Once Again, These Were Two Different Recall Elections

Recalled Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron.

Recalled Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron.

As the post-mortem coverage of last week's historic recall elections in Colorado continues, we're seeing a trend toward an inaccurate hindsight narrative of what happened. It's important for both sides–Democrats seeking to prevent further recurrences, and Republicans hoping to adopt their success as a model to use elsewhere–to understand what actually happened, and how the results in the two separate recall elections held last week differ widely–just not in the biggest respect, the bottom line.

A story by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels today typifies this problem:

Opponents of an effort to recall two Democratic state senators for supporting stricter gun laws borrowed a page from an earlier playbook, arguing reproductive rights were in peril if the lawmakers were kicked out of office.

But the message — so effective in keeping Republican Ken Buck from becoming a U.S. senator in 2010 — failed to protect Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, who were recalled by their constituents Sept. 10…

Here's the hole in Bartels' seductively lazy analysis: The Senate District 11 recall was decided by a mere 343 votes in unofficial tallies, while the margin of defeat for Sen. Angela Giron was over ten times that in an election with only about twice the number of voters as SD-11. As we've noted repeatedly in this space, the loss of mail ballots in the SD-11 recall can fully account for the margin of defeat for Senate President John Morse. Fewer vote centers and shorter hours to vote in El Paso County also factored disproportionately in this very close election.

This means any attempt to ascribe some kind of "common meaning" to these two elections, as the above story seems determined to do, is off-base. But for the logistical voting problems in SD-11, it's very likely that Sen. Morse would have prevailed in his recall. If that had happened, obviously we wouldn't be reading about how this or that tactic "failed" to save Morse, we'd be talking about how those tactics had succeeded. The truth is, 343 votes is not enough of a margin, especially given those balloting problems, to make any such judgment either way. In 2010, Sen. Michael Bennet very narrowly defeated Ken Buck in a victory heavily influenced by a collapse of support from women. Without polling to know that had happened, which we haven't had in this recall, it's impossible to know how well the ads against Bernie Herpin on the issue of reproductive choice actually worked.

Impossible to know, and irresponsible to assume.

That said, Democrats do need to acknowledge that something bad, and very different from the close race in SD-11, happened in Senate District 3. They won't find the answer in this story, in which Bartels indolently lets GOP talking head Katy Atkinson dive into free-ranging speculation about why Pueblo Democrats turned out one of their own. We seriously doubt it was the civil unions legislation passed this year as Atkinson speculates. The story we've heard, and tend to believe, is that Sen. Giron was perceived by many rank-and-file Pueblo Democrats as having neglected constituent services in the district. There is some cross-partisan appeal to the gun issue that needs to be acknowledged too, but if those we've spoken with about this are to be believed, much of the heavy margin of defeat for Giron, in a far more Democratic district, can be attributed to factors unique to Giron personally.

The proof of our theory, which we're at least honest enough to represent as a theory, will come in 2014–when GOP Sen.-elect George Rivera is defeated by a wide margin of his own. In the meantime, if Republicans want to believe that they are no longer vulnerable on the issue of reproductive choice and health, we know plenty of Democrats who'd be happy to encourage them.

37 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    Excellent analysis, measured, sensible and qualified by what is knowable and what isn't completely knowable as yet. Much better than Bartels' sloppy job. 

  2. Moderatus says:

    Libs. The recalls were about guns. Democrat gun owners in Pueblo helped take down Giron. Sure, maybe she was a crappy representative too.

    But it was guns. I believe it was Colorado Pols who said in your own recap that Democrats running from the gun issue helped seal their doom. I don't think it was civil unions either, but Democrats need to be honest about what happened.

    You trampled the people's rights and paid the price.

    • Duke Cox says:

      Oh…yeah…"the giant wave of sleeping fear"..was it?..no, wait…it was "the awakening of the sleeping wave giant"…no, um… that's not it.

