Last year, in historic recall elections over gun rights, Colorado voters ousted two top Democrat state senators and put a stop to the anti-gun agenda of then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Now it appears the recall elections may not be isolated victories—that they may, in fact, affect the 2014 midterms and possibly even the 2016 presidential election by turning a crucial battleground state red for the first time in a decade.
The Colorado recall campaign unfolded like a how-to textbook on civic duty.
It all began right after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, when Colorado Democrats responded by passing the strictest gun control laws in the nation.
Democrats didn’t just dismantle the Second Amendment; they set their sights on on the First Amendment as well. They stifled free speech, limited the time for public testimony, kept some citizens from testifying altogether and all but locked citizens out of the state Capitol during late-night sessions.
The antics could not extinguish the flames of liberty that had been sparked.
Women concerned about the right to protect themselves began flooding the Capitol in protest. Social media was aglow with threads on how to fight back. And one evening inside an obscure chat room for Second Amendment enthusiasts, the Colorado recalls were born.
The proponents of the recalls had zero experience running political campaigns. They had regular jobs—IT geeks, plumbers, carpenters, moms and wives. Only two had ever even called their representatives. But inexperience didn’t matter. The group was determined.
“It was our duty as citizens to defend our republic,” says the Colorado recall organizer.
Over the next 10 months, the recall campaign unfolded like a how-to textbook on civic duty. Members taught themselves how to gather signatures for a ballot measure. They built a small army of volunteers and walked door-to-door, eventually talking with tens of thousands of voters.
Days ahead of schedule, these citizens surprised political observers when they turned in signatures to qualify for the ballot with a stunning 97 percent accuracy rate. They fought off an expensive legal attempt by Democrats to delay the election—a battle that nearly went to the Colorado Supreme Court—and they did so without support from their own state Republican Party, whose officials said then they couldn’t win.
Then, last Sept. 10, at 10:35 p.m., the targeted Democrats conceded and became the only officials to be recalled in 140 years of state history. The rag-tag group won despite being outspent 11-to-1 by Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic National Committee and other special interests. And two Republicans who pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution were sworn into office.
The victory stunned the political establishment. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz admitted it would set the gun control movement back 10 years and hinted at an outrageous notion of voter suppression. The defeat was so bruising to Michael Bloomberg’s PAC that the group’s spokesperson stepped down shortly after and the PAC changed its name to “Everytown” to camouflage its big-city New York image.
The rag-tag recall group won despite being outspent 11-to-1 in Colorado.
But this was not the end of the story. It is closer to the beginning.
Just 55 days after the victorious recall elections, emboldened Coloradans trounced Amendment 66—Democrats’ attempted $1 billion tax increase that would have been the largest tax increase in state history—by a 2-to-1 margin. Again, observers had given the upstarts no chance at victory.
Next, the grassroots opened a third recall effort against yet another proponent of gun control. But in late November, just 54 days after that petition was filed, the third Democrat state senator announced she would resign from office rather than face a recall election.
With momentum clearly on their side, Colorado Republicans head into the final stretch of the 2014 midterm elections with a good chance to win again. Between the governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race, they can recapture two of the most powerful posts in the state this November.
Once-popular Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper dropped 15 points in the polls during the recalls and now struggles to remain tied with Republican opponent Bob Beauprez.
And Rep. Cory Gardner, a late recruit to the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, now finds himself in a statistical tie with incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Owen Loftus, spokesperson for the state Republican Party, says Coloradans are ready for a change after years of Democrats’ eroding constitutional rights and increasing spending, regulations and taxes. We will know in less than 70 days how far the GOP can go with the momentum created by the recalls.
As for the legacy he leaves, Tim Knight, founder of the Colorado recall movement, says:
Several of us who were strangers, neophytes in politics, were told we were crazy for even attempting to do something that had never been done before. We came together because it was our duty as citizens to defend our republic. Now, we hope that this may inspire others to take their own first steps, knowing they are not alone.
Even though the recalls happened in one swing state, the model can be replicated in any. The lesson from Colorado is that you don’t need the permission of your government, your elected officials or even your own political party to stand up and be counted. It can be done one person at a time, one issue at a time. Sometimes, the only roadmap needed is the parchment paper upon which our U.S. Constitution was printed.