The Politics Of Recalls And What's Next For District 50

May 14, 2019

The state representative for House District 50 has resigned — and it's now up to local Democrats to choose her replacement.

Rochelle Galindo, who was the subject of a recall effort, said she resigned because of new and unspecified allegations against her. KUNC has confirmed that no charges have been filed against her, but Greeley police are investigating a complaint.

Colorado State University political science professor Robert Duffy has been following Colorado elections for more than a decade. He spoke with KUNC's Kyra Buckley about the history and potential future of House District 50.

Interview Highlights

Kyra Buckley, KUNC: Tell me a little bit about the history of House District 50, which covers Greeley and parts of Weld County ... Rep. Galindo was a Democrat. Has the seat been traditionally blue?

Robert Duffy, CSU political science professor: Dave Young held the seat before, he's now the state treasurer. He had won the seat fairly easily in his most recent campaigns. In 2012 I think he won by 17 or 18 points. Galindo won by about seven points in 2018, which kind of makes sense. The district is somewhat competitive — oil and gas issues and other things raise prospects for Republican candidates in the district. And she was a candidate for an open seat, so if there's no incumbent generally races tend to be a little more competitive.

Buckley: Recently there were a couple of recall efforts targeted at Rep. Galindo. Are recall campaigns common in Colorado or was this an isolated effort?

Duffy: They're not exceptionally common but they are becoming more common, especially on the Republican side. After Democrats in the state legislature passed a number of gun safety bills in the aftermath of the Aurora theater shooting, there were recall efforts proposed against three Democratic state senators — and some of those met with success .*

Since then there's been sort of an uptick in at least talks of recalls and threats of recalls, and from day one in this most recent election cycle there were talks of Republicans launching recall efforts against Gov. Polis and several of the Democrats in the state legislature within days of them taking office.

That suggests to me that it's not about a particular vote or particular actions that legislators have taken, more about unhappiness with election results. And perhaps seeing an opportunity through recall elections to reengineer the electorate in a way that's more favorable to your candidates in your party.

Buckley: Do you think that gender and/or sexual orientation or other identity politics play a role here? Galindo says yes, organizers (of the recall) said it was simply her voting record. What would you say?

Duffy: I'd say there were two sets of organizers of recall efforts against Rep. Galindo, and the first one made no bones about it, that they thought it was because of her lifestyle. The one pastor I believe who was involved in the first effort basically said, "She's a lesbian and doesn't deserve to be in officer, so we're going to recall her." And then there was another group that came along later and said, "No no no no no, this is all about the oil and gas vote." There's an industry of political consultants who profit off of not just elections but off a recall election.

Buckley: What happens next? Also, what should we look for in House District 50 in the 2020 election and beyond?

Duffy: What happens next is the local party committee gets to nominate a replacement, which they'll do, and that'll be a Democrat ... (In 2020) there will be an incumbent Democrat who will at least have one session under their belt to run for reelection, to establish some name recognition and establish some ties. 2020 is going to be sort of an interesting time — I mean the state seems to be trending pretty clearly in the Democrats' direction. And then the question is whether the enthusiasm that you saw on the Democratic side in 2018 continues through 2020.

* Note: In 2013 there was also a failed effort to recall state Rep. Mike McLachlan, a Durango Democrat.