State GOP Vice Chairwoman Kristi Brown's petition effort to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan came after rumblings about recalling other Democrats in Arapahoe County and beyond.
State Sen. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village and state Rep. Meg Froelich of Englewood, along with Democratic state Rep. Rochelle Galindo, of the Greeley area, were also listed on recallcolorado.org as “bad actors” alongside Sullivan.
That site lists moves by Democrats that it calls overreaching legislation, including the “red flag” law, the sex education law and the recent overhaul of Colorado's oil and gas industry rules.
Recall Colorado's site says it is “an entity operated by” Values First Colorado, a political organization registered to Joe Neville, according to Colorado Secretary of State's Office records. That's the brother of House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock.
An issue committee called “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis” was registered March 12 with the office. It had garnered about $73,500 in contributions through May 21.
Recall petitions must be approved by the state before proponents can collect signatures. A petition for a recall of Froelich was submitted to be approved for signature collecting, but it was denied for formatting reasons, said Serena Woods, Secretary of State's Office spokeswoman. A new one has not been submitted. No petitions have been submitted for signature collecting against Bridges or Polis, and Polis cannot be recalled until he has served six months in office, Woods said.
A petition for a recall of Galindo was approved for signature collecting, but that lawmaker recently resigned in the face of unspecified “allegations,” according to multiple Denver-area media outlets.
Brown noted the influence on the recall effort against Sullivan from outside Colorado. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, tweeted in support of Sullivan, linking to a fund to raise money against the recall.
Much of out-of-state money has poured in to defend Democrats from recall efforts. According to Colorado Secretary of State’s Office records, an entity called Our Colorado Way of Life has raised about $106,000 in contributions from March through May 23, with $35,000 of that coming from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., and many small donations coming from within Colorado.
An entity named Democracy First Colorado took in $75,000 from an entity called America Votes, also in Washington, D.C., and $7,500 from the before-mentioned DLCC, from the end of March through May 8. Both Democracy First Colorado and Our Colorado Way of Life are registered to Ashley Stevens at a Denver address.
Both Stevens’ entities’ stated purpose is to oppose recalls of Democrats in the state Legislature. Sullivan said Our Colorado Way of Life helped push back against the recall effort against him.
Recall petitions, if successful, lead to elections to decide whether officeholders keep their seats. Voters in the official's district participate.
To bring forth a recall election for a state or county elected official, a number of signatures equal to 25 percent of the total votes in the last general election for that office is needed on a petition, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
With one month down and one to go, the Colorado Republican Party's vice chair has ended her effort to remove state Rep. Tom Sullivan from office, saying the party will instead focus on other recalls and a petition to overturn a rule that could change the way Colorado's presidential vote would be allocated.
“While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass,” said Kristi Brown, state GOP vice chairwoman, in a June 11 statement on Facebook. “2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is.”
The recall effort against the Centennial Democrat centered around his support of what's known as the “red flag” law that allows law enforcement to temporarily take firearms from people deemed a risk to themselves or others. The recall petition also called out this year's sex education law — which requires including information relevant to LGBT people's experiences and health needs — and a recent overhaul of Colorado's oil and gas rules as reasons to recall Sullivan.
The petition, if successful, would have led to an election to decide whether Sullivan would keep his seat in state House District 37. That district encompasses east and central Centennial, nearby unincorporated Arapahoe County areas and the Town of Foxfield.
Brown's petition was approved May 13 by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office and needed about 10,000 signatures by voters in the district by July 12 to secure a recall election. When reached for comment, Brown declined to say how many signatures were obtained.
Sullivan, whose son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, celebrated the end of the recall effort as “an affirmation to all the hard work we've been doing,” he said. Sullivan campaigned heavily on the promise to pass a red flag law.
“The people elected us to do this type of work — we did exactly what we said we were going to do, and they appreciated that,” Sullivan said of his voting record. He focuses on what he calls rights for workers and crime victims.
Added Sullivan: “They said, 'Keep doing what you're doing, Tom, that's why we elected you.”
Following Brown's announcement, the prominent Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group — which backed the recall — said it would suspend its efforts so it can “refocus our resources on upcoming recalls and legislative battles.”
“It's clear from our work on the ground in HD 37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at large,” said Dudley Brown, RMGO's executive director, in a statement on Facebook. “Tom Sullivan's socialist voting record and radically anti-gun positions will be a central discussion piece of the 2020 general election.”
Sullivan dismissed the charge of socialist leanings. And he didn't hear complaints about the sex ed law when he walked door-to-door in recent weeks imploring people not to sign the recall petition, he said. That law requires teaching consent and bars shame-based language or gender stereotypes. The standards apply only if schools teach sex ed, which they are not mandated to do.
Neither did he hear criticism on the oil and gas law, he said, which gave local governments new authority to regulate drilling. Kristi Brown argues it will cause industry workers across Colorado to lose jobs.
Sullivan didn't hear much about the national popular vote law, either, which adds Colorado to a list of states that would award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections. It would effectively replace the Electoral College, in which 270 out of 538 electoral votes are needed to win. Proponents say the change would go into effect once enough states, totaling 270 votes, enter the pact.
Kristi Brown characterized the law as “giving away Colorado's presidential vote to California and New York,” she said in her statement.
A petition to let Colorado voters decide whether to overturn that law has gathered more than 100,000 signatures and needs about 125,000 by Aug. 1 to put the question on the November 2020 ballot, according to Colorado media reports.
“We have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat senators who are not up for re-election in 2020,” Brown said in her statement. She declined to say which lawmakers Republicans aim to recall.
Republican former state Rep. Cole Wist, who fell to an unlikely defeat against Sullivan in November after the RMGO set its sights on taking him down, announced that he did not support the RMGO-backed effort to remove his former opponent.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, and Jason Crow, of Aurora, along with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, came to Sullivan's district to oppose the recall, Sullivan said. Some Democratic state legislators also showed up, he added.
“If they try (a recall) against somebody else, we'll all rally to support them,” Sullivan said.
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