assuming the Morse recall goes to ballots, with an election to be held by late summer, the incumbent holds a slight party registration advantage in the district.