September 11th, 2013
01:20 AM ET
10 years ago

Colorado recall: Pro-gun control Democrats ousted

(CNN) – Voters booted out two Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado on Tuesday in a heated recall effort that generated national headlines as a referendum on the renewed gun control debate.

Both lawmakers voted in favor of the state's unpopular new gun laws earlier this year, sparking a wave of protest that got their names on the ballot for the state's first-ever recall at the state level.

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State Senate President John Morse, who was a little more than a year shy of finishing his final term in office, conceded after he narrowly failed to win enough votes to keep his seat representing Colorado Springs. He was term-limited and would not have been able to run for re-election next year.

Read more: Colorado recall a proxy in national gun control debate

According to results from the secretary of state, 51% of voters in his district said "yes" to the recall, while 49% said "no." He'll be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin.

Morse's colleague, state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, was also on the ballot and conceded late Tuesday night. She lost in a 56%-44% yes-no vote, and will be replaced by Republican George Rivera.

Giron's loss came as a bigger surprise, as her district is more Democratic than Morse's.

The new laws in Colorado, which took effect in July, limit firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all firearm sales.

National groups on both sides of the gun rights debate jumped into the race, pouring money into a state level contest that normally would generate few headlines beyond Colorado's borders. But gun rights activists and gun control supporters nationwide saw the election as a chance to score an electoral victory for their respective movements.

Following the deadly movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado last July and the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in December, the Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic governor quickly ushered the laws into place by mid-March.

A former police chief, Morse spent the past six weeks going door to door, asking voters to help him keep his job.

"You have to take it personally to some extent," Morse told CNN in an interview before the election. "But I also understand this is way bigger than me. I need to do it for those way bigger reasons."

While campaigning, Morse argued he doesn't have any regrets in his fight for tighter gun laws. Asked why he advocated for new regulations in the face of fierce opposition, he pointed to the real catalyst of the renewed firearm debate.

"The vision of 6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown being carted out on stretchers, with their Power Rangers T-shirts now covered by a white sheet," he said. "We can't continue to bury our children."

Giron also said she was "proud" that she voted for the gun laws.

"This is not the wrong business to be fearful about doing the right thing," Giron told CNN before the election.

But in a state with rich gun culture and tradition, a majority of voters, however, disagree with the laws. According to a Quinnipiac University poll last month, voters in the state opposed the gun laws by a margin of 54%-40%. Democrats were supportive of the measures, 78%-16%, while Republicans more strongly opposed them, 89% to 7%.

More importantly for electoral purposes, a majority of independent voters opposed the laws, 56%-39%.

Tim Knight, founder of the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the group that initiated the recall against Morse, labeled the election as a "victory" for the state and those "who have been subject to the overreach of a Democrat agenda on guns, taxes, and accountability to the people."

"Since day one, they said it couldn't be done," Knight continued. "Tonight, this is a victory for the people of Colorado, and we share this victory with them."

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which helped mount the recall effort, also celebrated the results as a major milestone.

"(NRA-PVF) is proud to have stood with the men and women in Colorado who sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale," read a statement from the group.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argued the gun laws are still in place in Colorado, despite the lawmakers' ouster. The pro-gun control group vowed to continue supporting like-minded candidates, hoping to tamp down fears that the recall sent a message to lawmakers across the country.

"For the last 20 years, the NRA has had the field to themselves in contests like these, but no more. We're committed to backing elected officials across the country who are willing to face these attacks because they agree with Americans about the need for better background checks," Bloomberg said in the statement.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was "certainly disappointed" by the outcome but acknowledged voters in the two Senate districts "have spoken."

Filed under: Colorado • Gun control • Gun rights • NRA
soundoff (1,113 Responses)
  1. hardcase59

    There'll be more I hope that get kicked out the door. Way to go people of Colorado!!!

    September 11, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  2. crabman1

    what do people not under stand ???----back round checks do nothing if anything arrest the lawyers and law makers -- bottom line people do bad things and that will never end

    September 11, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  3. 09RoadKing

    This should send a message to all politicians. " READ THE CONSTITUTION "

    September 11, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  4. John C

    I'm considered a southern conservative. I just don't get how a 15 round clip limit and background checks are so hard for the gun lobby, and people, to accept. They seem like they might help and couldn't hurt our freedoms. I just don't get it.

    September 11, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  5. Michael

    Were the recalled politicians native Coloradans or refugees from more liberal states?

    September 11, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  6. jack

    I guess bloomberg wasted a ton of money on this one. You have to love that Morse said he wouldn't let "out of state interests" have a say in his state yet he took close to a million from Bloomberg and another supporter from out of state.

    One liar gone many more still need to go.