      Oh well, anyway…fuck it…

      • BlueCat says:

        In any case, doesn't Moderatus look great compared to all of our other righties, especially our newest additions?  Moderatus may well be the only rightie participant left who still deserves the occassional reply. The rest are either just 100% stupid ignorant bed wetting punks or insist that just because you hit "reply" to a specific comment you are under no obligation to directly address anything in that comment and certainly not with anything akin to evidence. It's almost enough to inspire a second or two of warm fuzzies. I did say "almost", mind.

        • fishingblues says:

          redcat, I suspect you believe your post was substantive, eh comrade?

        • Moderatus says:

          Why, thank you.

          Would you like to respond to my point? Don't you think Democrats running from "the gun issue" that you picked as a fight was a bad idea in hindsight?

          • BlueCat says:

            No hindsight about it. Dems should have seized the opportunity to explain exactly what the gun legislation they supported did and didn't do. They should have been very aggressive about how their legislation reflected what polls and communications said the people wanted. 

            Instead they lies about how  the Dems voted to take away our guns got all the play. Dems have scared way too easily ever since Reagan. I've always felt that way.

            At the same time, It does seem Morse would clearly have won if not for the mail in/suppression issues. Not Giron, however, and there may well have been other issues to account for the lack of her own Dem constituents' support for her. I've heard some but, not being anywhere near her district, have no way of knowing which are most valid. Just know she was legitimately toast.

            • mamajama55 says:

              BC, and Moderatus, even though it pains me to say so, you are right in that specific talk about the gun issues would have helped. We were doing that early in the campaign, then stopped, because national told us not to. I'm repeating points I've gone over in a comment farther down this page.

              So, by not talking about the gun legislation,  it looked as if we were avoiding the issue.  The net effect was that people did believe the "OMG they're coming to take our liberties and guns away!" spin expensively promoted by extremists.

              In our own defense on this, some people are just hard to reason with. They don't know how to argue, although they do know how to call names. I'm thinking of the guy who came in the Dems HQ and told me, increasing his volume each time, how mad he was at Giron for now allowing teachers to carry loaded guns in school. I kept asking him to lower his voice, looked for the actual summary of the gun legislation, found that our "gun talking points" had been kiboshed by the national leadership, so did the best I could until he finally gave up trying to browbeat me and left.

              Reasoning doesn't work with people who only know how to intimidate, insult, and harass. There seem to be a few of that ilk on this board.

              But out of those 8,000 or so unaffiliated and 3rd party voters who voted for the recall, I'd like to think that a majority could have been reasoned with if we had tried.

              • mamajama55 says:

                "not" allowing teachers to carry guns in school.

              • BlueCat says:

                Won't be the first or last time so called expert operatives come in and tell the foot soldiers on the ground that they, the experts who know nothing about the locals, know better. I've volunteered on a variety of campaigns and have seen this over and over.

                The only way to combat lies is with the truth. It makes no sense to refuse to meet the challenge head on.We saw the same thing in 2010 with Dems afraid to talk about Obamacare leaving a huge info void for wackos to fill.

              • Moderatus says:

                "national told us not to."

                Naturally, I'm very curious who you are talking about. Who was "national?" Bloomberg? The DNC?

                The reason you were told not to talk about guns is simple: "national" knows Colorado Democrats stepped on a third rail. It seems that Democrats were afraid to talk about guns, even though guns are the issue that provoked the recall.

                In short, there was no way to win, because you lost the moment you passed these useless gun control bills.

                • BlueCat says:

                  You're back. Thought maybe all the anti-troll talk scared you away. Hope you were just too busy doing something more worthwhile or fun. 

                   In my answer to you above I explain why I think treating it like a third rail was a mistake. Perhaps you'd care to read it and tell me what you think of my take? 

                  As for national,  if you ever try volunteering for a major party candidate sometime you'll find out all about how real world campaigns work.

    • OrangeFree says:

      Proclaim victory all you want, you still went 2 for 4 in recall attempts, and Democrats still control the State Senate.

