October 24, 2013
The Colorado Observer
By Valerie Richardson
DENVER — Recalled Senate President John Morse lashed out Thursday at the recall committees that targeted him for defeat, but also assigned blame for his ouster to supporters who failed to show up at the polls.
The Colorado Springs Democrat, who lost his legislative seat in the Sept. 10 recall election, said in an interview on KOA-AM that his backers didn’t understand the gravity of his situation.
“That’s the frustrating part,” said Morse. “Even at the doors myself, people were like, ‘Ah you’ll be fine, everyone knows you and likes you and respects what you do, you don’t have anything to worry about.’”
About 21 percent of registered voters in Senate District 11 cast ballots in the special election, which Morse lost by a margin of 51 to 49 percentage points.
“Some of those people I was able to persuade—‘Oh, no, no, no, I need every vote I can get’ — and some I wasn’t able to persuade,” said Morse. “Nearly 80 percent of the people didn’t show up to vote. About 11 percent of the people managed to wag the whole dog, and now I no longer have a seat.”
Turnout in the Morse recall was lower than that in the same-day recall election of state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), where about 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Giron was defeated by a margin of 56 to 44 percentage points.
Morse’s defeat came even though organizers at national groups like Organizing for America sent hundreds of volunteers to the district in an effort to get Democratic voters to the polls.
“If they really liked him, they would have come out to support him,” said Lauro Carno, who heads I Am Created Equal Action in Colorado Springs, which supported the Morse recall drive. “In the marketplace of ideas, even though we were significantly outspent, our ideas won.”
The Colorado Springs and Pueblo recallers were outspent by about $3 million to $500,000. Even so, Morse blamed the paid signature-gatherers who circulated the petitions to force a recall election as the key reason for his ouster.
“They bought the signatures. They would have never recalled me if they hadn’t been able to buy the signatures. $3 a signature,” said Morse. “They actually bought the signature. They couldn’t get them just going door to door with volunteers.”
Carno, whose group paid $56,798 to hire a petition-circulating firm for the recall effort, pointed out that paid signature-gatherers are nothing new in Colorado politics.
“Both sides of the aisle have historically used paid signature gatherers,” said Carno in an email. “Amendment 66, which appears on ballots now, was placed there as a result of paid signature gatherers.”
Pueblo Freedom and Rights broke the mold by using volunteer circulators to collect signatures in the Giron recall, but in the end, the outcome was the same in both campaigns.
“The recall proponents did a better job than the opponents getting their supporters out to vote,” said Carno. “The voters have spoken and their message that Sen. Morse went too far, and didn’t listen to his constituents, was heard. Sen. Morse should hear that message today.”
The recalls were launched in response to the Democratic state legislature’s passage of sweeping gun-control bills, but Morse critics say they were equally upset with what they saw as his dismissal of his constituents’ concerns.
Morse told KOA-AM that he would do it all again the same way. “Absolutely, in a New York second,” he said.
“What we did was the right thing. We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” said Morse. “The price I paid with my political career, which was going to end in a year anyway—so, so, so small in comparison. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
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By The Denver Post staff and wire reports
The Denver Post
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September 10, 2013
By Charles C. W. Cooke
National Review Online
For Katherine Whitney, a law student on Colorado University’s Boulder campus, it was a tragedy that put her firmly behind today’s recall effort. Not too long before a handful of Democrats introduced a bill to remove all concealed-carry rights from college campuses in the state, Whitney had sat through the murder trial of a fellow college student. “Some guy decided he wanted to kill someone,” she tells me. “One day, he went out ‘hunting,’ and killed the first person he saw — a student here. It was straight-up evil. After the trial was over, I thought, ‘what would I do?’”
Whitney got a concealed-carry license. But when the state legislature started talking about removing her right to carry on campus, Whitney became worried. She went to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Denver and testified. “But before long, I started to feel the effects of Senator Morse’s leadership,” she explains. “He had clearly made his mind up early on, and told others ‘don’t engage.’ I couldn’t get anyone to return my phone calls or e-mails.”
