COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Senate President John Morse thanked and urged fellow lawmakers to continue fighting Tuesday as voters ousted him from office for his support for stricter Colorado gun laws.
“It has been an honor to represent the 11th Senate District,” said Morse, who is the first Colorado lawmaker to be recalled and thrown out of office. “It’s been hugely rewarding.”
With almost 100 percent of votes counted in the historic recall election of Morse, returns show 51 percent have voted “yes” and 49 percent “no.”
Morse called the legislative session where he and Democratic colleagues passed stricter new gun laws a successful one.
“We as the Democratic party will continue to fight,” Morse said.
He added: “The highest rank in a democracy is citizen, not Senate President, so soon along with many of you, I will hold that rank and there’s nothing citizens can’t accomplish when they put their minds to accomplishing it.”
Hugs and tears were plentiful in the ballroom at his election night party Tuesday.
The ouster of Morse comes in after months of legal spats, millions of dollars in donations and a barrage of intense TV and radio advertisements.
Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat, is the subject of the recall for his leadership on stricter Colorado gun laws passed this year by the Democrat-controlled legislature.
There are currently 69,481 voters registered in Morse’s district.
The El Paso County clerk’s office records vote totals by party affiliation as follows: Republicans 6,647; Democrats, 5,784; and unaffiliated, 4,580.
Democrats comprise 34 percent of the district, while unaffiliated voters are the largest group with 38 percent.
“Our turnout is well below what we expected,” said Morse, while speaking to the press at his election night watch party at a downtown Colorado Springs hotel earlier in the evening. “Certainly low turnout is worse for me than high turnout.”
Morse spent much of his time knocking on doors Tuesday and said that despite the low turnout he remained optimistic.
“I think there are an awful lot of Republicans who do think this recall is ridiculous and will vote against it,” said Morse of a recall election that is a litmus test of sorts in the national debate over gun-control legislation.
Colorado College on Tuesday afternoon shuttled students to-and-from a downtown polling location so that they could cast ballots. A majority of the students were Democrats and voting against the recall.
“I’ve grown up in the age of Columbine and the Aurora theater shooting, and John Morse has stood up to the NRA,” said Sachin Mathur, a freshman at Colorado College, who is a Democrat from Castle Rock. “He did what was right.”
Morse and Democrats passed laws that limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers.
Jay Benson was among a steady stream of people flowed into the downtown voting center Tuesday.
“It’s not just necessarily for the gun votes, although it is important to be able to have as much ammunition in a gun as you want,” said Benson, a Republican.
Benson cast a vote for Republican Bernie Herpin, Morse’s only opponent on the ballot.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Herpin said Tuesday from the El Paso County GOP headquarters.
The mood at the headquarters Tuesday night was focused and determined as volunteers and campaign organizers make a last minute push to get voters to the polls.
In a backroom underneath an American flag, 12 volunteers manned the phone banks as other volunteers kept an eye on their computers waiting for updates on turnout numbers.
After calling voters earlier in the afternoon, Herpin spent the evening hunkered down in an office away from volunteers.
Herpin has declined to speak to the media until final results are in.
El Paso County taxpayers are slated to pay about $190,000 for the recall election, according to the clerk’s office.
Democrats reported that between the two Senate districts — Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo is also facing a recall election — they had about 350 volunteers working in shifts and expected to knock on more than 23,000 doors before the polls close
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino has canvassed in both El Paso County and Pueblo.
“I’m never confident in any race on Election Day,” said Ferrandino, when asked which recall — Morse or Giron — he’s most confident in winning. “You never stop working until polls close and voting is over and then just wait for the results to come in.”
PUEBLO — State Sen. Angela Giron has been recalled and retired Pueblo deputy police chief George Rivera voted in as her replacement.
With 100 percent of the votes counted about 56 percent called for Giron to be unseated. About 44 percent voted for her retention, according to final results reported by The Associated Press.
Vote totals were slow to flow in and Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz blamed the delay on the large number of ballots cast in person. He said typically, about 90 percent of votes are cast by mail. This time, only about 700 of the total were from early voting.
“Give me back my mail ballots and I can get you some faster results,” he said.
The crowd began to thin out as Giron fell behind as results came in. Giron hugged supporters before leaving the party at the historic Pueblo Union Depot for an office building across the rain-slickened West B Street.
“Regardless of what happens tonight, we owe Angela a debt of gratitude,” state Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio told the crowd of about 200 gathered earlier in the evening.
Giron and Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs are the first state lawmakers to face recall in state history. They were challenged because of their support for for gun-control measures in the last session. Morse of Colorado Springs conceded, losing his seat to former Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin.
Palacio said the race was about the wishes of Pueblo residents, not outside forces that tried to “hijack our democracy” over the gun rights issue.
“We’ve had our ups and downs as Democrats in Pueblo,” he told the crowd long before the results were announced. “We might push and shove and holler at each other sometimes, but I believe that when the rubber meets the road we stand together as Democrats and get things done.”
The recall attempt also could have a chilling effect in other states, where Democrats have been encouraged by President Obama to pass controls on guns, including background checks, limits on ammunition magazines and other measures.
Giron was undaunted by the election, she said before Tuesday’s vote.
At Pueblo County Republican Party headquarters Tuesday afternoon, Rivera said the recall won’t be the last word. He plans to seek a full term next year. Giron was term limited and so Rivera must run again in 2014.
“We’ve definitely learned a lot about campaigning,” said Rivera, a first-time political candidate. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the people are all good people with different points of view. It’s the politics and the politicians who make the whole thing dirty.” Keep Reading