Opponents of Colorado Senate President John Morse on Monday turned in more than 16,000 signatures demanding the Democratic leader’s recall. That’s more than twice the number required to trigger a special election that’s expected to be fought behind the scenes by national interests on both sides of the gun control debate.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has 15 days to certify that at least 7,178 of the signatures are valid for the recall election to proceed.
One of the main organizers of the effort told Denver’s 9News that she feels “very comfortable” meeting the threshold.
“With that much of a cushion, having half of them get tossed out, I’ve never seen that many be invalid,” Laura Carno, a political strategist, told the station.
Meanwhile, Morse and his supporters have charged that many of the signatures were gathered under false pretenses. The Denver Post reports that some of its readers said petitioners told them that Morse wanted to repeal Colorado’s “Make My Day” law, which immunizes homeowners from prosecution if they’re defending themselves against intruders.
In fact, Morse had proposed holding the owners, sellers and manufacturers of sporting rifles liable for any damage they cause, but he dropped the legislation before it could be voted on. Even a fellow Democrat called the proposal “absolutely nuts.”
Morse was the highest-profile Democrat in the state legislature supporting a wide range of gun control bills. Of seven bills that were introduced, five passed and will become law next month.
Morse can challenge the signatures in court, which he told 9News he was considering.
“Thousands of those signatures were obtained inappropriately,” Morse said. “Now, will we be able to prove that? We’ll have 15 days to figure that out. That’s going to be tricky.”
If petitioners have met the threshold, Morse can either go through with an election or he can resign and have the Democrats choose a replacement to serve out his term, an option he has said in the past he wouldn’t take.
An election will cost taxpayers about $150,000, El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams told the Denver Post, but many expect the race to attract national attention and campaigning.
“It does look increasingly like Morse is going to be fighting for his political life, and Morse is almost a bit player in all this,” Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli said in the Colorado Observer.
“It’s going to be national behemoths squaring off against each other in the form of [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and the NRA,” he said.
Just the news that Morse’s opponents are submitting signatures has garnered national comment.
In a statement released Monday, Michael Sargeant, the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee blasted Morse’s opponents as “extremists in Colorado [who] want to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to recall Senator Morse, for the supposed ‘malfeasance’ of working to make his community safer.”
Morse is term- limited and ineligible to run again after 2014. Democrat Mike Merrifield, a former state representative and former state coordinator for Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has already filed paperwork to run for the seat. Speculation has been that if Morse chooses to resign rather than run in a special election, Merrifield would be the obvious replacement.