When a pair of Colorado lawmakers were recalled last month in a referendum on gun control, opponents had this to console them: At least, they said, the twin defeats did not alter the balance of power in Denver, the state capital.
Now gun rights advocates are looking to change that.
Organizers have received official go-ahead to start gathering signatures in a bid to oust state Sen. Evie Hudak, a Democrat from the Denver suburb of Westminister, who was the target of a failed recall petition drive earlier this year. The group, certified by Colorado's secretary of State, has until Dec. 3 to collect just over 18,900 signatures to force a vote.
The stakes: control of the state Senate, which Democrats hold by a tenuous 18-17 edge.
Hudak, who is in her second term, was one of four lawmakers originally targeted after the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a series of sweeping gun controls in response to mass shootings last year in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. The measures, signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, include a requirement for universal background checks and a limit on ammunition magazines like the one used in the July 2012 theater shootings in Aurora, another suburb of Denver.
The efforts against Hudak and a Democratic representative from Durango fizzled. But state Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo were ousted Sept. 10 in the first legislative recall in state history.
Unlike Morse, who would have been term-limited after 2014, and Giron, who was up for reelection next year, Hudak's term does not expire until November 2016.
Even with Democrats controlling both sides of the statehouse, efforts are underway to repeal or alter some of the gun control legislation lawmakers passed this year. The Denver Post reported that House and Senate Republicans are poised to present a series of bills in 2014 that could force Democrats to reopen the gun debate just in time for the midterm elections.
Hickenlooper gave the Hudak recall a 50-50 chance of success, though he noted in a USA Today interview, "I didn't think they'd get enough signatures for the first two."
He also suggested it might be a good idea for national gun-control groups to stay out of the contest. “Colorado is a state that people like to be themselves and solve their own problems,” the governor said. “They don’t really like outside organizations meddling in their affairs, and maybe the NRA gets a pass on that.”
Groups led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in last month's recall election, seeking to counter the strength of the NRA and its allies.
[For the record 1:54 p.m. PDT Oct. 15: An earlier version of this post reported that former Colorado state Sen. John Morse could have run for reelection in 2014. Because of term limits, Morse would not have been able to seek another term.]
[For the record 8:26 p.m. PDT Oct. 15: An earlier version of this post reported that Hudak could run again in 2016. Hudak is serving her final term.]
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