May 27, 2013 Updated: May 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm
In a campaign to recall a Colorado Springs state senator over his stance on firearm regulations, supporters can win gun-themed prizes.
Bob Kooser found out Thursday in a mass email to volunteers working to recall Colorado Senate President John Morse that he won a 30-round ammunition magazine.
"We're doing it because we believe in the cause, but it's nice to be recognized," Kooser said.
Other prizes for volunteers with the Basic Freedom Defense Fund and El Paso Freedom Defense Committee campaigns: gift cards, ammunition and a 9 mm pistol.
The prizes underline a cause uniting Morse opponents. As Senate president, the term-limited Democrat pushed a slew of firearm regulations through the state General Assembly this year that expanded background checks, increased firearm-related fees and banned the sale of high-capacity magazines.
Paul Paradis, owner of local gun shop Paradise Sales Firearms and one of the three people who filed the recall petition with the Secretary of State, said the prizes were, in part, his idea. He is donating ammunition and the pistol to reward the hundreds of volunteers working to oust Morse
"I didn't know any other way to thank them," he said.
Volunteers have hit the streets throughout Morse's district in southwestern Colorado Springs gathering signatures to put the recall to a vote. Getting 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. Morse's term expires in 2014.
The prizes aimed at speeding Morse's departure from office may seem odd, but they're legal, Paradis said.
"If an 18-year-old won (the pistol) I'd let them change it to a rifle because they can't legally have a handgun," he said. "This is all legal."
The prizes to volunteers augment a paid signature gathering effort.
Recall-backer Robert Blancken learned about his prize, for being a top signature-gatherer, in an email update from recall organizers. He gave back the $100 gift card.
Blancken said he gathered more than 300 petition signatures for the recall through Friday. He's also earned a 30-round magazine for the gathering the second-highest signature total through May 12.
Tom Cronin, a professor of political science at Colorado College, said he's never heard of a campaign using prizes for volunteers like the ones being doled out in Colorado Springs.
Prizes don't necessarily make campaigns more successful said Cronin, who has written specifically on the subject of recalls in America.
"Recall elections get nasty, but I've never heard of this elsewhere," Cronin said.
Morse supporters and opponents have been trading barbs for weeks, alleging dirty campaigning.
As of Thursday, no complaints have been filed with the Secretary of State's office regarding the Morse recall petition.
Ryan Parsell, spokesman for elections at the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, said that a few people have called to complain about robo-calls and mailers from both sides of the recall, but no formal complaints can be filed with the county until the petition is verified by the state.
While there are no formal complaints, that doesn't mean the campaign isn't getting on people's nerves. A King Soopers store manager had to step in Wednesday afternoon when a group of petitioners was found collecting signatures out front of the business near 19th and Uintah streets against company policy. According to King Soopers spokeswoman Kelli McGannon, it's a policy that's not unique to the one grocery company.
The signature gathering may be over soon.
Organizer Rob Harris, who called himself a spokesman for the recall effort, declined to comment on the exact number of signatures collected, but he said that it has climbed past the 7,178 mark. He said recall backers are preparing for the state to invalidate up to 50 percent of the signatures on petitions - meaning that they're looking for more than 14,000 signers.
"What we're working on right now is our buffer," Blancken said.