Published: August 15, 2013
Bernie Herpin, a self-described fiscal and social conservative who turned 70 Friday, said unlike the Democratic senator he is trying to replace in the Sept. 10 recall election, he can work and listen to both sides on an issue.
"I'm not so hard over that I don't listen to the other side," Herpin who served on the Colorado Springs City Council for six years. "In my time on City Council I made it a point, I went to gay and lesbians to Focus on the Family, and met with any group that wanted an ear."
Voters in Senate District 11 will be asked whether Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, should be recalled from office for, among other things, a bill he introduced attempting to hold the manufacturers and sellers of military-style assault rifles liable for damages by shooting victims.
Herpin's name will appear on the ballot below the recall question as a possible replacement if Morse is ousted. Other candidates have until Aug. 26 to turn in signatures to have their names added to the ballot. Two libertarian candidates have expressed interest.
For Herpin the gun issue is personal.
In 1992 he attended an NRA dinner opposing the Brady Bill and a year later he helped found the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, a non-profit gun-rights advocacy group.
Morse killed his strict-liability bill before it was voted on in the Senate, but he supported five other gun-bills that eventually became law. Following the votes, more than 10,000 eligible voters in the district signed a petition to force the recall election.
Herpin said he was threatened with a recall while he was in office, and he was not happy about it.
"You serve at the pleasure of the people and if enough constituents are concerned enough to get out and sign a petition for a recall then you answer to the people," Herpin said. "He has ignored us, he has ignored his constituents for the most people and I think the people in District 11, enough of them, over 10,000 said enough is enough."
Herpin is out actively campaigning for the office - raising money while volunteers canvas neighborhoods and staff phone banks. Herpin has raised more than $37,000 according to an Aug. 5 campaign report.
But for him it's a candidate campaign, where donors are limited to $200 each. Morse's campaign is an issue committee which can accept unlimited funds from any donor. There are issue campaigns set up to try and unseat Morse.
And an issue committee established on July 31 - We Can Do Better Colorado - has targeted Herpin with negative ads.
"Politician Bernie Herpin supports a plan that would deny women access to common forms of birth control," one direct mail ad paid for by the group says.
Herpin said he was disappointed in the ads and is trying to get the ads removed.
"My personal belief is I'm pro-life," Herpin said. "I have never imposed my beliefs on anyone. I've never made a statement; I've never supported any kind of legislation that would say all forms of birth control are bad, that abortions should be restricted. While I don't support abortion personally, that's not for me to say for someone else."
Herpin - who has lived in the same house in Colorado Springs for 33 years, said his name recognition and record on City Council is why he was encouraged to run. He and his wife Linda raised their three daughters in town and have attended the same church for years.
"When I left City Council in April I figured 'I'm done with politics,' " Herpin said. "But this is too important an issue for me to sit on the sidelines."