Colorado voters kicked Democratic state senators John Morse and Angela Giron out of office Tuesday, the first legislators in the state’s 137-year history to be recalled by their constituents.
The Democrats were targeted for their support of strict new gun laws that have drawn both opposition and support since they were passed by a Democratic-controlled state legislature earlier this year, but the opponents had final say in the hard-fought races.
Morse, the now-former senate president, lost the recall by just 343 votes and conceded the election at around 10 p.m. local time. Republican Bernie Herpin will take his place in the Colorado state senate when the legislature convenes in January.
During his concession speech at a Colorado Springs hotel, Morse said he was honored to have served his district.
“We as the Democratic Party will continue to fight,” he said.
His opponents called his defeat a game-changer in terms of American gun control policy.
“The people of Colorado have made history tonight sending a loud and clear message that will reverberate throughout the country and alter the terrain of the gun-control debate,” said Kurt Bardella, a consultant for the campaigns seeking to recall Morse and fellow Democrat Sen. Angela Giron.
“What happened in Colorado, a purple state, could happen anywhere if the will of the people is ignored and politicians take their cues from New York City or Washington D.C.,” he said in a statement. “At the end of the day, people will not tolerate an imposition of un-checked government over-reach on their lives. The recall was a mechanism of accountability exercised by the people of Colorado.”
Giron’s lost by a wider margin, with 56 percent voting to recall and 43.9 percent to retain. She is replaced by Republican George Rivera.
The results culminated a tumultuous legislative session in which the Democratic majority passed a number of contentious new laws. Foremost were the gun control laws, which limited the size of ammunition magazines and require universal background checks.
Because of those laws, businesses are planning to leave the state, most of Colorado’s elected sheriffs have sued to have them overturned and voters in nine rural counties will choose whether to secede from Colorado during the election in November.
But Morse’s and Giron’s recalls were by far the most high profile reactions to the new laws, drawing big bucks from deep-pocketed out-of-state organizations with a stake in gun policy legislation. The National Rifle Association heavily funded the lawmakers’ opponents and gun control proponent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — whose last day in office was also on Tuesday — bankrolled their fight to stay in office.
“Perhaps this will serve as a lesson that one-party rule in Denver doesn’t give the majority license to take things to extremes or run roughshod over the values and rights of Coloradans who just happen, for the moment, to be in the minority,” Dustin Zvonek, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, is quoted as saying in the Denver Post.
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