COLO. SPRINGS – As the recall election of Senate President John Morse approaches Tuesday, Republican insiders have been edgy about Colorado College Students’ involvement in casting votes for the Democrat. And it appears those concerns may be justified, as a liberal group is pushing hard to get those students to the polls.
Tuesday, voters in Senate District 11, including newly registered CC students, will decide whether to recall Morse and replace him with Republican Bernie Herpin.
Herpin’s team turned out gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Tom Tancredo to walk precincts with volunteers in a weekend push that included state GOP Chair Ryan Call, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, state Rep. Amy Stephens, and KVOR talk show hosts Richard Randall and Jeff Crank manning phone banks.
Across town, Morse invited Colorado College students to a free beef-n-bun fest and offered a van to drive them to the polls to cast their ballots. According to the CC campus newspaper, the students, who could sway the election, are being courted by the Democrats and the liberal group New Era.
After the Friday event, Morse, looking fatigued and wearing a stained blue polo shirt and khaki shorts, appeared at the polling center on Powers Boulevard to cast his vote.
It had been a grueling day – appearing on MSNBC in the morning to walking precincts to recruiting Colorado College students along with longtime Democrat Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Denver.
“There’s no question it’s going to be close,” Morse told MSNBC of the recall election. “And the other side poured an awful lot of money at this right from the start so it’s been an uphill climb.”
Morse said that if he loses his seat in the recall election, it sends the message that “you can lie, cheat and steal to force a recall election to get people out of office.”
“This has been despicable,” said Morse, who claimed he was being recalled for doing his duty by directing passage of a controversial package of gun control laws.
“With all due respect to you, one of the reasons you’re being recalled is (your) demeaning of the opponents of your gun control legislation, as you’ve described them as liars and cheaters,” said political consultant and former state GOP chair Dick Wadhams.
“That’s one of the reasons you are in the predicament you are here, today,” said Wadhams.
“I was a police officer for years so when people commit crimes you accuse them of crimes and you prove that they’ve done those crimes. And that’s exactly what we’ve done in this case,” responded Morse.
Morse’s defense campaign charged that recall petition signatures were forged and included a deceased woman; however, those allegations have not been proven and are still under investigation by District Attorney Dan May’s office.
Morse asserted that the grassroots campaign to recall him was heavily funded from the start. And that he struggled to raise funds to fight the recall. But critics say the reality is quite different from the picture Morse backers paint. The recall effort has managed on roughly $500,000 – a pittance compared to more than $3 million amassed by the anti-recall effort.
But, just as Morse has received outside money from billionaires like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he also benefitted from New Era, a Boulder-based liberal nonprofit that sent busloads of people to register voters and elect Democrats across the state last year.
Characterized as a member of the anti-recall campaign, A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, is Ben Quam, the student body president who graduated from Colorado College last year
But Quam worked this year as a Denver Field Organizer for New Era Colorado.
“Ben Quam, a recent Colorado College graduate alum campaigning for Morse though the organization A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, stresses his hope for the support of voters from Colorado College owing to the liberal reputation of the school,” stated the college’s Catalyst newspaper.
The news article went on to say that Quam was concerned about the original recall election date in August because Colorado College students might not have been able to vote. That problem was resolved when Gov. John Hickenlooper set a Sept. 10 election date.
“The students of CC are an important part of the Springs and are impacted by local laws,” said Quam. “We are working hard to make sure students know they can vote and should be voting.”
The voter registration guidelines were printed on the CC website last month, so it was no surprise when several CC students showed up Friday to deliver ballots stuffed in their backpacks. The students were so informed, they apparently signed up for mail ballots last week.
“You must have been a resident on or before August 19 to vote in the upcoming election,” states the college website and provides a link to register on the Colorado Secretary of State website.
But some CC students also complained that their right to vote was impeded because the nearby precinct poll was closed and they were being force to walk (or bike or drive) 12 blocks to Centennial Hall to cast their ballots.
The election law sponsored by Giron and Morse closed neighborhood precincts but does allow students to use a dorm address to be eligible to vote.
Only a fraction of the 2,000 CC students voting might impact the recall election, according to one observer.
“Ground games to get out the vote for both sides (are) critical,” CC Professor Dr. Tom Cronin told the college newspaper. “A hundred or two pro-Morse votes could make the difference.”