For several months now, we’ve been closely following the competing efforts working toward the possible but highly unlikely recall of Gov. Jared Polis–a campaign that would be unprecedented in size and expense, and so far hasn’t attracted even a fraction of either the financial or popular support that would be necessary for a successful outcome. That hasn’t stopped a number of local conservative political usual suspects like Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler from raking in the dough providing “services” to the campaigns. In recent weeks, however, the early split between two principal Polis recall groups further has blossomed into still another group hoping to put previous highly negative press behind them and unify the fractious groups into one cohesive effort.
Into this mess wades local reporter Sandra Fish for the Colorado Sun in a must-read story today that diligently follows up all of these confusing characters and storylines, bringing readers to the undeniable conclusion that the campaign to recall Gov. Polis is, as we’ve maintained all along in this space, a financial black hole where the “backlash” against Colorado Democrats for daring to win an election in 2018 is headed to die. There is no way that we can adequately recount the full details of this nearly 2,000 word story, so make sure you click through and read it all:
Juli-Andra Fuentes, who leads the Official Recall committee, confirmed the current situation. She said she estimates it will take at least $4.4 million, and her group won’t initiate the recall process until it has more money, enough volunteers and a candidate to replace Polis…
Some GOP political observers say the gargantuan effort to recall a governor in Colorado — especially one who spent $23 million from his own pocket to get elected — requires more financial and strategic resources than any of the groups appear able to marshal.
“They’re good people,” said Jon Caldara, a prominent Polis critic and president of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, referring to those behind the recall efforts. “I don’t think anyone really believes they’re going to recall Polis.” [Pols emphasis]
Given the fact that Caldara’s organization has directly profited from the fundraising for the “Official” Recall Polis campaign by hosting the transaction page and charging fees more than double that charged by GoFundMe, this frank admission that no one “really believes” the Polis recall will succeed is nothing short of astonishing. We noted earlier this month that the “official” campaign appears to have migrated away from Caldara’s Freedomfy site to another platform with (presumably) lower fees. Perhaps they realized Caldara’s not really there to help?
Fish reports that the campaign finance complaint we originally wrote about on June 17th has been dismissed by the Secretary of State, not terribly surprising given its amateurish literally handwritten composition. But the Sun’s own investigation confirms major problems with the recall committee’s reporting, including multiple unexplained corrections to fundraising reports with respect to Freedomfy fees in particular and in numerous cases donations appearing to lack proper itemization. Any future complaint can build on this much more credible investigation, and if not written in crayon should go over better with the Secretary of State.
Despite all of this uncertainty and the admission that they won’t be able to kick off their campaign on schedule, Fish reports the “Official” Recall Polis is warning its 41,000+ supporters to not sign on to any other petition or ally with the competing campaigns. There’s nothing stopping any of these groups from simply pulling a petition and starting their 60-day clock to collect the over 600,000 valid voter signatures required, but once a voter signs any recall petition the first petition turned in is the only one that will count.
As Sun Tzu famously observed, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” From the outset the desire of Colorado Republicans for retaliation against Democrats after their victory in the 2018 general elections at all levels has been stymied by infighting and terrible political judgment. Republicans frittered away crucial weeks when they arguably possessed momentum from the legislative session pursuing a recall against the worst possible target in Rep. Tom Sullivan, and now a longshot recall against Polis that might have at least had utility coat-tailing a couple of legislative recall petition drives is mired in division and scandal.
Bottom line: Jon Caldara is right that Gov. Polis won’t be recalled, and legislative recalls at this point are a distraction from the general election getting closer every day. If all of this doesn’t amount to a compelling argument for Colorado Republicans to give it up and start focusing on the next election where majorities are actually in play, it’s tough to know what does.