In an expensive, unnecessary and politically damaging recall election that culminates on Sept. 10, Colorado Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, will either be confirmed in office for one more year or recalled.
If the recall fails, we’re back to status quo ante. Democrats will still control the both houses of the Legislature. John Hickenlooper will still be Colorado’s governor.
If the recall succeeds, only one thing will change. Bernie Herpin will take Morse’s seat representing Senate District 11 during the 2014 legislative session.
I would not want to be a Colorado Springs Republican during the 2014 session, much less a lobbyist representing local interests.
Remember the famous opening sentence of Edgar Allan Poe’s riveting story of revenge, “The Cask of Amontillado?”
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”
Like Poe’s protagonist, politicians remember slights, and they delight in getting even.
Colorado Republicans have suffered many injuries in recent years, as the blue Democratic wave crashed across the state. Ten years ago, Republicans controlled both houses of the Legislature and held both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. The popular second-term Gov. Bill Owens drew support from across the political spectrum, while dispirited Dems struggled for traction.
We all know what happened next. Thanks to fate, hubris or sheer incompetence, Republicans moved sharply to the right, ceding the moderate center to the Democrats. The Donksters reacted quickly and intelligently, choosing attractive moderates such as Mark Udall, Michael Bennet and Hickenlooper to run against gun-toting, gay-baiting ideologues of the right.
In the normal ebb and flow of politics, you’d expect Republicans to move back to the center as emboldened Dems moved farther to the left. The Dems moved to the left, all right — and that journey was mapped out in part by the doughty Sen. Morse.
The original package of firearms regulations brought forth in the last session included a bill sponsored by Morse making firearms manufacturers liable for the misuse of their products. Reasonable as that may sound to non-gun owners, that bill would have essentially banned the sale of new guns in Colorado.
Even Morse’s caucus couldn’t swallow that one. The bill died, but three other gun control measures passed.
Smart politics called for Republicans to reclaim the center, to concentrate their fire upon the out-of-control lib’ruls who wanted to absolutely ban gun sales in Colorado. Instead, the Gopsters ceded control of the political process to revenge-minded Colorado Springs gun owners and the National Rifle Association, who initiated the recall process.
If the polls are any guide, voters statewide don’t much care for the recall process, even if they disapprove of some of the gun-control legislation enacted in the last session.
If Morse is tossed out, Republicans, gunnies and the NRA will have their revenge, but Democrats may have the win.
Will they punish Colorado Springs voters for throwing out Morse?
Will the Interstate 25/Cimarron interchange move forward, or will it be inexplicably delayed? Will the city’s “City for Champions” proposal fail to pass muster with the state Economic Development Commission? Will Colorado Springs be subtly shortchanged in next year’s budget? The power of the Legislature to materially affect any of the three is very limited, so don’t worry.
But legislative power can be effectively exercised by doing nothing.
I would not want to be a Colorado Springs Republican during the 2014 session, much less a lobbyist representing local interests. The amiable Herpin would be a legislative pariah, whose name on any bill would guarantee its defeat.
Herpin won’t be alone. We can expect many bills introduced by Springs Republicans to die in committee, and the legislative clout of the El Paso County delegation to wither. But it’ll be a quiet process, an insider game where the guilty leave no fingerprints.
Democrats will be focused on a much larger goal. They want to hold the moderate center and caricature Colorado Republican leadership as crazy old white guys taking orders from the NRA. Ironically, a successful recall election might hurt Republicans by legitimizing and emboldening fringe Republican candidates in 2014.
We all saw how well that worked in recent elections, didn’t we? Just ask Dan Maes, Tom Tancredo or Ken Buck.
The conclusion may be counterintuitive, but it seems obvious: Republicans ought to oppose, and Democrats ought to support the Morse recall. And Bernie, do you really want to spend a long, cold winter twiddling your thumbs in Denver? Vote for Morse!