Colorado Senate President John Morse, the legislator who has become the face of the state’s tough new gun control laws, may be campaigning to save his political career now that the secretary of state has certified that his opponents turned in enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election.
But his lawyers want all the signatures certified as valid tossed out on a technicality.
Morse’s opponents were required to submit 7,178 valid signatures to force a recall election. Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office announced Tuesday that of the 16,198 signatures submitted, 10,137 were deemed valid, more than enough to proceed with what would be the first recall election in state history.
Morse — or any elector in Colorado — has 15 days to protest the results, but it took his lawyers less than an hour to announce that they were challenging the petitions over how they were worded.
They argue that the petition itself did not specifically call for an election to replace Morse, according to an Associated Press reporter, and therefore, “Each and every one of the filed signatures, said to have been validated by the Secretary, is hereby challenged.”
If the challenge is unsuccessful, Gov. John Hickenlooper will set a date for the election, which could be as early as August.
Morse has said repeatedly that he will fight to save his seat, but he has the option of resigning. That would scuttle the election and allow a Democratic vacancy committee to fill his seat to the end of his term in 2014.
Morse is term-limited, so even if he retains his seat in the recall election, he can’t run again next year.
If he loses, Democrats will still retain the majority in the senate, but it will be a symbolic victory for gun rights advocates, who have vowed to target politicians they feel have infringed on their Second Amendment rights.
Three other Democrats were targeted for recall, but only one campaign met the signature threshold. Sen. Angela Giron is waiting for the Gessler’s office to finish counting and validating the signatures against her.
As senate president, Morse was one of the most high profile Democrats fighting for the passage of several strict gun control laws. He sponsored one of the most contentious bills, which would have made the owners, sellers and manufacturers of semiautomatic sporting rifles liable for damage the weapons may cause, but he ultimately spiked the bill when it became clear that even some Democrats wouldn’t vote for it.
The effort against Morse has served as a proxy war between national interests on both sides of the gun debate. The recall election is likely to be even harder fought.
A Republican candidate hasn’t been named yet to challenge Morse, but the state GOP said it’s ready to fight for his seat.
“Today’s news is unprecedented, and serves as a necessary reminder to Gov. Hickenlooper and the radical Democrats in the state legislature that they must represent the people of this state, not their extreme special interests,” state GOP chairman Ryan Call said in a statement.
“The Colorado Republican Party is prepared to unite and mobilize behind a single Republican candidate that will be chosen by the people of El Paso County to defeat radical liberal John Morse in the recall election.”
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