      And here's a Democrat being honest. It was never about guns, and it was always about gaming the system to have an election do-over. 

      • Moderatus says:

        No, I'm sorry, it was about guns. If Democrats hadn't gone after gun rights, the recalls would not have happened. There was much overreach during the 2013 legislative session, but you could have gotten away with all of it had you not gone after guns.

        If Democrats are smart, they will walk back the mag ban next session. If you do that, I think you can keep the rest of the laws, but the mag ban simply went too far. You might be able to trace all your problems to House Bill 1224 alone.

  3. Gray in Mountains says:

    I'm not in SD3 or anywhere close to it so not privy to any conversations re Giron's constituent services. But, given that this was how she was engaged whie working for Salazar and Bennet I can't understand how she would not think it was very important

  4. PERA hopeful says:

    I gotta say I am not impressed by Lynn Bartels.  She just swallows Republican talking points and urps them up onto the page (or keyboard) (eww).  It's a sad state of affairs in Colorado when her stories are considered to be political reporting.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Bartels is an admitted GOP hack reporter, but it's the whole newsroom at the Denver Post under Chuck Plunkett. Plunkett thinks it's his mission to help Democrats get their comeuppance in this state, even if that means putting his thumb on the scales.

      This story is typical lazy partisan Bartels.

  5. ParkHill says:

    In a low-turnout election, high-intensity voters have an exaggerated impact. It seems that Pueblo delivered high-intensity on the anti-Giron side.

    Who would be high-intensity voters supporting Giron?

    Who makes up Giron's strong base?

    What did Giron do or not do to build a base?

    The trouble with being moderate is that it doesn't produce intensity. That comment applies to the Democratic Party in general. Maybe it is time for a dose of economic populism.

    • Duke Cox says:

      I'm with you…..!

    • mamajama55 says:

      Giron built a base. Her base was Democrats, including union people, women, working class folks, including all of Pueblo's ethnic varieties left over from the steel mill days. (Slavs, Italians, Mexican-Americans)

      They didn't go to the polls in the same proportion Republicans did. Again, 48% of registered Republicans voted. 31% of registered Democrats did. 24% of unaffiliated and minor party voters voted.  People were expecting mail in-ballots, and in fact, since 24% of Pueblo's population is disabled (another leftover from the steel mill days), that 24% actually needed mail-in ballots.

      Union people, including Colorado WINS prison folks were out voluntarily canvassing for Giron the last two weekends before the election. That's for you, Dwyer.

      Constitutent services? Pols, I'd like you to quantify this. How many people do you know who have complained about Giron's constituent services? 1? 3? Dozens? How many? On a scale of 1-10, with Perlmutter being 10, the gold standard for constituent services, and Scott  "Where's Scotty?Tipton" being a 1, where, in your opinion, did Giron's office fall, or fail? Otherwise, it puts you in the Fox News League, where "some people" think something. Granted, you do at least say it's only a theory, but put in at least a number or two.

      Personally, I got great constituent service from her. In the middle of a shitstorm recall election, with media people libelling or interviewing her, knocking and talking, she still found time to address my question. 

      Twenty three out of twenty six bills she sponsored, or co-sponsored, passed. Pretty damn good for a freshman senator.

      So WhyTF didn't this base turn out for her in the election? #1 reason: Mail ballots were first outlawed, then discouraged, then sort of allowed again. 70% of voters of all political affiliations use mail ballots in Colorado. #2 reason: resulting confusion, due to constant court drama – 10 days before the election, we weren't sure how people were ultimately going to be able to vote.

      #3 reason: Confusion about how to vote supporting Giron. The night before the election, I was still hearing from voters who thought that they had to vote "yes" to keep her in office.

      #4 reason: Yes, there were voters who were mad at her votes on gun legislation, even though they were also totally uninformed about what the laws actually were, and voted for a recall based on the NRA , PFR, and other organizations creating enthusiasm and getting their people to the polls.

