Recall Vote Throws Wrench in Colorado’s Liberal Shift

A historic vote sends a message to gun control advocates that the West still has a wild streak

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Ed Andrieski / AP

Colorado State Senators Angela Giron and and John Morse who are facing recall elections.

Any wind still left in the sails of gun control advocates likely died—at least for now—when Colorado voters successfully recalled two state senators on Sept. 10. This stern punishment came after lawmakers in the Mile High state toughened regulations on background checks and limited the size of ammo magazines.

It was a rout. Billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led a team of deep-pocketed out-of-towners in trying to rescue state senate president John Morse and his colleague Sen. Angela Giron, both Democrats. But the grassroots rebellion, fanned and funded by the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups, was more motivated. Said Tim Knight, a leader of the uprising: “Tonight is a victory for the people of the state of Colorado, who have been subject to the overreach of a Democrat agenda on guns, taxes and accountability.”

Colorado has been a success story for liberals in recent years as migration and immigration swelled Front Range cities like Denver and Boulder. Shaken by the Columbine rampage and the Aurora movie theater massacre, statehouse Democrats answered President Obama’s State of the Union call for new gun control measures early this year.

That’s when they discovered that the West still has a wild streak. Applications to buy high-capacity firearms jumped by more than 80,000 from the same period a year earlier, as citizens rushed to beat the July 1 deadline in the new law. Sheriffs in 54 of Colorado’s 64 counties joined a lawsuit challenging the new regulations as unworkable and unconstitutional. And the recall caught fire in two places where the liberal tide was never very strong: blue-collar Pueblo and formerly conservative Colorado Springs.

On the same day, Colorado became the first state in the union to pass the regulations necessary to set up a market for legal marijuana sales, so maybe the big story here is about the rise of libertarians demanding less government of all kinds.

No matter how the results are interpreted, though, the Colorado uprising will send a message to lawmakers across the country—and not just about gun control. Recall elections are much easier to organize in the Internet age. In the 137-year history of Colorado, no lawmaker had been successfully recalled until Morse and Giron made it two in one night.

Which is why the GOP never got very enthusiastic about ousting the two Democrats. As Knight told one interviewer: “The Republicans don’t want anything to do with us because they think, ‘Next they’ll recall us’.”