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Colorado Voters Recall Pro-Gun Control Senators

Bloomberg hardest hit

Michael Bloomberg, John Morse, Angela Giron / Wikimedia Commons
• September 11, 2013 2:15 pm

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Colorado voters ousted two of their Democratic state senators Tuesday night in a stinging loss for the gun-control advocates who poured more than $2 million into the state’s first-ever recall election, such as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Voters recalled Colorado Democrats Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron for their role in passing a package of new gun laws earlier this year. The recall effort, started by outraged local Second Amendment supporters, quickly became a national duel between the National Rifle Association and conservative groups on one side and an alliance of unions, Democratic organizations, and gun-control groups on the other.

However, the infusion of money from deep-pocketed donors like Bloomberg may have been as much of a liability as a boon to the embattled state senators, as it gave their opponents a clear line of attack.

"The people of Colorado Springs and Pueblo sent a clear message to their elected officials that their primary job is to defend our rights and freedoms and that they are accountable to their constituents—not the dollars or social engineering agendas of anti-gun billionaires," the NRA’s political victory fund said in a statement.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam was more concise. "One thing is clear from the Morse defeat: Mike Bloomberg is political poison," he said in a statement to the Huffington Post.

Supporters of Morse and Giron made the same argument.

"By passing legislation to strengthen Brady background checks, Sens. Morse and Giron were acting on behalf of the will and well-being of their constituents and standing up for a safer Colorado," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in a statement Wednesday. "Make no mistake, this recall reflects the interests of the corporate gun lobby and a small group of extremists not the citizens of Colorado."

The supporters of the losing candidates poured a huge amount of money into the race.

Bloomberg and California entrepreneur Eli Broad funneled $350,000 and $250,000, respectively, into the state.

The embattled legislators have also received help from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ Super PAC.

One group that backed Morse and Giron called We Can Do Better received more than $300,000 from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and unions such as AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, and American Federation of Teachers, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

The loss may give pause not only to local lawmakers considering new gun laws, but also a national gun-control movement that believed it could take the fight to the NRA.

Following the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., gun-control advocates believed they finally had the public and political will to pass comprehensive new firearms laws.

And for the first time, they had the money to compete with the NRA. Bloomberg pledged $12 million to gun control efforts. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, raised $11 million in four months.

Bloomberg’s Super PAC spent $2 million in February backing a pro-gun control Democratic candidate in the Illinois special election to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., ensuring that an NRA-backed Democrat did not take the seat.

A federal background checks bill failed to pass the U.S. Senate in April following a bitter and contentious vote, but gun-control groups believed it was a pyrrhic victory for the NRA—that the gun lobby had finally gone too far

The groups ran scathing ads against vulnerable senators who voted against the background checks bill, intent on making an example of them in the 2014 elections.

On the state level, Bloomberg and his allies were having more success. Wide-sweeping new gun laws were passed in liberal strongholds such as New York, California, and Maryland.

Colorado, with its prickly mix of purple politics, proved to be the proverbial bridge too far.

"For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up," the recalled Giron told the New Republic. "They understand that."

In its statement following the recall election, MAIG tried to downplay the results.

"Win, lose, or draw, this will send a message to legislators who take risks to protect their community," said MAIG’s Mark Glaze in a statement. "We will have their back, and eventually, the tide will turn."

Published under: Guns, Michael Bloomberg