      From County Clerk's and Pueblo Chieftain's #s:

      19,355 voted to recall. 15, 201 voted against, for a total of 34,556 votes in the recall election.  15,472 Democrats voted. 10,851 Republicans voted. The remaining 8,233 voters were unaffiliated and third party candidates.  I think that a fair assumption is that almost all of the Dems voted against the recall. At least 271 Dems had to have voted for it. Crappy, but not significant.

      So instead of bemoaning Giron's "poor constituent services"which alienated her base, or "She trampled the people's rights and paid the price..," we should be asking how she could have reached out to unaffiliated voters better. 

      My thoughts on that? We should have been registering voters. (We didn't, unless the voter came to us). We should have been talking about the gun issues when contacting voters. We were told "by national" not to.  Giron should have debated Rivera. She would have shown him up for the shallow, one issue candidate he is. 12,788 people voted for the recall but didn't select Rivera – they selected "no one". That indicates a decided lack of enthusiasm for the GOP's successor candidate. We should have spent a whole lot less time and money on the stupid "personhood" thing.  I'm pro-choice, but surely we could have had some variety in the mailers, at least.

      And maybe there were other issues that deserved to be debated. I never understood the whole "Giron is giving our water away" deal. Probably, people who also didn't understand it swallowed it wholesale. Water is critical in Colorado, more so in dry "high desert" Pueblo.

      Misinformation was spread by the $150,000 ad budget from Free Colorado, aka the Senate Majority Fund, which ran nonstop ads about how Giron supposedly hired thugs (like middle aged teacher volunteer moi) to harass the poor innocent gun owners. That's not including NRA $$, Koch Bro $$, etc.

      You all may be sick of it, but I never will get sick of rehashing this, and hope to learn something from it. Bottom line, off year (non-Presidential) elections are low turnout elections. In spite of all the $$ and energy both sides put in, this was a low turnout election. Mail ballots would have helped. That's why Marilyn Marks, the Independence Institute, etc, put a big red target on the mail ballots. It was voter suppression, and it worked.

      We did the best we could to overcome all of these obstacles, and our best wasn't good enough to get anti-recall voters (not just Dems)  out in the same proportion as the pro-recall voters.

      • dwyer says:


        Thank you very much.  I appreciated knowing that WINS and union people were out canvassing for Giron, and that I assume that prison guards did not vote for the recall.

          Now, who the hell is "national."  Why did they have control over what happened in Pueblo?  If it was the Bloomberg gang running things in Pueblo, Colorado that just

        confirms one of the arguments for the recall that the opposition was screaming about.

        The whole issue of the mail-in ballots looms large.  Why weren't the legal issues pursured before the election??

        You state: "That's why Marilyn Marks, the Independence Institute, etc, put a big red target on the mail ballots. It was voter suppression, and it worked. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/49492/once-again-these-were-two-different-recall-elections#comments"

        I don't understand how some one from the Independence Institute could put a big red target on the mail ballots….how was this voter suppression? It just sounds like a strategy.  It worked because the democrats were not successful in fighting for mail-in ballots….all through the court system.






        • mamajama55 says:

          "National" should probably be more "State", or maybe just "The People Who Made Decisions About What the Campaign Would Do"… I guess I just slipped into old Obama campaign jargon. In the Giron anti-recall campaign, there were  paid staff and decision makers hired by the Pueblo United for Angela Giron committee.   Jennifer Kerns infamous  "Chicago thugs blog" was about some of the paid staff, just because two of them were from, well, Chicago. There was some money contributed from various liberal/progressive 527s to this group. It funded paid staff, publicity, and office rental to the Dems. This committee had about $118K on hand on Sep 3.

          The Bloomberg money went into another committee, Mainstream Colorado, or We Can Do Better Colorado, and didn't come in until closer to the election, when it looked like the anti-recall forces were getting outspent by the pro-recall forces. There were 4 or 5 different issue committees altogether. I don't feel like listing them all tonight. The paid canvassing operation was run by Americavotes.org, which in turn was funded by various progressive 527 groups.

