Bernie Herpin wins bid for GOP spot on Morse recall ballot

July 9, 2013 Updated: July 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm
photo - Sen. John Morse (Dem.) of Colorado Springs addresses the senate during the opening day of the Colorado State Legislature was on Wednesday, January 12, 2011. Morse is the majority leader of the senate. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Sen. John Morse (Dem.) of Colorado Springs addresses the senate during the opening day of the Colorado State Legislature was on Wednesday, January 12, 2011. Morse is the majority leader of the senate. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

Former Colorado Springs City Council member Bernie Herpin won the GOP spot on the ballot in the attempt to oust state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs Tuesday night in a semi-official primary.

Herpin received 30 votes from Republican leaders living within Senate District 11 while Jaxine Bubis received 18. Both candidates had expressed their intent to challenge Morse in the upcoming recall election, but had agreed to allow 51 voters to decide which candidate should be on the ballot.

Bubis was the subject of critical emails circulated among Republicans attacking a series of romance novels she wrote under a pen name. Bubis said Tuesday she respected the process and would support Herpin in the upcoming election.

Almost all of the eligible 51 voters turned out Tuesday night to cast a ballot.

Morse and three other state lawmakers were targeted for ouster from office when they supported a ban on high-capacity magazines and universal background checks for private gun sales. Only Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, also received enough signatures on recall petitions to face an election.

A date for the recall elections has not been set.

Gov. John Hickenlooper will set the date within a 30 day window that begins 45 days after the Secretary of State certified that the petition drive had enough signatures to demand a recall.

The campaign to unseat Morse gathered more than 10,000 valid signatures that were certified June 18 - placing the election sometime in August.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams recommended that the election date by August 27 - the last possible date in the 30-day window that doesn't fall on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

But Morse and his supporters are working hard to keep the issue off the ballot.

A constituent from the district first filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's office saying the petition and all 10,000 valid signatures should be tossed out because it failed to inform voters that Morse would be replaced in an election.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert rejected that argument and ordered the recall election be scheduled by the governor.

Staiert also ruled against a similar challenge to the recall attempt of Giron. That decision was appealed Tuesday in a complaint to Denver District Court asking for an injunction, postponing the election until the court can also rule on whether the petition meets state law requirements.

Megan Castle, spokeswoman for Hickenlooper, said the office is working to establish an "optimal date" for the election but said things could get put on hold because of the lawsuit.

"We are reviewing the implications of this lawsuit and its potential impact on the timing of our decision," Castle said in a statement.

While, the GOP candidate is set for a potential recall election, it's unknown if any Democrats will enter the race to replace Morse.

The two Democrats who filed their intent to run in 2014, when Morse reaches his term limit, have both said they will not enter the recall.

Michael Merrifield, a former state representative and Manitou Springs councilmember, said he will put all of his campaign efforts behind keeping Morse in office and then focus on his race for Senate District 11 in 2014.

"It's very frustrating that he's dealing with a recall when a majority of voters voted him in, and a majority of voters support what he's done," Merrifield said. "He's a great guy and he's been a great senator."

Dan Ajamian, a Republican precinct leader who voted Tuesday in the primary, said he participated because he wants to get Morse out of office.

The Senate District 11 voter said he's spoken to moderates and Manitou Springs hippies about the issue and all agree Morse needs to go.

"They are all furious about what John Morse did in Denver, so I'm confident that we will recall John Morse," Ajamian said. "It's not just right-wing fanatics; it's the normal average citizen."

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