Recall campaigns focus on ground game with elections one week away
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Critics charge that Senate President John Morse didn’t listen to his constituents when he and fellow Democrats passed stricter gun control laws earlier this year.
But he’s getting an earful now.
Tuesday morning, with just a week left in the recall election against him, Morse is canvassing a tree-lined street near Colorado College alone.
He’s knocking on doors and, finding few people home, leaving campaign materials tucked into the frames of front doors.
And then a middle-aged man with a ‘Vote Yes to Recall Morse’ emerges from his yard and, spotting the white-haired lawmaker up the street, walks right up to him.
“Why did your former police officers endorse your opponent?” he asks.
Before Morse can offer an answer, he’s complaining that local gun shops are over-charging for background checks due to one of the laws Democrats passed.
“Your laws didn’t work!”
When our TV camera stops rolling, the heated conversation comes to a quick end.
“Well, they can’t say I’m not listening to my constituents,” Morse said, as an aside, heading to the next block.
This is a glimpse of Colorado’s first ever recall elections entering the final week of this chaotic summer campaign.
Just a 30-minute drive south, Morse’s colleague, Sen. Angela Giron, is also spending her days knocking on doors, trying to fend off a recall in her Pueblo district — traditionally, a Democratic stronghold where a couple of plumbers managed to get enough signatures to force a special election.
“We didn’t listen to anybody, and we have absolutely no political experience,” said Victor Head, sitting behind an old desk in a room draped with ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags.
In a back room at this office for Pueblo Freedom and Rights, he and fellow volunteers use spray paint and stencils to make homemade yard signs, which are peppered across lawns throughout town.
“This is like 300 Spartans versus the whole Persian empire,” Head told me (a DVD of the movie ’300′ sits on a shelf behind his desk). “But even if we lose, we’ve had an impact.”
To Head, as well as George Rivera, the Republican vying for Giron’s seat, and to many constituents supporting the recall effort, Giron’s fatal flaw was not listening — turning away Second Amendment activists from a town hall.
Giron thinks the folks behind the recall are just a vocal minority.
“I would say they don’t represent the common person in Pueblo,” she said inside a union shop that’s now serving as a headquarters for canvassers. “I mean, I grew up here; I feel very comfortable representing Pueblo.
“And we did a lot of good things for Colorado.”
Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was among the 12 people killed in the Aurora Theater Shooting last July, are hitting the streets on behalf of Giron and Morse.
“It just doesn’t make sense. They did the right thing,” said Sandy Phillips Tuesday.
“They’ve done the right thing for the people of Colorado and now they’re being punished? That’s wrong,” Lonnie Phillips said.
The flood of activists, volunteers, elected officials, to say nothing of all the money flowing in from outside groups — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has cut a $350,000 check to Morse and Giron, as have big unions; and the NRA has spent $109,000 thus far on a campaign supporting the recall efforts, while other big donors have contributed anonymously to a 501(c)4 group supporting the recall — underline the high stakes.
“This is going to have national repercussions,” said Laura Carno, who runs the 501(c)4, “I Am Created Equal”.
“Just getting the signatures to get this to the ballot has sent a message to Sens. Morse and Giron that you have to listen to your constituents.”
Like Head, she believes these recalls have already served notice to politicians considering supporting gun control measures.
But, both sides are going all out to win, knowing that the outcome of these two races — which both may be decided by just 10,000 voters — will impact the national narrative on the issue of gun control.
“The eyes of the nation are on Pueblo to do the right thing,” Giron said.
NOTE: Bernie Herpin, the Republican candidate running to replace Morse, turned down KWGN Channel 2′s request for an interview and did not make his campaign available for this story.