          So all of these folks, with Senator Giron herself, and Jennie Peek-Dunstone, past Executive Director of the Colorado Democratic Party, pretty much made decisions. I wasn't privy to the decision making process. As a volunteer, I had little input, although I did speak my mind (I'm kind of a pain in the ass that way).

          I should say that these are all highly professional, committed, dedicated,funny, smart, nice people, and I am proud to have worked with them on this election, even though the results were not what we desired. I just disagreed with them about some decisions that were made.

          I do know exactly how the idiotic "Let's emphasize Rivera's stand on fetal personhood" decision (at the cost of discussing almost any other issue, including guns) was made. It was one that was indicated by the results of a Dem-hired "push poll". Yes, I am still P Oed about that.

          The legal issues were pursued before the election, to answer that question. I don't think that anyone expected Marilyn Marks' move to draft some bogus candidates to screw up the recall election timeline.

          Marilyn Marks is an election vigilante. She has screwed up countless elections all around Colorado. She hates mail ballots, mainly because they enfranchise voters.

          The Independence Institute is Jon Caldara's organization. Check out Caldara's "Devil's Advocate" program on why he hates HB1303. You've seen plenty of posts on here about Caldara's crusade to prove that voter fraud exists by posing as a gypsy voter and committing election fraud.  What these two organizations and people have in common is a desire to see Colorado's HB1303, Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, go kaput, or at least be weakened and discredited enough that no other state will adopt it, preferably in time for 2016 elections.  HB1303 is the law that you'll hear blamed for everything from gypsy voters to pernicious dandruff. Kind of like Obama.

          Anyway. Hope that answers some questions.


          • gertie97 says:

            Out-of-towners, including outside money, consultants, pollsters, etc., increasingly call the shots based on their national models. Has anybody considered that Pueblo Democrats tend to be of the moderate-conservative variety? Blue-collar, take the family hunting/camping/fishing people? They do support reasonable gun laws and the huge mistake made here was running from said reasonable gun laws. Again, that's what you get when you let outside experts call the shots and write the talking points.

            Yes, the no mail ballots played a role. But the campaign lost sight of what was going on. Campaigns that forget they need a native guide don't win.




            • BlueCat says:

              They don't forget. They just accept what the money people's consultants tell them and they aren't always right. 

              Here's what I see as a recurring problem too many fearful Dem ops have. A poll says, for instance,  that a majority are against a piece of gun legislation, or healthcare legislation or you name it. At the same time polls show that people actually support what's in the legislation. So clearly they have serious ignorance coupled with misconceptions or they wouldn't be polling against it in the first place.

              The ops say, uh-oh people don't like this. Avoid it. Change the subject and hope people don't think about it. The opposition makes sure that's pretty much all people think about and make sure to spread lies about what's in the legislation while the Dems cower. 

              What the ops should be looking at are the polls that show people like what's in the legislation and must only be opposing it because they don't know know what's in it. So cowering and avoiding the subject is the worst thing to do. The best thing would be to aggressively point out to people… hey, you really do like this legislation. Here's what's really in it, see?  Don't believe what the lies you're being told.

              It's been a very, very long post Reagan hang over for Dem consultants who still quake at the way conservatives define issues, let them get away with it and react by going on the evasive or apologetic defensive. It's why it's so hard for Dems to turn periodic gains into something with lasting traction. See 2010.

              Fortunately, we're getting a lot of help from changing demographics but we should and could be suffering fewer temporary set backs on the way.

  6. fishingblues says:

    Who the hell wrote this rubbish.  By your own words "Impossible to know and irresponsible to assume" and yet that is the very premise of your rant.  According to you, Morris lost because only liberals vote by mail.  "Fewer vote centers and shorter hours" only inconvenience liberals.  Talk about delusional.  

