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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Colorado Lawmakers Face Recall Vote

In this photo taken May 24, 2013, a large sign posted at the entrance of Paradise Firearms in Colorado Springs, Colo., invites customers to sign a recall petition against Colorado Democratic State Senate President John Morse. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

In this photo taken May 24, 2013, a large sign posted at the entrance of Paradise Firearms in Colorado Springs, Colo., invites customers to sign a recall petition against Colorado Democratic State Senate President John Morse. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Voters in Colorado will decide today whether two Democratic state senators will get to keep their jobs.

State Senator Angela Giron and state Senate President John Morse face recalls after they helped to pass gun control laws in the state following the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater.

The legislation led to a backlash from gun rights activists, who gathered signatures and forced the recall elections.

The National Rifle Association has contributed more than $300,000 to oust the lawmakers, while gun control supporters, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, donated more than $300,000 to groups fighting the recall.

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. Voters in Colorado decide today whether two Democratic state senators get to keep their jobs. Senator Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse helped pass new gun-control laws following the Aurora theater shooting last year. That caused a backlash from gun rights activists, leading to today's recall vote.

Joining us is Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio, part of the HERE AND NOW contributors network. He is at a polling station in Colorado Springs. Ben, welcome.

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

HOBSON: Well, what is the turnout like where you are today?

MARKUS: The turnout's been pretty strong, you know, for a Tuesday in the middle of the day. And I think it really speaks to the amount of money being spent on this election: mailers, commercials. You know, this isn't your average special election. This has big, national implications. So it's clear that, you know, people are energized and are coming out to vote.

HOBSON: And both of these state senators voted in favor of universal background checks, we should say, and limiting high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds. They say they're trying to make Colorado safer. Critics argue that they're blaming gun owners for the Aurora shootings. What have you heard from voters about all this today?

MARKUS: Sure. So, voters who support the recall, who are against the two state senators, they really do believe that these gun control measures went too far, that this is the start of a slippery slope, trampling their Second Amendment rights.

Now, voters on the other side who don't support the recall and support the two state senators often say that these elections are too costly, that they're unnecessary, that recalls shouldn't be used to, you know, work out policy differences between lawmakers, that that's what the general election is for.

And so, really, when you talk to voters, those are kind of the two camps that they've been falling into, whether it be Pueblo or Colorado Springs.

HOBSON: And this is an election in Colorado, but, of course, a lot of money has come in from the outside. The National Rifle Association has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into this, and even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars himself against the recall of these two state senators. Talk about the money that's come in.

MARKUS: Yeah, you know, it's - for a state Senate seat like this, this is unprecedented in Colorado. If in a regular election $500,000 was spent on a state Senate seat, that's seen as a big deal. But we're looking at millions of dollars, and coming in from Colorado and from all over the country.

And, you know, the big amounts get a lot of attention. Bloomberg has given $350,000 of his own money. The NRA has given more than $300,000, and has said that they would give more before the end of the election. But I went through the campaign finance reports, and there's lots of little donations, too, to the Democrats, a dollar, $3, $10 from Massachusetts and Mississippi and California.

It's support that, you know, the Republicans just haven't been able to tap into in this election.

HOBSON: So, so far, you're saying the Democrats have raised much more money?

MARKUS: Three-to-one advantage, by my math. We went through all the campaign finance reports of all the committees supporting and against, and that's - typically, Democrats in Colorado have a fundraising advantage over Republicans. But this is way out of whack with what is normal.

HOBSON: And just tell us about the history, here. If this recall succeeds, if I'm not mistaken, this would be the first time in state history that lawmakers were ousted in this way?

MARKUS: That's right. Usually, recalls happen a lot at the local level, for school board elections and such, but never had we had a recall election of a state legislator. And so we are in unprecedented territory, whether it be fundraising or just the election itself.

HOBSON: Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio, joining us from a polling station in Colorado Springs. Ben, thank you so much.

MARKUS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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