Kimberly Weeks, who also testified in Denver, felt the same way as Whitney. She described the way she was treated by the Senate as “most alarming.” “This isn’t just about rights,” Weeks tells me, “I’m an assault survivor, so protecting myself is extremely important.” Weeks was raped when a stalker who had been looking for her roommate came into her room as she slept. “It was very difficult to talk about,” she remembers. “And I was stunned at the response that I got. Their minds were made up. One senator on the committee didn’t even look at me.”
Distressingly, Weeks’s experience with legislators was similar to that of another rape victim, Amanda Collins. Collins’s testimony was dismissed so callously by Senator Hudak that the exchange made national news. “Actually,” Hudak said, “statistics are not on your side, even if you had a gun.” “Respectfully senator, you weren’t there,” Collins shot back. “Had I been carrying concealed, he wouldn’t have known I had my weapon; and I was there. I know without a doubt in my mind at some point I would’ve been able to stop my attack by using my firearm.”
“This is a women’s issue,” Weeks argues. “We can easily be overpowered by men. Senator Harvey was wonderful and listened to me. Others? They just went through the motions. It felt like some else was pulling the strings.” I ask who. “Morse. And Bloomberg.” Katherine Whitney agrees: “If a woman wants to defend her body, family, or home, that’s her choice,” she says. “Naïvely, I thought that the Democrats, at least on this women’s issue, might come to my side. All I ever hear is the ‘right to choose about my body.’ Well, I choose. I was really surprised.”
“The Democrats are saying that if Morse is recalled, his opponent is going to take away women’s birth control,” Laura Carno, of I Am Created Equal, says. “They’re saying that John Morse is the candidate for women. I disagree.” Indeed. Morse’s attitude comes in for a lot of criticism. “I saw him on MSNBC a few days ago,” Weeks tells me, “and I was shocked at the arrogance he showed. He painted people like me as ‘extreme.’ Why am I outlandish?” “There’s an arrogance with the words and tone he uses,” Carno adds. “He believes he knows better than me how I should live my life. If I want to choose the largest magazine, that’s my choice. It’s not their business how I protect myself.”
Weeks has a radio commercial running in the area. In the spot, which is sponsored by the Colorado Women’s Alliance, she relates her experience dealing with the Senate. “It was very difficult,” she explains, “but I shared the story about the night I was raped. I begged Senator Morse and Senator Giron not to strip me of my right to legally defend myself and my family. I was stunned at the arrogant response we received from Senators Morse and Giron.” In her own TV commercial, Laura Carno strikes a similar note. Looking straight at the camera, Carno defiantly says, “Senator Morse, don’t you dare tell me how to defend myself.”
Katherine Whitney tells me that she has been told by opponents that she should just “buy a can of Mace.” “I’m 5 foot 4!” she exclaims. “That suggestion doesn’t work. I’m just not comfortable with Mace being my last line of defense.” In response to what she regards as a threat to her safety, Whitney has set up her own group, Women for Concealed Carry.
I ask how her advocacy has gone down in Boulder. “The professors in my law school are very respectful. I don’t get support, but there’s no harassment. One professor sometimes asks if I’m carrying, but I won’t tell him. I smile and say, ‘maybe I am, maybe I’m not; how is your wife doing?’”
On the main campus, though, the response has been very difficult. Whitney knew that many of the professors were in favor of the proposed ban. “I got in contact with them so I could better understand their concerns,” she tells me. “I didn’t even want to convince them. I was hopeful that we could resolve this. One professor didn’t even reply to me. Instead, she forwarded to another person on the faculty saying, ‘can you believe this person’s nerve?’ Luckily, I ride motorcycles with that professor and I’ve been for dinner at her house! She hit ‘Reply All’ and invited us both over for dinner.’” The original professor never wrote back.
“The faculty has two reasons for opposing concealed-carry,” Whitney continues. “They think that debates might get heated and one student will reach for his gun and shoot the student with whom they’ve had the disagreement.” “This has never happened,” she adds, drily. “They also think that students who get an F might get frustrated and come in and shoot the teacher in the head.” I suggest that both of these seem ludicrous. Whitney agrees. “I have to tell people on campus that nothing changed when the bill failed,” she explains.
