In Colorado, Campaigns To Recall 2 Lawmakers Heat Up
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
In Colorado, two state senators face recall elections next week. The recalls are the first ever for state lawmakers there. Just one issue is motivating the historic efforts and that is gun control. Senate President John Morse, who represents Colorado Springs, and Angela Giron of Pueblo, both Democrats, supported measures signed into law this year that restricted access to firearms and ammunition.
The recall campaigns have drawn in money from outside Colorado, from the NRA to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who's a major gun control advocate. For more on this, we're joined by Denver Post political reporter Kurtis Lee. Welcome to the program.
KURTIS LEE: Thanks for having me.
SIEGEL: We just mentioned Mayor Bloomberg. There's actually an ad from a state group called the National Association for Gun Rights, which links Bloomberg and Morse. Here's a little bit of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who's pulling John Morse's strings? Not the people of Colorado Springs. In the state Senate, John Morse is taking his marching orders from the East Coast politicians like billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
SIEGEL: So the argument there is he's not listening to Coloradans. He's listening to this mayor from New York. Does that argument sell in Colorado?
LEE: Well, obviously, to be called an East Coast liberal here in Colorado, that's nothing that a Democrat in Colorado wants to hear. It's almost a scarlet letter on your chest if you're labeled that in Colorado. This is a state that has an electorate that's evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliateds. Sure there are very liberal pockets of the state, but in Senator John Morse's district, it's much more reflective of how the state is divided.
SIEGEL: Well, Senator John Morse is now advertising. He's not talking about guns, though, but he does remind voters that he's the son of an Army officer and a former police chief. Here's a bit of what his ad says.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Now, extreme groups from Denver want a costly recall - over $300,000 for new elections just because they disagree with a vote. That's not what recalls are for.
SIEGEL: There seems to be an argument here as to who is out of the mainstream in Colorado. Who is?
LEE: Absolutely. There are so many special issue committees that have formed in this recall effort, and this is on both sides. Just last week, we had Mayor Michael Bloomberg write a check for $350,000 to a special issue committee that's backing Senator Morse as well as Senator Angela Giron. The NRA has thrown money into this race. They've thrown in less money, though, than Bloomberg. They raised or thrown in about 109,000 to the recall efforts to oust Senator Morse and Senator Giron from office.
SIEGEL: But in addition to these outside groups or statewide groups, I gather the recall campaign against State Senator Angela Giron began as a very grassroots effort by three plumbers.
LEE: Absolutely. Three plumbers in Pueblo from within Senator Giron's district basically, you know, were upset with the lawmaker's votes in favor of the gun control legislation. And these folks were out there knocking on doors, hanging out outside of grocery stores and in parking lots and gathering signatures to oust Senator Angela Giron.
SIEGEL: Well, what do the polls say about the prospects of recalling either Senator Morse or Senator Giron?
LEE: Well, obviously, the campaigns have been doing internal polls within their districts which aren't made public. But, I mean, a recent Quinnipiac poll came out last week that found that, you know, voters around the state - between 50 and 55 percent of Colorado voters - feel that Senator Morse and Senator Angela Giron should not be recalled. Keep in mind these were not district-specific polls.
Also, a recent poll found that, you know, 54 percent of Coloradans oppose stricter gun laws. So it's just been very interesting in seeing how all of this has evolved since these laws were passed and now with the recall election about a week away.
SIEGEL: And just very briefly, these are two state senators who in the last election won their seats pretty easily, or was it a close-run thing?
LEE: Well, Senator Morse, he's in a very competitive district, and he won his seat in 2010 by less than 250 votes. And that was with a third-party candidate on the ballot. This go-around, there is no third-party candidate. There's just a Republican who is on the ballot. And Senator Giron, her district leans Democrat, so she had an easier time winning the election at her first go-around.
SIEGEL: Kurtis Lee, thanks for talking with us.
LEE: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: Kurtis Lee who's a political reporter for the Denver Post.