State's First-ever Legislative Recall Is a Huge Victory for the NRA
The successful recall of two Colorado state senators due to a campaign spearheaded by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations sent a shockwave through Colorado that reverberated across the entire nation.
The successful legislative recalls were the first to ever occur in the history of the state. One of them took out the sitting State Senate president, John Morse, a former police chief who already was term-limited and whose legislative service was scheduled to end in 34 weeks. The other recall took out State Senator Angela Giron, who presided over a Democratic-leaning district in Pueblo.
The two state senators faced irate voters who were upset with their support of what appeared to be relatively modest gun control legislation. One bill limited the size of gun magazines to 15 rounds in an effort to force a mass murderer to either reload or use additional weapons (but clearly did not impact hunters). The second bill expanded background checks for gun purchases so it would be more difficult for criminals to buy weapons.
Nevertheless, the NRA and other groups saw the legislation as restricting the Second Amendment rights of citizens and were concerned this was the beginning of an effort to limit citizen rights. By targeting these two legislators, the gun rights groups wanted to send a message across the country that, "If you mess with our rights, we'll come after you." That message was sent to every elected official in America on November 10.
Another shock to Democrats was the fact money not a determining factor -- passion was, and the recall supporters had that advantage. Both sides spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the two hotly contested races so neither had an overwhelming monetary advantage. This made the NRA win even more impressive.
It Could Have Been Worse
Going into the recall elections, Democrats had 20 State Senate seats, compared to 15 for Republicans. The outcome resulted in Democrats having 18 seats to the Republicans 17.
The good news for Democrats is it could have been worse. Had another recall been successful, Republicans would have gained control of the State Senate. Gun rights supporters did attempt to recall Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak at the same time they targeted Morse and Giron. The recall effort barely fell short of collecting enough signatures to force Hudak to defend her seat in a swing district. Had Hudak faced a recall, it would have been likely she, too, would have been defeated and suddenly Republicans would have controlled the State Senate with 18 votes to the Democrats' 17.
The results of the recall elections are foreboding for Democrats and represent a new opportunity for Republicans. While Democrats understandably are urging everyone to "move on," the reality is the successful recalls provided evidence Republicans now have a tactic which is more potent than many political experts had surmised.
There are many Democrats who supported what the majority of legislators thought was reasonable gun control legislation who now have to be concerned the NRA's sights may be turned on them for the 2014 elections. And what is different about the gun rights debate is that it is not about to go away.
The state's most prominent race -- the gubernatorial election -- may be the new nexus for the issue. Incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been one of the most highly approved and most popular governors in the country since his election in 2010, signed the two controversial pieces of gun control legislation. He has to be wondering what the impact of his approval of the two bills might have on an election more than a year and a half after their passage.
One of Hickenlooper's opponents, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, is a long-time Second Amendment rights supporter and has made Hickenlooper's gun control legislation approval one of his major campaign themes. Political pundits have been surprised at Tancredo's strong showing in the polls -- statistically tied with Hickenlooper in all four surveys published to date -- but often have discounted Tancredo's ability to ultimately gain enough support to win. The recall election results may cause many of them to change their opinions, especially if Tancredo is successful in making the 2014 election a referendum on Second Amendment rights.
Colorado was a red state that evolved into a purple state. With a fast-growing Hispanic population and significant influxes of citizens from other states, Colorado is expected to become even more blue, yet the Second Amendment issue plays well in a state where many residents hunt and others desire firearms for the protection of themselves and their families. And many Coloradans see themselves as part of the Wild West.
It seems unlikely a candidate such as Tancredo can secure a plurality of the vote with a one-issue campaign but it now seems obvious the gun rights issue can firmly secure a base which allows him to go after the few additional percentage points he needs to win.
Other Republican gubernatorial candidates such as Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Senator Greg Brophy, although trailing Hickenlooper, also are within striking distance so it appears, with the help of this one issue, Republicans have the opportunity to do something which has not occurred in Colorado for more than half a century -- defeat an incumbent, elected governor.
Aaron Harber hosts "The Aaron Harber Show" seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays, on ION Television (KPXC-TV), and COMCAST Entertainment Television, and at www.HarberTV.com. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber. All rights reserved.