DENVER — A Rocky Mountain earthquake in the form of Tuesday’s successful recall drives targeting two prominent Democrats who advocate gun control has shifted the state and national political landscape going into the 2014 elections.
The shocking defeat Tuesday night of two state lawmakers in Colorado’s first-ever legislative recall election despite a 7-1 spending advantage by gun control proponents represented a double blow for Democrats. It could hobble the party’s political dominance in the state and reshape the political debate over gun laws nationally in the 2014 midterm elections.
Gun rights advocates seized on another win after the U.S. Senate rejected a package of gun control measures pushed by President Obama in the months after the December shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“This clearly affects the national gun debate in that this alternate strategy of Mayor Bloomberg to take this fight to the states instead of Washington has obviously taken a hit,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “The recall is now a new tool for passionate believers in the Second Amendment.”
The results also are seen as a vote of no confidence in the Colorado Democratic Party’s aggressive legislative agenda after a session that was widely described as the most liberal in state history. The party pushed through an activist liberal agenda on gun control, energy, immigrant rights and other issues after gaining control of the state legislature in November.
Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire New York City mayor who founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was seen as the behind-the-scenes driver of the state legislature’s gun control package. He also donated $350,000 to a group fighting the recall.
But his involvement seemed to backfire during the campaign as gun rights advocates painted him as a symbol of out-of-state interference in local matters. A pro-Democrat robocall issued shortly before the election by former President Bill Clinton further contributed to the perception that Coloradans had lost control of their state.
“The Democrats lost not only because of the passion behind the gun issue, but there was also a sense among voters that they felt like they were not being heard,” Mr. Ciruli said.
The recall races attracted national attention, and gun rights groups said Wednesday that the results would have widespread ramifications.
“This was a huge victory for civil rights over extremism,” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said in a statement. “And the well-financed gun prohibition movement knows it. In reality, what [Tuesday’s] election shows is that big money, the kind shelled out by anti-gun New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, really can’t buy an election.”
Nowhere was that more evident than in the Giron recall in heavily Democratic Pueblo. Ms. Giron lost by a whopping 56 percent to 44 percent.
“I was dumbfounded by the results of the recall out of Senate District 3,” said Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, who was not involved the recall. “I underestimated the power of conservative Democrats to basically turn on a Democratic incumbent.”
It emerged Wednesday that the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling had picked up an anti-Giron surge in a survey of the district before the vote, but so doubted its findings that it did not publicize them.