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Morse recall draws contenders; protest hearing scheduled for June 27

June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm
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Candidates are lining up and money is flowing in to challenge Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, in a recall election.

But a technicality may toss out the battle before it begins.

As nit-picky as it may seem, there is Colorado court precedent for invalidating recall petitions because they failed to include a statement saying voters would select a replacement for the embattled official.

"A recall petition has to have that language. There are no 'ifs, ands, or buts about it,' " said Mark Grueskin, a Denver elections attorney representing the voter who is protesting the petition.

An effort in 2000 to oust a Central City court clerk went to court over the same question - whether the petition was valid without language declaring a successor will be voted in by the people.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the Colorado Constitution requires "recall petitions contain a demand for the election of a successor to the officer." Although in that the point became moot because the clerk had already survived the recall attempt.

Wagner College professor Joshua Spivak, one of a few political scientists that tracks recall efforts across the nation, said that technical challenges are common, but rarely successful.

"I think the judges don't want to throw out a recall - a right in the state's constitution - over what is frequently a minor technicality that could be cured through other means," Spivak said, adding that the Arizona Supreme Court essentially said as much in a decision on a technicality. "So here, you could change around the language on the ballot."

The protest will first be heard by Secretary of State Scott Gessler on June 27 at 8:30 a.m. in a public hearing in Denver.

A decision there could then be challenged in Denver District Court and eventually appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Two Republican candidates have filed to be on the recall ballot as replacement options if more voters want Morse out.

Former Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin filed his intent to run against Morse as soon as the Secretary of State validated the petition. Herpin, a Republican, is also a long-time member of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.

Jaxine Bubis, another Republican, also wants her name on the ballot, saying she's a grass-roots candidate who started working on the recall effort when it first began.

"I participated in the signature gathering because as a constituent of Morse's when he was pushing through this pretty extreme legislation, I contacted him as my Senator and never heard a word back," Bubis said. "It just really bothered me because this is representative government."

Two Democrats have filed their intent to run for Morse's open seat in 2014 when he is term limited. Neither Michael Merrifield nor Michael Maday returned phone calls Wednesday.

Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @capitolschrader

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