September 3, 2013 Updated: September 3, 2013 at 7:32 am
DENVER - Last week polls opened unexpectedly early in Pueblo, financial disclosures revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state pouring into the recall elections and Gov. John Hickenlooper sent out an e-mail.
"These recall elections cost a small fortune and do nothing to improve democracy or representative government," Hickenlooper wrote to members of the Democratic Party in Colorado. "They are intended to intimidate and punish a select number of Democratic legislators for daring to vote their conscience - for daring to do the right thing to make their communities safer."
It's the first time the governor has actively campaigned for two Democratic Senators facing recall elections next week for their support of gun control measures that Hickenlooper signed into law this summer. And the email did not include the names of either Morse of Giron.
Some question why so little, so late.
Voters in Colorado Springs will decide whether to keep Senate President John Morse in office and in Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron is facing potential ouster.
"To a skilled political eye the timing is perfect here," said Bob Loevy, a retired professor of political science at Colorado College. "Most campaigns will schedule the endorsements so they hit right at the time when people are starting to make up their minds and right at the time you want to stimulate the people in your party."
Loevy, who lives in Morse's Senate District 11, said it's impossible to know what the governor has done behind the scenes.
But Hickenlooper isn't jumping out of any airplanes for Giron and Morse as he did when he was pulling for two referendums aimed at curbing the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in 2005.
"Hickenlooper is a remarkably politically savvy man," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute and vocal advocate of recalling Morse and Giron. "The last thing he wants is for this to be a referendum on him. These are going to be very, very tight races . but he doesn't want to be identified with this. That's my guess as to why he's so absent."
Hickenlooper said through a spokesperson that he plans to do more stumping for Morse and Giron but wasn't more specific. Christy Le Lait, chairwoman of campaign to keep Morse in office, said the campaign is thrilled with the governor's support.
"This is simply how Hickenlooper operates," Loevy said. "Being mister cool, mister never does anything rash or gets excited. That's been his political brand for his entire career."
The governor is also in a difficult position, because he has had to make non-political decisions about the election such as setting the election date in the face of a contentious legal squabble and directing legal counsel when the recall election law has wound up in court.
He sent out an apolitical news release Friday urging voters in Senate districts 3 and 11 to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
"When the elections are over, voters in these two senate districts should be able to agree that there was an open, fair process - and that everyone was heard," Hickenlooper said in the release.
But the undertone of the e-mail could have been urging Republican Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams to open up early voting centers earlier than planned.
In Pueblo, Democratic Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz opened precincts unexpectedly on Friday in response to a series of court rulings that eliminated the possibility of mail ballots being sent to anyone except those who specifically request emergency absentee ballots or overseas military.
The clerk's office in Pueblo will have voting machines open to the public every day from Labor Day through election day on Sept. 10. That's 10 days for voters to cast ballots. During six of those days there will be 10 other voter centers open.
A new election law, House Bill 1303, eliminated the use of neighborhood precincts in favor of all mail ballots and a few voting service centers. Since the court order made mailing a ballot to every registered voter unfeasible, many are concerned voter turnout will be dampened without traditional precincts opening.
In El Paso County four voting centers will be open for early voting beginning Thursday, excluding Sunday, through election day. And another three voting centers will be open Sept. 9 and 10.
Contact Megan Schrader