Whitney is part of a growing trend. “I know some of the folks that teach the concealed-carry classes,” Laura Carno tells me. “They say there has been a huge increase in women participating.” Little noted, too, is that the spokesperson for the whole recall is a woman. “I was among the first women to go down to the State Capitol to testify against the gun control bills,” Jennifer Kearns tells me. “I got in under the wire, just before they shut testimony down. Like many women, I was struck by the other women’s testimony, so when I got the call to see if I was interested in coming aboard as the spokeswoman for the effort, there was no hesitation.”
“I have lived here my whole life,” Weeks tells me. “In the last few years, I have watched the state really change. But they can’t ignore us.”
“After all, We the People are the ones who are forced the live with their out of touch legislation.”
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September 11, 2013
By Eli Stokols
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, three El Paso County Republicans stood in the dark outside the county GOP headquarters just off Sinton Road reveling in what was the biggest election victories Colorado Republicans have had in a decade.
“This isn’t the best night we’ve had in a decade,” said Jeff Crank. “It’s the only good election night we’ve had in a decade.”
Tuesday’s recall victories, ousting two Democratic state lawmakers over their support of tougher gun laws, emboldened the National Rifle Association and gun rights advocates from coast to coast.
“For the first time in a long time, I’m hopeful about what we’re going to be able to accomplish in the next election, rather than just trying to stem the bleeding of a loss,” said Kelly Maher, a conservative activist who was involved in the recall.
“This was not just not a loss. This was a dramatic, symbolic national win.”
Tuesday’s results put a serious chink in the armor of the Colorado Democratic establishment that’s been seemingly invincible since 2004, the year Democrats won control of the state legislature just a year after a group of four liberal millionaires pooled their vast financial resources to create what’s become a dominant political machine.
And while the big names and organizations — the N.R.A., R.M.G.O. (Rocky Mountain Gun Owners), the even the RNC and GOP itself — have been quick to take credit, this victory was actually delivered by a new generation of conservative activists and no-name citizens galvanized by the progressive push for gun control.
Put another way: a few plumbers somehow beat the experienced and well-funded progressive politicos.
Victor Head, the plumber who founded Pueblo Freedom and Rights, basked in the moment Tuesday night.
“I have a special message for John Morse,” Head told supporters celebrating at his offices on North Santa Fe in downtown Pueblo Tuesday night.
“I don’t know if everyone heard him on MSNBC, saying it wasn’t grass-roots and it was an unemployed plumber who started (the recall).
“Who’s unemployed now?”
The N.R.A. spent more than $300,000 supporting the recall efforts, but grass-roots activists like Head and the group of citizen activists who started Basic Freedom Defense Fund, which began the effort to recall four state lawmakers — two of those efforts failed to garner much support — did the heavy lifting organizing volunteers and, above all, tapping into the discontent among their neighbors.
“The reason my brother and I got involved is that these laws really affected us,” Head told me on Wednesday. “That’s where our passion came from. We used volunteers only who actually cared. They weren’t canvassing for a paycheck.”
For Colorado Democrats, who are used to winning closely contested races, these defeats sting — especially because they outspent the pro-recall side by a margin of at least seven-to-one.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote a $350,000 check to a group supporting Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, the two Democrats who ultimately lost their seats; and the final campaign finance reports, due Oct. 1, will likely show that the gun-control supporting billionaire spent even more here.
“We didn’t do this with a lot of money,” said Anthony Garcia, one of the founders of B.F.D.F. “We didn’t do this with much support. We did this with the will of the people.”
Unlike their Democratic counterparts, whose various issue advocacy groups — environmentalists, LGBT rights, labor unions — all worked as one unified campaign team headquartered inside the same building, pro-recall forces worked independently toward the same goal.
While the N.R.A. put its money into radio and television ads and billboards, the group Americans For Prosperity supported canvassing teams.