    I live in a different district and didn't vote.  However, I must say that I am not in favor of recalls when one side did not get their way.  Just as I was not in favor of the unions going after Scott Walker in their failed attempt.  I also don't like people (mostly liberals) always yelling about a boycott when they are on a good pout.    

    Can't have it both ways liberals.      

    • Not Dame Edna says:

      Who the hell is"Morris". Do you mean Morse? If you are going to comment here, at least get the name right.

      As have mentioned in a posting on another story, with a margin of only 343 votes, Senator Morse would have won if this had been a mail in. I was one of many people who walked the precincts of SD11, and I had at least dozen voters who admitted that  they didn't want to drive to the polls but wanted to know why they hadn't gotten a mail in ballot. 

      Multiply that times the number of volunteers walking those precincts and you would easily make up the difference. There was also a lot of voter anger over the fact that there was a recall at all. I had quite a few voters tell me that it was an illegal election.

      • fishingblues says:

        So according to got damn edna, no one can post unless the words are formed perfectly.  Golly edna, you are a strict taskmaster.  Do your rules apply to yourself and your fellow loony libs or just those in which you perceive a difference of opinion?  

        By the way, there should be a space between is and "morris"

        Additionally, "as have mentioned…" makes absolutely no sense.  I might also point out that mail-in requires a hyphen.  You might consider this picayune, but don't you think "hadn't gotten" would have sounded much more intelligent if written 'haven't received'?  Generally, if you employ the conjunction 'and' it is not preceded by a comma.  

        Now, should we address your wild speculation?  

        • Not Dame Edna says:

          Fish ass, just get the name right. I never claimed to be an English teacher. When you can't even get a name right, you look stoopid.

          I was referring to a comment I made in a different story on the issue of mail in ballots in the SD 11 recall. Since you are new, you probably hadn't read it. I'll give you a pass on that. 

          Why don't you take your fish stink to Peak Politics, those idiots will love you.


          • fishingblues says:

            Golly, got damn edna, you certainly exemplify the emotional, bigoted, self-righteous, (dumber than hell), loony liberal.  "fish ass" and "fish stink" – gosh, how creative.  What are you, 5?    

            • mamajama55 says:

              Trolling for Democrats aka Fishingblues,

              I had a kid in class last year. He got some sick emotional satisfaction out of negative attention. He figured that negative attention was all he was ever going to get, so he kept coming to class, even though he never did any work, and would never pass the class.

              Most of his peers actually resented him for taking up all of the teacher's time and attention, even though a few laughed at his antics. He was verbally abusive, defiant, and just plain nasty to most adults. The school didn't expel him because there are rules and a process to be followed before expulsion. He could wreck a class like none other, and spent most of his school hours in detention, where he formed a bond with the detention supervisor. 

              He was bright enough that he could have fairly easily mastered the content of the class, but chose to disrupt instead, as it was easier for him and in his comfort zone. 

              Sound familiar?

              The difference on here is that no one will expel you from this board, short of you "outing" someone's real name. I don't know how old you are, but we're all adults here. Apparently, you enjoy insulting and belittling "liberals".

              I understand – I used to go on Huff Post and look for some pompous rightie to cut down to size, before I decided that was sick and pathetic. I don't think that you're one of the paid conservative shills – your reward is intangible.

              If you ever want us to take you and your libertarian beliefs at all seriously, convince anyone of anything on an actual policy issue, you'll have to post a reasoned argument with facts backing it up, and links to your sources. Otherwise, there are plenty of people on here that also enjoy insulting each other, although that isn't exactly my thing. I'll choose not to engage with your fishing for Blues to "hook" into your game. 

              If you're just like the worst of the Huffpo commenters, the ones who have inspired the site to go to "real social media linked identities only", your cue at this point is to insult me and tell me what a horrible teacher I must be. I hope that you surprise me.



  7. n3b says:

    two separate recall elections held last week differ widely

    Really? That's not what I read. Your next line:

    just not in the biggest respect, the bottom line.

    So…they're not actually different.

    Weak spin. Just admit you lost.

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