Colorado senators in recall elections

Pair supported new gun curbs

Supporters of the recall election to oust Colorado Senate President John Morse rallied recently in Colorado Springs.
Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette via Associated Press
Supporters of the recall election to oust Colorado Senate President John Morse rallied recently in Colorado Springs.

DENVER — In a state darkened by the shadow of nightmarish mass shootings, a pair of Colorado lawmakers who voted in favor of new firearms restrictions are fighting to keep their jobs.

Senate President John Morse in Colorado Springs and Senator Angela Giron in Pueblo face recall elections Tuesday in a battle that has attracted major players from around the nation, reflecting the sustained intensity over the issue of gun rights.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York has contributed $350,000 in support of the lawmakers. Recall backers, meanwhile, have raised nearly a half-million dollars, most of which has come from the National Rifle Association.


The contributions have raised the stakes in a fight over a pair of seats in the state Senate that would not even shift the balance of power in the Democrat-led chamber.

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‘‘Colorado has become one of those swing states, a critical swing state, so the symbolism is really perfect,’’ said Joshua Spivak, who tracks recall elections nationwide at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York.

The elections will gauge how voters have reacted to the gun restrictions Colorado Democrats passed this year, most notably new 15-round limits on ammunition magazines and universal background check requirements.

The measures were a response to mass shootings at a suburban Denver movie theater and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. — and in Colorado, the Columbine High School shootings are never far from mind when gun rights are discussed.

The political tests come in a battleground state that has increasingly voted Democrat, and they are happening in districts that are emblematic of Colorado’s nature. Morse was reelected in 2010 by just a few hundred votes in an area not entirely friendly to Democrats.


Giron’s district, albeit favorable to Democrats, includes strong support from both parties for the right to bear arms provided by the Second Amendment.

Challenging Morse in Colorado Springs is former councilman Bernie Herpin, and in Pueblo, former police officer George Rivera is challenging Giron.

The money from Bloomberg, an advocate for stricter gun laws with his group Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns, is formidable compared to any single contribution that recall backers have publicly disclosed. In all, Morse and Giron’s supporters have raised about $2.5 million, including Bloomberg’s contribution and $250,000 from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

And while recall backers have been mum about their spending, Democrats think the amount is formidable, noting that some of their opponents are nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their contributions.

The Obama administration lobbied Colorado lawmakers during debates on the gun bills this year, and he used the state as an example while pressing Congress for new restrictions on firearms in the spring.


Despite the powerful lobby supporting firearm restrictions, Second Amendment advocates believe that momentum is on their side.