Republicans working to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan over his support of the new red-flag law are dropping their effort.
Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora movie theater shootings, has elicited much support since the recall effort was announced.
The Centennial Democrat got into politics to strengthen gun control laws, and the red-flag bill that passed this year allows guns to be temporarily confiscated from anyone proven by evidence to have mental health problems and to pose a risk to themselves or others.
“We are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts” and instead will work to oust Sullivan in the 2020 election, said a Tuesday Facebook post by Kristi Burton Brown, vice chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and chief organizer of the recall drive.
Backed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and a group tied to state House GOP leadership, Sullivan’s detractors sought to recall the first-term lawmaker. Recall petitions against him were approved in mid-May, and the group had until July 12 to collect 10,035 valid signatures of registered voters in House District 37.
“The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Colorado GOP again underestimated the support we have from the people in my district. I’m excited to continue talking to voters and making sure their voices are heard in the state House. I’ll always work hard to earn their votes and make sure that fringe groups can’t undermine our democracy,” Sullivan said.
The spokesman for a group working to defend Democratic legislators facing recalls tore into Sullivan’s critics.
“Their recall effort was an absolute nonstarter in the district, and their extremist messaging did more to hurt their efforts than help it,” said Matthew McGovern, executive director of the Democrats’ House Majority Project and an organizer with Our Colorado Way of Life.
“If there was any chance of this recall succeeding, they wouldn’t be running away from it, and their statement shows that they learned nothing from this failed attempt.”
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners issued a statement that it, too, has stopped gathering recall signatures “to refocus our resources on upcoming recalls and legislative battles.”
A statement from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown said: “It’s clear from our work on the ground in HD-37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at large. Tom Sullivan’s socialist voting record and radically anti-gun positions will be a central discussion piece of the 2020 general election.”
The announcement the recall proponents are pulling the plug comes as costs have been mounting for organizers on both sides. Just hours before Brown said she was canceling the effort, one of the groups defending Sullivan announced national gun-safety organizations had poured more than $100,000 into the anti-recall campaign.
Democracy First Colorado, organized to push against recall campaigns aimed at Democratic legislators, said it received $100,000 over the past two weeks from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, a group mostly funded by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and $10,000 from Giffords, an organization founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Tucson Democrat who was shot in the head during a mass shooting that killed six people, including a Giffords aide, a 9-year-old girl and U.S. District Chief Judge John Roll.
“We are proud to stand with Rep. Sullivan in the face of this cynical effort to undermine the will of the people,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt.
Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, also hailed the recall’s demise.
“I think that Tom Sullivan is a dedicated public servant who took personal tragedy and turned it into a drive to make life better for other Coloradans. And I’m glad that he won’t have to go through something as divisive and negative as a recall, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the next state legislative session,” Polis told Colorado Politics in an interview.
Brown declined an interview request. She has said she was leading the recall effort “as a citizen and a mom,” not as a GOP official. Party leaders had not officially endorsed the effort.
Opponents of the recall had cast it as an attempt to thwart the will of the voters.
One of those opponents was Tom Wist, whom Sullivan unseated in last November’s election.
The former Republican Assistant House GOP leader tweeted May 14: “Last year, state GOP leadership failed to speak up to defend me when RMGO carpet bombed my house district with negative flyers. Now, these same leaders pledge to work with RMGO to take out my successor in a recall. I do not support this effort.
“It is unfortunate but crystal clear. RMGO owns the Colorado Republican Party.”
Wist had sponsored a different version of the red-flag bill last year. This year, Sullivan showed up at the Capitol every day of the session wearing a leather jacket that belonged to his son, Alex, one of the 12 victims killed in the theater shootings.
Ian Silverii, executive director of the ProgressNow Coloradol political advocacy group, also issued a statement: “The misguided recall campaign against Tom Sullivan exposed the biggest problem in Colorado politics today. Unserious extremists and outright grifters have taken control of the Colorado Republican Party. The problem has been festering for years while the local party establishment believed it could direct Dudley Brown’s mob to its own ends. Now the inmates have taken control of the asylum, and this latest humiliating failure for Colorado Republicans is the inevitable outcome.”
Sullivan also angered conservatives over his support for other bills, including one that would allocate all of Colorado’s Electoral College votes for president to the highest vote-getter nationally, regardless of who wins in Colorado, if a certain number of other states agree to follow suit.
Conservatives are gathering signatures to hold a statewide referendum on that legislation, which won’t take effect before the 2020 presidential election.
Colorado Politics’ Marianne Goodland contributed to this story.