COLO. SPRINGS — Despite a legal challenge to nullify petitions to recall Senate President John Morse, Republican candidates Jaxine Bubis and former Colorado Springs Councilman Bernie Herpin have jumped into the race against the embattled Democrat, whose passion for gun-control provoked his constituents.
If the petitions are upheld and the recall election moves forward, the Senate District 11 ballot will ask voters if Morse should be recalled and who should replace him.
Republican and Democrat candidates seeking to replace Morse will have to obtain 1,000 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Democrats Michael Maday and former state Rep. Michael Merrifield filed their intent to run for the seat in 2014, when Morse will be term limited. Neither Maday nor Merrifield has signaled their intent to qualify for the recall ballot.
Patrick Davis, a political consultant, said Wednesday that two Republican candidates could split the vote and wind up electing a Democrat.
If that happened it could diminish the recall petition effort to the delight of Democrats in the counter campaign, A Whole Lot of People for Morse.
Herpin, a founder of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, said that former state Rep. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) was the first person who asked him the run – and then others called.
“In (the) Navy and Air Force, I took an oath to defend the Constitution,” said Herpin. “That’s why I’m running to defend our Constitutional rights and promote an environment where small businesses are free to create jobs and improve our local community.”
Herpin said that Morse “has been more interested in doing the bidding of ‘Big Government’ liberals in Denver and Washington and less interested in the economic concerns and of our community.”
As a city councilman, Herpin represented constituents in southern Colorado Springs which includes a portion of Senate District 11. He served from 2006 to 2013, when he became a casualty of anti-incumbent sentiment.
His re-election bid was endorsed by the Colorado Springs Gazette, Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition and several business groups. The list of supporters included Liston, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, House Minority Leader Mark Waller, District Attorney Dan May and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, an outspoken critic of the gun-control laws passed under Morse’s leadership.
Herpin said he hopes to have Sheriff Maketa as well as other supporters join him at the official campaign kickoff.
“Sheriff Maketa will be with me when I officially announce my campaign,” said Herpin. “If elected, I will be responsive to constituents whether they voted for me or not.”
Herpin is better known in political circles than Bubis, who writes military, hockey and romance novels.
Yet, Bubis hit the ground running and launched the “Jaxine for Colorado” campaign website with a list of endorsements, including the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners PAC.
“I joined with the majority of constituents in asking our elected officials to protect our constitutional rights only to be blatantly ignored,” said Bubis in a press release.
“I’m truly humbled to get the endorsements from people I see as true leaders in the fight to protect our rights,” she said.
Bubis’ website lists endorsements from Republicans Sens. Kent Lambert and Owen Hill, former Sen. Dave Schultheis and Rep. Janak Joshi, all of Colorado Springs. Other supporters include Republicans Sens. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins and Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch, and Reps. Chris Holbert of Parker, Justin Everett of Littleton and Steve Humphrey of Windsor.
Former GOP Chair Kay Rendleman said that neither party can reject candidates who successfully petition onto the ballot.
“This recall election has the potential to tear people apart or bring them together to replace John Morse,” said Rendleman.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler will consider a challenge to the validity of recall petition signatures at a public hearing on June 27 at 8:30 a.m.
Gessler’s office determined Tuesday that 10,137 petition signatures are valid, exceeding the 7,178 required for the recall ballot. If the petitions are ruled valid, a court appeal will likely be filed.
“Barring a successful protest, at the conclusion of the protest period, the governor will be responsible for setting an election date,” said Secretary of State Scott Gessler in a statement. “The election date will be held between 45-75 days from the end of the protest period.”