- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2013

DENVER | Two Republicans were sworn in Thursday to replace ousted Democratic state Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse, capping Colorado’s history-making recall elections and signaling a shift in the state’s political direction.

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender delivered the oath of office to Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs and George Rivera of Pueblo before a standing-room-only crowd in the state Senate gallery.

“My good friend Jenna said, ‘Don’t get emotional.’ I can’t help it,” said Mr. Rivera in his floor remarks after the swearing-in.

The recalls didn’t change the balance of power in the state Senate — Democrats still control the chamber, 18 to 17 — but the ouster of two prominent Democrats is expected to put the brakes on the Legislature’s aggressive liberal agenda.

“This definitely changes things,” said Republican state Sen. Ted Harvey, who attended the ceremony. “Every one of these radical bills the governor and Legislature are being held accountable for passed by one or two votes. And those one or two votes were just recalled.”

Triggering the recalls was the Democratic Legislature’s passage of three gun control bills approved with no Republican votes and signed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in March.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman said he hoped state legislators would “take a lesson on what happened this year and that we can set sail on [moving] partisanship out of this building.”

Mr. Morse, the Senate president, lost by a margin of 51 to 49 percent, while Ms. Giron lost by 56 to 44 percent. Both Mr. Herpin and Mr. Rivera were the only Republican alternatives on the recall ballots, and each won with more than 97 percent of the vote.

Mr. Herpin said he figured he was done with politics after losing his bid for re-election to the Colorado Springs City Council in April.

“I liked serving in local office. I never really considered running for the Legislature before this,” said Mr. Herpin. “I’m just so honored to have this opportunity.”

Mr. Morse took a parting shot at the recallers in a statement released Thursday, saying he leaves the state Legislature “with no regrets” and calling Mr. Herpin a “pawn.”

“Bernie Herpin was used as a pawn in an election where almost 80 percent of voters did not even participate and only 11 percent of the district elected him,” said Mr. Morse. “Make no mistake about it — he was elected in a myopic recall where he ran on only one issue. Senate District 11 has dynamic needs and is not defined by one issue.”

Ms. Giron said she plans to resume her work as a “citizen advocate” and that she also stands by her votes in favor of the gun control bills.

“I’m leaving, not on my own terms, but with my integrity intact and with the sure and certain knowledge that Colorado and Pueblo are safer with these modest gun safety laws,” she said in a statement.

Robert Garcia, who drove two hours from Pueblo to watch the ceremony, said he waved signs at intersections and knocked on doors in support of Mr. Rivera, a retired Pueblo deputy police chief who also leads the Fat Chance Blues Band.

Pro-Democrat groups outspent the recallers and Republicans by at least 6 to 1, but Mr. Garcia said the funding differential helped motivate Rivera supporters.

“This just shows that money doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Garcia, who added that he’s a Democrat. “It was an incentive for us to get out there and work for George, and it turned out to be a really fun thing.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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