DENVER–Locked in a fight for his political life, Senate President John Morse is showing that he’s not afraid to deliver a few low blows.
The Colorado Senate Democrats, which he leads, issued a Twitter message Friday accusing 55 county sheriffs of siding with “criminals.”
A week earlier, the Morse campaign launched radio ads claiming that those gathering signatures to place him on the recall ballot were “criminals convicted of forgery, fraud and even sexual assault.”
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, one of the sheriffs accused by Democrats of backing criminals by filing a lawsuit against the state’s new gun-control laws, said such political tactics have become par for the course.
“I’m not at all surprised,” said Maketa. “This is their typical way of deflecting having to engage in a true debate. I would challenge the Senate Democrats to respond to the issues instead of making these childish claims and accusations.”
It’s unclear whether Morse wrote the #Sheriffs4Criminals hashtag sent out by the Colorado Senate Democrats, or if the message was sent without his knowledge by staff. The message said, “2day CO sheriffs stood in opposition of CO’s new gun laws, but not w/law-abiding citizens, but with criminals.”
The sheriffs were joined in the lawsuit by the Colorado Farm Bureau, Magpul Industries, the Colorado State Shooting Association, the Colorado Outfitters Association, Colorado Youth Outdoors, Women for Concealed Carry, licensed firearms dealers, and Outdoor Buddies, a charity for the disabled.
That’s a whole lot of “criminals,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), who opposed the two gun-control measures targeted by the federal lawsuit.
“They just called the Colorado Farm Bureau criminals,” said Brophy. “I’m sure I’m a member of at least one of these groups that sued, and plus I voted against all of these bills–does that make me a criminal?”
A former police officer, Morse may have bigger problems than the sheriffs’ lawsuit. The recall effort is still in the signature-gathering phase, but it’s garnering national attention, as well as speculation that Democrats may decide to sacrifice Morse in order to protect their Senate majority.
In the works is a plan to force Morse to resign before a recall election can be scheduled and replace him with former Democratic state Rep. Michael Merrifield, according to Colorado Peak Politics.
Merrifield is also the former state director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The organization was active this year in lobbying the state legislature on behalf of a sweeping gun-control package.
Colorado Democratic Party chair Rick Palacio told Fox31 Denver that no such plan exists, but also took a jab at recall organizers for failing to realize that Democrats could force a resignation in order to save the Morse seat.
“It just shows that the people pushing the recall didn’t really think this through,” Palacio said. “If they really gamed this out, they’d have realized that this is a possibility.”
Meanwhile, Morse is having none of the resignation talk, telling Fox31 that he’ll fight to save his seat “until the bitter end.”
Morse is one of four Democratic legislators targeted for recall by gun-rights groups after the Democratic legislature approved three gun-control bills in March. The recall campaigns have until early June to submit petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.
Morse’s anti-recall campaign, A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, is urging residents of his Colorado Springs district not to sign the petitions, calling the effort disreputable and praising Morse for having “the courage to act and stand up to the NRA.”
The El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, which is leading the Morse recall effort, took a swipe Saturday at the Senate Democrats’ Twitter message.
“Senate Democrats led by Morse state that Colorado Sheriffs stand with criminals, not law-abiding citizens,” said the committee in a Facebook post. “We say no, they are standing up for the law-abiding citizens and Colorado citizens and not standing with the senate democrats, so they are obviously not standing with criminals.”