DENVER — Recalled Senate President John Morse lashed out Thursday at the recall committees that targeted him for defeat, but also assigned blame for his ouster to supporters who failed to show up at the polls.
The Colorado Springs Democrat, who lost his legislative seat in the Sept. 10 recall election, said in an interview on KOA-AM that his backers didn’t understand the gravity of his situation.
“That’s the frustrating part,” said Morse. “Even at the doors myself, people were like, ‘Ah you’ll be fine, everyone knows you and likes you and respects what you do, you don’t have anything to worry about.’”
About 21 percent of registered voters in Senate District 11 cast ballots in the special election, which Morse lost by a margin of 51 to 49 percentage points.
“Some of those people I was able to persuade—‘Oh, no, no, no, I need every vote I can get’ — and some I wasn’t able to persuade,” said Morse. “Nearly 80 percent of the people didn’t show up to vote. About 11 percent of the people managed to wag the whole dog, and now I no longer have a seat.”
Turnout in the Morse recall was lower than that in the same-day recall election of state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), where about 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Giron was defeated by a margin of 56 to 44 percentage points.
Morse’s defeat came even though organizers at national groups like Organizing for America sent hundreds of volunteers to the district in an effort to get Democratic voters to the polls.
“If they really liked him, they would have come out to support him,” said Lauro Carno, who heads I Am Created Equal Action in Colorado Springs, which supported the Morse recall drive. “In the marketplace of ideas, even though we were significantly outspent, our ideas won.”
The Colorado Springs and Pueblo recallers were outspent by about $3 million to $500,000. Even so, Morse blamed the paid signature-gatherers who circulated the petitions to force a recall election as the key reason for his ouster.
“They bought the signatures. They would have never recalled me if they hadn’t been able to buy the signatures. $3 a signature,” said Morse. “They actually bought the signature. They couldn’t get them just going door to door with volunteers.”
Carno, whose group paid $56,798 to hire a petition-circulating firm for the recall effort, pointed out that paid signature-gatherers are nothing new in Colorado politics.
“Both sides of the aisle have historically used paid signature gatherers,” said Carno in an email. “Amendment 66, which appears on ballots now, was placed there as a result of paid signature gatherers.”
Pueblo Freedom and Rights broke the mold by using volunteer circulators to collect signatures in the Giron recall, but in the end, the outcome was the same in both campaigns.
“The recall proponents did a better job than the opponents getting their supporters out to vote,” said Carno. “The voters have spoken and their message that Sen. Morse went too far, and didn’t listen to his constituents, was heard. Sen. Morse should hear that message today.”
The recalls were launched in response to the Democratic state legislature’s passage of sweeping gun-control bills, but Morse critics say they were equally upset with what they saw as his dismissal of his constituents’ concerns.
Morse told KOA-AM that he would do it all again the same way. “Absolutely, in a New York second,” he said.
“What we did was the right thing. We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” said Morse. “The price I paid with my political career, which was going to end in a year anyway—so, so, so small in comparison. I wouldn’t change a thing.”