    September 11, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  7. dave

    Way to go Colorado! Taking care of those knee jerking libs

    September 11, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  8. JR

    The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which helped mount the recall effort, also celebrated the results as a major milestone.

    Pure Communism here. This country is one sick place. Idiots galore.

    September 11, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  9. Fred

    Yeah, Colorado Republicans wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and lunatics to buy guns.

    That would be "socialism" ya'll.

    September 11, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  10. ryan

    School massacres have nothing to do with guns but everything to do with Democrats who have defunded State Mental Health facilities.

    September 11, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  11. ColoradoPhil

    The vote wasn't about guns, it was about arrogance.

    September 11, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  12. Ita Radnick

    Excellent news, seeing to high profile politicians booted because they trampled on the rights of citizens whose rights are protected by the 2nd Amendment. I am still hoping to see the CO legislation that led to that move repealed. More so, I really hope to see the NY (un)SAFE Act repealed or dismantled in court (court case is actively in process now). And I am looking forward to the next few elections in NY so we can send just as clear a message to our weak minded politicians as was just sent in CO. As for California and its litany of bozos in office, there is no hope. I am so glad I do not live in that state any longer.

    September 11, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  13. jen z

    "But gun rights activists and gun control supporters"

    No skew there.

    September 11, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  14. jdun

    Way to go NRA and gun makers- you continue to fol the people into thinking that owning military fire arms will make them safer. Money CAN buy votes, its proven over and over again! Wonder how the citizens can't see the big picture.

    September 11, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  15. Fred

    Yes, the voters have spoken. Garon stated that "This is not the wrong business to be fearful about doing the right thing,", her job isn't to do the right thing as she determines it, her job is to do the will of the majority of the people that voted for her. This is Democracy at work the way it should be. Good job Colorado!! Way to set an example for the rest of the country!

    September 11, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. Jim37015

    Excellent. Its a message to politicians that they are where their at because they are supposed to represent the people. The majority rules.

    September 11, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  17. Dan

    Way to go Colorado! A little bit of faith restored

    September 11, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  18. Ken

    Lets not forget that they originally targeted four democrats in Colorado for recall .. but failed to secure enough signatures for two of them in the limited time they had. If they had another week to gather signatures, there would have been four recalls, not two. So for the Democrats in the state of Colorado, things are not looking to good come the next set of regular elections. Basically the Democrats in Colorado got all uppity and forgot one of the most basic rules of politics .. watch the polls before making decisions. If they had done that they would have seen that even in supposedly safe Democratic enclaves, there was a strong dislike of what they were proposing. But no, Democrats always think they know what is best and so they tried to shove something down peoples throats .. and this is the result.

    September 11, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  19. Cheerios

    How is it that politicians at all levels of government can be subjected to a recall vote.....but not the president?

    September 11, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  20. Chris F

    Victory for the Patriots!

    September 11, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  21. Steve

    This is awesome! I am 44 and registered to vote for the first time ever. I am going to vote against all of the politicians that voted for this absurd legislation in New York. Did you know that it is law now that many of my guns will be CONFISCATED by the state on my death? I never ever broke a law. I want to know what that picture in this article with brass knuckles has to do with law abiding gun owners? That is what this is all about- criminal don't follow laws.

    September 11, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  22. Colorado voter

    Vice President Joe Biden called four Colorado state Democrats in Feb 2013 in the midst of a gun debate, stressing Colorado's importance in the national gun debate, according to a report by The Denver Post. Yes. Lets make what happens in the Colorado gun debate an example for the nation. Gun control freaks recalled from office. Sounds good to me.

    September 11, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  23. Leeford

    Good! As a liberal who usually votes democrat, I am actually happy these two got booted. You can be liberal AND keep your rights. Keep it up democrats, you will lose your current advantage as those of us who are tired of being victims vote with those who defend our RTBA

    September 11, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  24. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I guess people in Colorado should fail background checks, a good place not to visit. And then you have the NRA bafoons interfering in a political race with their tax exempt status , wake up IRS??????

    September 11, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  25. Nicdy3

    Just devastating. It's not as though these two members of the legislature advocated anything extreme. They wanted to see background checks on private fun sales-private gun sale background checks that have already resulted in purchases by several ineligible gun buyers (read: felons) being denied. Fortunately, all of Colorado sees the areas where these legislators were located at the backward, redneck parts of the state. This insanity is not representative of all of Colorado. The majority of the state favors common sense gun laws (i.e. background checks, limits on magazine rounds) that could prevent tragedies like the one in Aurora.

    Incidentally, I am a gun owner who fully favors the new laws passed by the Colorado legislature and signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. I applaud their decision not to bow down to the uneducated and the paranoid, and opting to pass simple legislation to attempt to curb gun violence.

    September 11, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
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