Colorado recalls for state legislators likely to be close

PUEBLO, Colo. - Tuesday’s Colorado recall elections, pitting energized gun owners against well-funded Democrats, careened toward the finish line with weekend get-out-the-vote drives as analysts attempted to predict which way voters are leaning.

The best guess anyone has, though, is that the state’s first legislative recall elections are likely to be close.

“There’s no precedent. We have no idea who’s going to turn out — it could be 10 percent,” Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said. “The Second Amendment people should dominate, but the other side has $3 million, and when you put $3 million into a race, you’re going to dramatically increase turnout, and that might be enough to overwhelm the core group of people who signed the petitions.”

There’s no question Colorado Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron have the cash advantage, thanks to a national fundraising effort has allowed them to flood their districts with television and radio ads, mailers and ground troops in an effort to save their seats.

Meanwhile, the three young plumbers running the Giron recall in Pueblo recently scraped together a few thousand bucks in order to run their homegrown YouTube ad during low-cost time slots like the midnight showing of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

“It’s crazy. She runs ads that are $4,500 for a single spot, and I’m spreading out $2,000, but, hey, some of it works,” said Victor Head, the 28-year-old president of Pueblo Freedom and Rights. “I think we’re still on track. I think we’ve got a lot of support.”

The recalls were spurred by the Democrat-controlled legislature’s passage of three gun-control bills in March, but Democrats have barely mentioned the firearms debate during the campaign. Instead, they’re focusing on traditional go-to issues like abortion.

One ad sponsored by a pro-Democrat issue committee calls the Republican challengers on the recall ballot “so extreme they support a plan that could ban common forms of birth control and allow police to investigate women who have miscarriages.”

Running against Ms. Giron for the Pueblo seat is Republican George Rivera, a retired deputy police chief. Mr. Morse’s competition is Republican Bernie Herpin, who previously served on the Colorado Springs City Council. Both Republicans are pro-life.

“[The recall] has gotten derailed a little bit with attacks on the candidates and whatnot, and it almost started focusing on birth control and stuff, but I think we’ve gotten it back to guns, which started it all, and not listening, the accountability issue,” Mr. Head said.

The National Rifle Association jumped in last month with a $250,000 pro-recall buy, but the group hasn’t paid much attention to the Pueblo race. Like most of the smart money, the NRA’s focus has been on the Colorado Springs recall, which is viewed as the more winnable contest.

Mr. Morse barely squeaked out a victory in 2010 running against both a Republican and a Libertarian in a traditional GOP stronghold. As Senate president, he also is seen as a juicier target than first-termer Ms. Giron, who represents a heavily Democratic district.

High-profile Republicans including former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running for the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nomination, campaigned on behalf of the Morse recall Saturday, while Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat, spoke at pro-Morse rally Friday at Colorado College.

“I am feeling good,” Mr. Morse said in an interview Friday on MSNBC. “There’s no question it’s going to be close. The other side has poured an awful lot of money in this, right from the start. It’s been an uphill climb the whole time but, you know, we’re doing the very best we can.”

Analysts estimate that the Democratic anti-recall camp is outspending the recallers by at least 8-to-1. Two billionaires — New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Eli Broad of Los Angeles — gave a combined $600,000 to fight the recalls, while labor unions, Planned Parenthood Votes and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee have also pitched in.

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