DENVER–Charges of Democratic harassment and intimidation escalated Tuesday after a man hired by the Angela Giron campaign was arrested as he went door-to-door to convince Pueblo voters to remove their names from the recall petition.
Elric Franco, a campaign worker for Pueblo United for Angela, was arrested Saturday on an outstanding warrant for criminal mischief after Pueblo police were called to break up an argument with a homeowner, according to a police-report summary.
The homeowner “told me the man was very rude and seemed abrasive,” said Pueblo Cpl. Matthew Ballard in his report.
Pueblo Sgt. Eric Gonzales confirmed Tuesday that Franco also has a restraining order against him forbidding him from coming into contact with another police officer, which he said was likely issued by a court.
The Giron campaign issued an apology after the arrest, but recall organizers say the skirmish comes as another example of the aggressive and intimidating tactics employed by the committees formed to rescue the political careers of Democratic state Sens. Giron and John Morse.
Victor Head, leader of the Pueblo Freedom and Rights recall committee, called the arrest an example of “more hypocrisy,” noting that Democrats have accused recall organizers of hiring people with criminal records.
“They’ve employed these people, they’ve given them all your information, and now we find out one of these guys is wanted by the police,” said Head. “It’s pretty crazy. Everything they’ve accused us of, it turns out they’ve been the ones doing it.”
The Giron and Morse anti-recall groups have hired telemarketers and door-to-door canvassers in an effort to convince voters to remove their signatures from the recall petitions.
The Secretary of State’s office announced last month that both recalls have sufficient signatures to proceed, although protests have been filed against the efforts. A decision on the Morse protest is expected today.
Morse campaign officials say that contacting petition-signers by phone and in person is the only way to verify whether the signatures are legitimate. On Friday, A Whole Lot of People for John Morse accused the recall effort of forgery, saying that at least 55 of the 10,137 signatures are fraudulent.
“Phone calls and going door-to-door are the only way to verify and notify voters about the possible identity theft,” said the Morse camp in a Monday statement. “Our canvassers and phone team have acted in the most professional manner despite the anger and hostility in some households.”
That’s not how some petition-signers would characterize the anti-recall campaign. About a dozen Colorado Springs residents said at press conferences Monday that they felt pressured and harassed by Morse campaign workers.
Petition-signer Kevin Barney of Colorado Springs said that a pro-Morse caller said he “might get audited” for signing the petition to recall the Democrat Morse, while George Knox said the caller refused repeatedly to identify herself.
“Senator Morse is so desperate to keep his seat that now no one is exempt from the harassment; it ranges across party lines as well as demographic lines,” said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, which is running the recall with the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee.
The Morse recall effort hired a paid petition-circulation company to gather signatures, while Pueblo Freedom and Rights gathered its signatures with volunteers.
“Most people we’ve talked to have been more than happy to confirm that it’s their signature,” A Whole Lot of People for John Morse spokeswoman Christy Le Lait told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “My sense is that what they’re considering harassment is just the fact that we called.”
According to the police report, the arrest in the Giron recall came after the homeowner saw Franco crouched in the bushes of his front lawn and told him to leave, but Franco refused, insisting he was on the sidewalk getting a drink of water from his backpack.
Both Franco and the homeowner called 911. After Cpl. Ballard arrived, he discovered that Franco was wanted on an outstanding warrant and a bond of $1,350, and he was transported to Pueblo County Jail.