UPDATE: Here’s some evidence that the recall campaign against Sen. Brittany Pettersen is not off to what you’d call a well-organized start:
We found the first signature gathering operation for the doomed recall against @pettersen4co.
It’s in @jessiedanielson’s district.
— 🏴☠️ian silverii🏴☠️ (@iansilverii) July 13, 2019
Sure enough, Green Mountain Presbyterian Church on West Alameda is way outside SD-22, smack dab in the heart of Sen. Jessie Danielson’s district to the west.
Forward to victory, boys.
As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, just before close of business yesterday recall petitions were approved for circulation against two Democratic state senators who just won elections in 2018 by wide margins: Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.
Both won their seats by wide margins in the November 2018 general elections. Pettersen took her seat with 58% of the vote while Lee secured 62%.
“I’m proud of my record. This is an unfortunate abuse of power,” Pettersen told The Colorado Sun on Friday afternoon. “This is what (regular) elections are for when you disagree with somebody. I look forward to talking about why I ran for office and the work that I’ve done in the time that I’ve been elected and what I did last session.”
Pettersen added that she thinks the recall’s backers are “completely out of touch with voters in the community” and that “they keep messing with the wrong people.” She and her supporters have been preparing for weeks for a potential recall effort and have already been rallying support in the district.
Lee echoed Pettersen’s sentiment, saying “I’m really disappointed that people would undermine and disrespect the voters and the democratic process by attempting to recall someone for the votes that they took.”
Both lawmakers are being targeted for the same arithmetic reason: although recall elections are intended to be reserved for cases of official misconduct and crime, the signature requirement to initiate a recall election of a state lawmaker is low enough to make the job relatively straightforward for a well-funded petition gathering drive. It’s only necessary to gather 11,300 signatures to get a recall on the ballot in Sen. Lee’s urban Colorado Springs SD-11, and just under 18,400 in Pettersen’s suburban SD-22. Where the signature requirement to recall a statewide officeholder is dauntingly high, recalls of individual lawmakers have been celebrated by Colorado Republicans as giving them voting leverage they no longer can count on in a general election.
With that said, there’s real question about whether or not these recalls have any actual support among either Republican insiders or rank-and-file members. There’s no way to know for sure how a signature campaign is going until the campaign turns in signatures or they concede failure ahead of the deadline like in the case of the campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan. But at this point we haven’t seen anything like a Republican wave of support for these two latest recalls. In fact,
Neither is being backed by any real political effort, correct?
There’s a big difference between a recall petition being pulled by a random activist or rag tag group of nobodies versus a formal recall effort backed by serious groups.
Pretty sure these are both the former.
— Tyler Sandberg (@wtylersandberg) July 12, 2019
If local Republican operative Tyler Sandberg of EIS Solutions is to be believed, these recalls are not moving forward with the support of the Republican donor/consultant class. It is possible that the months of infighting, nasty press, and strategic blunders like the Sullivan fiasco really have persuaded smart Republicans to give up on recalls and focus on the rapidly approaching 2020 elections.
But until anyone knows for sure whether this is a bonafide or silly-season threat to either lawmaker, Democrats are obliged to not just take the threat seriously but to capitalize to maximum advantage on the organizing opportunity this presents for Democrats in their districts. In the next 60 days we expect both will walk their districts like it’s the fall before a general election–which is the best possible defense against both the signature drive and, should it come to it, a recall election.
As for Republicans who want to pursue recalls instead of focusing on the next regular election, they’re going to keep doing it until they lose enough times to realize it won’t work. The only thing you can be sure of is Democrats will not be complacent to the threat ever again–or until the law is changed to preserve recalls for offenses that deserve the ultimate political punishment.