Published: May 16, 2013
Southwestern Colorado Springs has become a battle ground for the effort to recall Sen. John Morse with signature gatherers bumping against the decline to sign movement at grocery stores, libraries and street corners.
Enough money - a total of almost $40,000 - has funneled into both the recall effort and the group supporting Morse to make it feel like election season for Senate District 11.
Web sites and Facebook pages have been launched, radio adds are running like clockwork and robocalls and polls are underway.
Morse was targeted for recall along with several other Democrats by groups opposed to gun regulations passed during the 2013 legislative session and signed into law in March.
To put the issue on the ballot requires 7,178 valid signatures from voters registered in the district. That is 25 percent of the 28,712 votes cast in 2010 when Morse narrowly defeated Republican challenger Owen Hill to win the seat.
Christy LeLait, executive director of the El Paso County Democratic Party, said turnout was low in 2010 compared to the 84,206 registered voters in the district that encompasses a large swath of southwestern Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.
"It is not a lot, and I think that's been part of the concern," LeLait said. "That could be one of the reasons why they're going after him."
The district leans to the left with 28,022 registered Democrats compared to 21,110 Republicans. But there are a whopping 33,471 unaffiliated voters and 1,600 voters are registered for third parties.
If enough signatures are confirmed by the Secretary of State, voters will decide whether Morse should be recalled from office. The ballot will also ask who should replace him if he is recalled. Candidates can file to get their name on the recall ballot just like any election.
Successful recall efforts are rare in Colorado, and there has never been a successful recall of a state-level politician.
That hasn't dissuaded the Basic Freedom Defense Fund and it's spin-off groups from trying to unseat Morse and three other Democrats: Senators Angela Giron of Pueblo, Evie Hudak of Westminster and Rep. Mike McLachlan of Durango.
"I saw the recall efforts going on statewide and sort of stat back and thought about it because recall efforts are a tough climb," said Laura Carno, founder of the Colorado Springs-based I Am Created Equal. "But because Sen. Morse was the architect of this gun legislation and how he tried to stifle legislation by running so many bills through in one day ... it was the right thing to do to help them."
Carno's group has donated roughly $14,000 to the effort, which the El Paso Freedom Defense Fund reported was spent on hiring Kennedy Enterprises - a local petition gathering and polling operation.
The paid signature gatherers have been going door to door, stopping people outside grocery stores, libraries and even doing "drive and sign" roadside events.
Just like any campaign season, there's plenty of mud. LeLait says signature gatherers are misleading people about what they're signing.
Alongside those paid signature gatherers are paid workers from LeLait's organization A Whole Lot of People for John Morse. That group is predominately funded by the America Votes Action Fund a super-PAC based in Washington that receives contributions from union groups and a conservation group.
Carno says Morse backers are doing the misleading, with advertisements that claim her group is gathering personal information and hiring convicted felons.
The signatures must be gathered by June 3 and Gov. John Hickenlooper must put the issue on a ballot during a 30 day window that starts 45 days after the signatures are verified.