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Morse Kept Busy With Recall Election

Bente Birkeland

Normally, it’s a low time of year in Colorado politics. No general election, no Governor’s race. The state capitol is quiet and the hustle and bustle of the legislative session is long gone.

Not for senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), this off election year is shaping up to be the busiest of his life. He will go down in state history as one of the first Colorado lawmakers to face a recall election.

“We’re in full on campaign mode,” said Morse.

Gun rights activists and lobbyists are hoping to send a strong message by ousting Morse over his support of legislation putting a limit on high capacity magazines and creating universal background checks and fees. The Senate president says he has no regrets about his votes – and says he’ll do everything to save his seat.

“We need to defeat this in a grander scheme bi-partisanly because we don’t want special interests able to just buy enough signatures and force recalls every time they disagree with a particular vote,” said Morse.

The El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, which is behind the Morse recall, says it’s more than one particular vote or issue. “The people are rising up to take back their state and hold those elected officials accountable,” said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the campaign.

Kerns says Democrats – who control both legislative chambers – had a radical agenda this year. The legislature passed several bills in addition to the gun measures, including civil unions, in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants and new renewable energy standards.

“What you saw is a real government overreach, not unlike what you’re seeing in Washington D.C. these days. You have the Department of Justice getting phone records of Associated Press reporters,” said Kerns. “You have the NSA looking at phone records of American citizens. You have the IRS scrutinizing tea party groups. This isn’t just about party politics it is about returning government to the people.”

John Morse isn’t the only lawmaker facing recall. Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) who also supported gun control measures has her own recall to deal with. Even if both are voted out, Democrats would still hold a one-seat majority in the Senate. Colorado State University Political science professor John Straayer says he doesn’t see either race impacting public policy.

“I think in a substantial measure it’s a matter of symbolic politics,” said Straayer. “And I think particularly in El Paso County it’s an opportunity for the Republican Party to jump into the game again.”

In 2012, Republicans lost their majority in the state house and failed to win control of the state Senate. Straayer says he doesn’t think successful recalls would help the GOP in the long run.

“The more rigid right leaning pro-gun element feels empowered it’s going to exert more influence that it already has in the Republican Party and selecting their nominees. And it’s certainly not going to be nominating more moderate nominees, which the Republican Party needs very, very bad,” said Straayer.

Already a lot of money is flowing into the recall races. The Sept. 10 elections for Senators Morse and Giron will also be the first since Democrats passed new voter registration laws giving every voter a mail in ballot and allowing for same day voter registration. Jennifer Kerns says it’ll be a rough and tumble campaign.

“A lot of people are fired up. They signed that petition and they intend to see this recall election all the way through to the end,” said Kerns.

As for John Morse, who is term limited next year, he’s fired up too. He says the state took historic leaps during the last session, and it’s a path he intends to move forward.

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