After months of heated rhetoric and legal challenges, Coloradans in two contested state Senate districts are voting Tuesday on whether to retain or kick out two Democratic lawmakers who helped pass the state’s tough new gun laws.
But the elections — the first in state history aimed at legislators — have long been about more than just the fates of Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron. The showdown is also a referendum on gun-control policy, in Colorado and elsewhere.
Morse and Giron are being recalled because they supported Colorado’s tough new gun-control laws, which include limits on magazine size and universal background checks, among other measures.
But what began as localized anger expressed through grassroots movements soon morphed into a national proxy fight between well-funded organizations on both sides of the gun-control debate.
Although Morse and Giron have complained about “outside interests” involving themselves in local politics, they’ve benefitted from the deep pockets of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has contributed at least $350,000 to efforts to keep them in office. Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, advocates for strict restrictions on firearm ownership and it organized a memorial for the victims of gun violence in Denver on the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting.
The lawmakers’ opponents also have their wealthy backers, having been shored up with large contributions from the National Rifle Association.
More than $2 million has already been spent on the election, The New York Times reports, with much more expected once final campaign finance reports are filed.
Morse and Giron took every legal option to prevent the vote happening Tuesday in El Paso and Pueblo counties. After the recall groups submitted enough signatures to trigger the elections, both challenged the validity of the petitions with the secretary of state, saying they lacked particular verbiage called for in the Colorado Constitution.
Losing that battle, they then took the matter to court, where they also failed to prevent the election.