Kelly Maher’s group, Compass Colorado, put its resources into direct mail; her other group, Revealing Politics, was out with cameras monitoring voting at polling places; and Laura Carno’s 527 group, “I Am Created Equal”, raised money from Colorado citizens and businesses that went toward more advertising and GOTV efforts.
“The more decentralized we became, the more effective we became,” Maher said. “People just saw a need and stepped in to fill that need.”
The Republican Party supported its successor candidates, Bernie Herpin and George Rivera, with a major phone banking effort.
And the citizen activists who started the whole thing did whatever they could — walking neighborhoods, waving signs on street corners and telling their story.
“This was a big collaboration,” Carno said Wednesday. “On one side you had the party and Bernie Herpin and George Rivera, and then you had a whole bunch of us who were kind of doing our own thing, rowing in our own direction, and it seemed to strike the right chord.
“And kudos to Victor Head,” Carno continued. “He didn’t know he was attempting something impossible. He just did it.
“And I love that about new people to politics, because they never believe that something can’t be done.”
Head believes there’s a lesson in the historic recall effort for politicos.
“We went against convention,” he said. “Republicans haven’t won a lot and they keep going with the same strategy they’ve always tried.
“Whatever people told us, we didn’t listen. We didn’t have a lot of strategy meetings and worry about what word to use on a sign.”
Head and his brother actually used blank signs, a stencil and spray paint to make their own ‘Vote Yes, Recall Giron’ yard signs to save money.
“My advice to conservatives and to everyone would be to drop the strategy stuff,” he continued. “Don’t listen to the conventional wisdom. I know there’s people who make living off of being consultants and strategists, but I don’t think a lot of the traditional strategies are really reliable.”
As the results came into view Tuesday night, established political organizations issued press releases heralding the outcome; the RNC, the Colorado GOP, the N.R.A. and on down the line.
Victor Head didn’t issue any formal statements for the press.
His statement spoke for itself.
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September 11, 2013
By Jennifer Oldham
Colorado voters unseated the Senate president and another lawmaker for helping pass the toughest gun-control limits in a decade, marking the first such recalls in state history and a pair of victories for the National Rifle Association.
Senate leader John Morse lost by just 343 votes, or two percent, while the margin against Senator Angela Giron was 56 percent to 44 percent, according to the Associated Press. Both are Democrats.
Their defeat may strengthen the NRA’s hand in states that tightened firearms restrictions after mass shootings in a Denver suburb and in Connecticut last year. The Fairfax, Virginia-based organization is the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbying group. After the killings, its officials argued that more Americans needed to be armed to defend themselves.
“The people spoke, and the people were heard that politicians need to listen to their constituents,” Laura Carno of Black Forest, who founded groups that contributed to the recall effort, said before the polls closed. “This has repercussions outside Colorado because Mayors Against Illegal Guns is trying to play in many elections across the country.”
Colorado joined New York, Connecticut and Maryland in approving strict gun laws in response to the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, as a push for federal measures stalled in Congress.
The Colorado campaign pitted the NRA against the group whose co-chairman is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He gave $350,000 to a Denver organization that supported Morse, of Colorado Springs, and Giron, of Pueblo. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Recall campaigns amassed about $3.5 million, according to a Sept. 9 Denver Post report that examined 10 issue committees involved in both races. Opponents outraised election backers, collecting nearly $3 million, about five times more than the $540,000 raised by Second Amendment advocates, the newspaper found.
Voters “sent a clear message to their elected officials that their primary job is to defend our rights and freedoms and that they are accountable to their constituents — not the dollars or social engineering agendas of anti-gun billionaires,” the NRA said in a statement.
The NRA, through the Committee to Restore Coloradans’ Rights, spent about $360,000 from March through Aug. 29, according to campaign disclosure statements that don’t cover the intense final days of the campaign.
The mayors group sent more than two dozen organizers to Colorado in the past two weeks to help get out the vote, said Mark Glaze, the organization’s executive director.
“The NRA walked away with an important lesson, and that is that these kinds of recalls to kick legislators out of office are not going to be cheap and easy anymore,” Glaze said in an interview. “They have to spend every dime they have and pull out the stops and we’re going to be matching them every step of the way.”
