As I write this article the election returns from both Colorado state senate recall races look final (I did release it the next morning though). In a little bit of a surprise both Morse and Giron have gone down to the pro-recall forces. The victory for gun rights and 2nd Amendment advocates should not be considered a one time thing. Pro recall forces were vastly outspent to the tune of over $3 million to $540,000. Both Democrats were reliable Democratic votes in the legislature on not just gun rights but also environmental laws and tax increases.
Morse was always considered to be the more vulnerable of the two senators. Ironically, his district, which appears on paper more conservative than Giron’s, lost by a much narrower margin, 51%-49% compared to Giron’s 56%-44%. Morse’s district was based around Colorado Springs and took in the Air Force Academy, some surrounding suburbs and large rural pockets of Republicans. Giron’s district was more solidly Democratically based around the center of Pueblo but many of the Democrats in her district are of the blue-collar kind that like their guns but not necessarily sheltering the rich from tax increases (see Romney’s weakness in the district in 2012).
At first glance I note the sizable difference in the number of voters who cast their ballots in Morse’s district compared to Giron’s. Likely this is due to the fact that Pueblo’s county clerk allowed early voting to start last Monday as opposed to Morse’s district only allowing early voting since last Friday. Regardless, it made little difference in who won and lost though it is surprising higher turnout in Giron’s district did not help her. In fact, it seems to have hurt her badly.
Early election returns suggested that Morse was in trouble. More registered Republicans had voted early in his district by Monday morning than Democrats. In Giron’s district, almost 47% of registered voters who had done the same were Democrats. Safe to say she lost quite a few of those blue collar Democrats. That or her opponent, former county sheriff George Riveria had deep pull with the district’s Hispanic population. The ramifications of the result have yet to be felt statewide or nationwide but they will soon.
While blue states in the Northeast such as Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, all with Democratic controlled levers of government, passed new gun control measures in the wake of Sandy Hooke, Colorado was the only state out west to do the same. Even in trending blue Nevada and blue California no new gun control measure were pushed forward. Ditto in both Oregon and WA state which like Colorado have a fairly rich history of a cultur affiliated with guns.
This makes the case of Colorado even more curious. Why Governor Hickenlooper and the legislature changed course after 2012 (the GOP held the house then) is a big question. Keep in mind in 2012 Colorado had the theater shooting in Aurora by Jesse Holmes that killed 12. Hickenlooper is famously known for stating that he wondered how banning guns from law abiding citizens would help stop these tragedies. Well, maybe the results of the 2012 election filled Democrats with a jubiliance that state voters were moving left a lightspeed.
Colorado is a state that has been in a semi state of harmony since the 60’s. On the one hand you had more liberal voters in the cities, swing centrist voters in the suburbs and rural, conservative voters in the sparsely populated counties. Since 2000 however the cities have been gaining much more sway due to population growth. With the suburbs also turning increasingly left, rural voters feel left out in the cold. This is part of what prompted the recalls after Giron and Morse took votes on gun control, environmental regulation and taxes. Legislatively and electorally for Colorado the results are a warning for rural, suburban lawmakers to tread more carefully on wedge issues. Pro-recall forces did not just use guns when they argued Morse and Giron should go.
The results also have nationwide implications. The fact that 2nd Amendment right voters can successfully convince fence sitting voters of the rightness of their cause while being outspent 6-1 by Bloomberg and gun control groups suggests that the old wedge issues of politics do not always go away even in a changing state. In both Connecticut and New York, the sitting Democratic Governors have suffered for signing said bills. Nobody can say Connecticut or New York are conservative states. Colorado is not nearly as blue as the former or the latter.
The balance of power in the CO legislature has not changed that much on paper. Two new Republicans will bring the GOP Caucus to 16, one short of the 17 they need to control the chamber. The House and Governorship also are safe until next year for Democrats. But paper does not always portray the real balance of power. Several Democrats and Republicans sit in districts that encompass urban/suburban/rural stretches of territory. They might be wary of touching more hot button issues until after 2014 after just watching two state senators go down in just such a way for the first time in state history. As for Hickenlooper, he is polling extremely poorly against illegal immigration and conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo, though he has moderated his tone some, and one of the reason is guns. If Hickenlooper is smart he will not touch the issue for the rest of his first term and perhaps all of his possible second.
Update: PPP just announced they “withheld” a poll that showed Giron would be recalled by 12 points. Related to my points above it showed 33% of Democrats and a majority of Hispanics supported the recall.