COLO. SPRINGS – Republican leaders warn that two GOP candidates will ensure a Democrat wins an election to replace Democrat Senate President John Morse, whose ouster hinges on a legal challenge to the petitions and a recall election.
“There is no mathematical way to get rid of Morse, and not replace him with somebody like Michael Merrifield, if we have more than one Republican candidate,” said Laura Carno of I Am Created Equal which raised more than $55,000 for the recall effort.
Morse won re-election in 2010 by just 340 votes. Former Rep. Michael Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs) was term limited that year and became state director for Mayors Against Illegal Guns spearheaded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
El Paso GOP Chair Jeff Hayes has offered a proposal that would empower the party Central Committee in Senate District 11 to select either Jaxine Bubis or Bernie Herpin to run for Morse’s seat. The candidate with the lowest vote count would withdraw from the race.
“We reached a consensus that we want the Senate District 11 Central Committee members, the people that Republicans elected to represent them, to have the say,” said Hayes, who has been working on the process with state GOP Chair Ryan Call for weeks.
“We want it to be legitimate and above board,” said Hayes. “We don’t want to give any perception that there’s, you know, five guys smoking cigars in the back room picking a candidate.”
The plan would be scrapped if only one candidate gains the required 1,000 petition signatures certified by the Secretary of State’s office or candidates reject the terms of the agreement.
And the final hurdle is successfully fighting the legal challenge to nullify more than 10,000 petition signatures to recall Morse. The challenge, which claims the petition language did not state an election would be held, will be heard Thursday by Secretary of State Scott Gessler. His decision could be appealed to a district court.
A similar proposal to pare Republican candidates to a single challenger was proposed by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and Americans for Prosperity executive Jeff Crank. The plan was endorsed by 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn, businessman Steve Schuck and Carno.
“Sheriff Maketa and I decided we were going to do everything we can to ensure that we have one Republican candidate because all of these people went out and worked tirelessly to gather these (recall petition) signatures,” said Crank, who unveiled the plan Saturday on KVOR radio.
“This is a historical moment – it’s a moment that we cannot let go by,” Crank said. “We have to put personal egos aside. Candidates have to say, ‘You know this isn’t about me; this is about restoring our rights.”
The Morse recall effort was sparked by outrage over Morse’s leadership in ramming gun-control laws through the legislature – and manipulating committee hearings to cut off public comment.
Morse admitted on MSNBC that he’d advised Democrat legislators to ignore constituents who argued the measures erode 2nd Amendment rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution and Colorado Constitution.
Herpin, who served on the Colorado Springs City Council, approved the concept and agreed to withdraw from the race if Bubis gained more votes cast by the Senate District 11 GOP Central Committee.
“I will abide by their decision,” said Herpin. “…We have got to defeat John Morse. If we do that, it’s a victory no matter who replaces him.”
Bubis has not yet indicated her decision, and did not return calls for comment. She is scheduled to appear on Crank’s KVOR radio show on Saturday morning.
Crank said he likes Bubis and Herpin, and vowed support either of them if they “support either of them if they commit to having one candidate.”
“If anybody tries to blow it up and stay in (the race), helping to elect Michael Merrifield, I’ll tear ‘em apart,” declared Crank. “That’s just the reality of it.”
Lamborn said Bubis and Herpin are “great candidates,” but the race has to be narrowed down.
“John Morse is so bad, and if we let him escape or put in Michael Merrifield, who would actually be worse, we’ve blown it!” declared Lamborn.