Morse and Giron, who both voted for the gun laws, are the first Colorado lawmakers ever recalled. Republicans elected separately from the recall vote, Bernie Herpin and George Rivera, will replace them when the next legislative session begins in January.
Recall efforts began in April, a month after Governor John Hickenlooper, a first-term Democrat, signed measures passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature requiring background checks for firearms sales and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines.
“We are certainly disappointed by the outcome of the recall elections,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “It’s now time we refocus again on what unites Coloradans — creating jobs, educating our children, creating a healthier state — and on finding ways to keep Colorado moving forward.”
The laws, which took effect July 1, were inspired by the Newtown shooting that killed 26 and the Aurora theater massacre in July 2012 that killed 12 people and wounded 58. Colorado was also the site of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in a Denver suburb in which two students killed 13 people and themselves.
Recall advocates got a jump on the senators, Giron said in an interview before the outcome was known. She said her supporters visited thousands of homes over the weekend to let voters know that her seat might be in jeopardy.
“That it even got this far is pretty surprising to people,” she said. “I’m one of them — I didn’t think it would get to this point.”
Morse, a former police chief and accountant, was first elected to the Senate in 2006. He was returned to office in 2010 by just 340 votes.
Giron, a former administrator for Boys & Girls Club, was in her first term. She was elected in 2010.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Oldham in Denver at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com
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September 11, 2013
By Laura Carno
Politicians are not kings. We do not elect politicians to tell us what light bulbs we can buy, how much soda we can drink or how best we can defend ourselves. We elect them to listen to us and fight for what we believe in. Though gun safety advocates had quick victories in Colorado, New York and Connecticut, tougher gun laws failed dramatically in Congress, and some states actually loosened their statutes. Now, even some of the tough new state laws could be in trouble — along with the legislators who backed them.
OPPOSING VIEW: Recalls reinforce the proper role of government
Witness what happened in Colorado on Tuesday, where energized gun rights advocates won two recall elections, ousting the president of the state Senate, John Morse, and another senator, Angela Giron. What did Morse and Giron, both Democrats, do to deserve being prematurely ejected from office? What heresy did they commit? They supported laws, adopted in March, that expanded background checks for gun buyers and limited magazine sizes.
Tuesday’s contests, the first recall elections in Colorado history, marked a disappointing new development in state politics. We’ve long argued that recalls should be reserved for the sort of criminal or ethical malfeasance that disqualifies politicians from office, not for punishing them after they make tough or unpopular decisions. That standard applies just as much to last year’s unsuccessful bid by angry liberals to recall Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., as it does to this year’s targeting of the two Colorado legislators.
Not surprisingly, Tuesday’s two small recall elections (combined turnout was about 52,000 voters, down from 70,000 in 2010′s general elections) had gradually grown into a national referendum on the future of the gun debate, and the results should be a wake-up call for supporters of reasonable restrictions.
Fury over incidents such as the Aurora theater shooting and the killing of 20 first-graders at Newtown Elementary School isn’t enough. Until Americans who back limits on guns can consistently match the passion, energy and grassroots organizing skills of gun rights activists, groups such as the NRA will control the debate and largely determine what laws can, and cannot, be passed. Emboldened gun rights supporters are already trying to put Colorado’s gun laws on the ballot in 2014.
In this case, gun safety advocates can’t even complain about being outspent, something they generally have been thanks to the deep pockets of the NRA, which gave $360,000 to the Colorado effort. In Colorado, in fact, contributions from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, liberal California philanthropist Eli Broad and others helped recall opponents raise roughly $3 million — almost six times as much as the gun rights side came up with, according to The Denver Post. The overwhelming money edge clearly wasn’t enough.
Gun control opponents have the same sort of commitment that abortion foes have long shown: No other issue is as important; they consistently vote their convictions; they are in politics for the long haul; and when they suffer losses, no defeat is permanent. Until gun safety advocates can muster the same zeal, their victories could be just as transient
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