Guns N’ Recalls
There is a great deal of national significance being attached to the recall of two Democratic state senators in Colorado Tuesday.
As The New York Times put it in an article Wednesday, the successful recall of Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron “gave moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws.”
We continue to believe that recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct. It should not be employed to punish elected officials for their political or ideological views, as was clearly the case with Tuesday’s recalls.
Be that as it may, the proponents of the recall legally organized the petition drive to get the recall measures on the ballot. And they successfully persuaded a majority of voters in Morse’s Colorado Springs Senate district and Giron’s Pueblo district to support the recall, despite being outspent overwhelmingly by opponents of the recall.
The two recalls are likely to change the tenor of next year’s legislative session in Colorado, even if it won’t change the overall power structure. Although Morse and Giron will both be replaced by Republicans, Democrats will still have a majority in the state Senate, albeit a small one. There will be 18 Democrats and 17 Republicans in the Senate when the Legislature convenes in January. The Democrats’ majority in the House won’t change.
But don’t expect the Democrats to be as aggressive in pushing a liberal legislative agenda next year as they were this year. Having seen what happened to Morse and Giron, and weighing their own re-election odds, it’s likely Democratic leaders and rank-and-file members will be cautious in what they advocate.
Morse and Giron, with help from fellow Democrats, can thank their own political overreaching for contributing to their downfall Tuesday. They pushed a slate of gun bills that many observers, this newspaper included, believed would do little to prevent mass shootings while ignoring Gov. John Hickenlooper’s call for new legislation to focus more on mental health issues related to guns.
Also, they worked hard on other measures that angered people in rural parts of the state — from adopting new alternative energy requirements for rural electric cooperatives to seeking an end to the death penalty to proposing new rules that would further restrict hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas drilling.
While those items weren’t at the heart of the recall of Morse and Giron, they have been mentioned by recall supporters. Additionally, they are a large part of the reason that several counties in northeastern Colorado will have a secession vote on their ballots this November.
Whether the recall success will translate into broader election victories for Republicans next year is unclear. But, at least in the coming year, it won’t result in the Legislature overturning the gun laws that prompted these recall efforts. The Democratic majority will see to that.
In any event, we hope Tuesday’s results won’t make recall elections an attractive option every time some political group disagrees with the actions of state lawmakers.