Colorado Democrats fail to stave off gun control-based recall efforts

FILE: March, 20, 2013: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signs gun control bills into law in his office at the state capitol in Denver, Colo.

FILE: March, 20, 2013: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signs gun control bills into law in his office at the state capitol in Denver, Colo.  (Reuters)

Two Colorado Democratic lawmakers facing recall elections for their support of the state's strict new gun control laws failed in separate attempts to block or slow their recall elections Wednesday.

The secretary of state's office ruled against Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs, who wanted his recall effort invalidated because of a technical error by his opponents.

Deputy secretary of state Suzanne Staiert also rejected a request by Democratic Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo to have her recall challenge shifted to a new venue because she said Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler wouldn't fairly decide her case.

The twin decisions mean appeals and more legal wrangling over what could be the first state legislative recall elections in Colorado history.

In the Morse case, Staiert rejected the Democratic claim that recall petitions were invalid because they were improperly worded. She said the petitions "substantially complied" with the law.

She said that Morse's opponents "made a good-faith effort to comply with the law and did not consciously attempt to mislead the electorate."

In the Giron case, the senator's recall petitions were worded much the same, and she is making an identical challenge. But first, a Democratic lawyer asked for Gessler's deputy to recuse the office.

Mark Grueskin made the recusal request after seeing a March account in The Pueblo Chieftain of Gessler telling a Republican gathering about the recall process.

"This is an event and an act that calls into question the ability of the secretary to render a decision without the appearance of impropriety," Grueskin said.

Staiert dismissed the concern, saying Gessler didn't advocate for a lawmaker's recall. "There is no appearance of impropriety here," Staiert wrote.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the group attempting to oust Morse, told The Denver Post that any further legal challenge would amount to an attempt to "delay and deny justice" to Morse's constituents.

"They delivered above and beyond the number of signatures needed to commence the recall process," Kerns told the newspaper. "The people of Colorado knew darn well what they were signing; they want to recall the elected officials who are drastically out of touch with their constituents.

Giron and Morse are being targeted for recalls because they both supported gun control measures. Gun-rights activists say Democrats went too far curbing gun rights with two of the measures — one to restrict ammunition magazines and another to expand required background checks.

Four Democrats were initially targeted, but recall petitions only made it to completion against Morse and Giron. Gessler's office has said the Morse and Giron petitions had enough valid signatures to force recall elections, possibly later this summer. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper would ultimately set the recall election dates, but not before legal challenges are exhausted.

If Morse and Giron face recall elections, they'd be the first state lawmakers to go to a recall vote since Colorado adopted the recall in 1912. Grueskin, the lawyer making both recall challenges, has said he'd appeal decisions to the Denver District Court.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is required to set an election date after receiving the certificates from the Secretary of State's office, which could come as early as Monday, according to The Denver Post. The election must be held within 60 days of receiving the paperwork.

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