ARVADA — A Washington, D.C., political-action committee is bankrolling the rough-and-tumble campaign to save Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak from a recall vote.
The Environmental Majority PAC has donated $30,000 to two anti-recall issue committees: $5,000 to Stand with Evie, and $25,000 to the Democracy Defense Fund, the group behind door-hangers and robocalls urging Jefferson County residents not to sign recall petitions.
The two issue committees have raised $50,428, more than twice as much as Recall Hudak Too, which has collected $23,296, mainly in donations of $100 or less from Colorado residents, according to the latest campaign-finance reports.
Mike McAlpine, an organizer of Recall Hudak Too, said the anti-recall push has had a negative impact on signature-gathering. So far the group has relied on volunteers, but with just three weeks before petitions are due, the recallers are considering hiring paid circulaters.
“We’re right on the edge of committing to that,” said McAlpine. “We’re in this to win.”
The biggest obstacle may be the robocalls, say volunteers, which sound like the official reverse 911 calls issued by police in emergencies.
“This is a community alert for Arvada and Westminster from the Democracy Defense Fund,” says a robocall message posted on several media websites. “Paid signature-gatherers who have not gone through a criminal background check could be in Westminster and Arvada this week asking for signatures on a recall petition. Do not sign this petition.”
McAlpine said the robocalls have been effective in dissuading some residents from signing. The campaign must submit about 18,900 valid signatures from registered voters in Senate District 19 by Dec. 3 to force the recall.
“The robocalls are affecting people such as seniors who mostly stay at home,” said McAlpine. “It sounds like an official public-service announcement, and they’re very concerned about it.”
Recallers are also upset with what they describe as the overly aggressive tactics of some demonstrators, who have used bullhorns, tambourines and other noisemakers to discourage voters at sign-and-drive sites.
“We had a gentleman, a World War II veteran, who couldn’t walk very well but made his way to the sign-and-drive at the King Soopers, and they were honking horns and shaking tambourines in his ears,” said Joe Neville, political director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which is supporting the petition drive.
The Hudak recall drive was launched shortly after Democratic state Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse were unseated in the Sept. 10 recalls. Those efforts were initially dismissed as unrealistic by Democrats, and they’re clearly not about to make the same mistake twice.
With the deadline looming, Arvada has the look of a town in full campaign mode. Bright yellow “Recall Hudak” posters compete for attention in some neighborhoods with red, white and blue “Stand with Evie” yard signs.
On Saturday, dozens of protesters from both sides waved signs at cars near sign-and-drive sites along Wadsworth Boulevard. Several recall opponents wore T-shirts or hats with labor-union logos, while some recall boosters sported Second Amendment or gun-rights attire.
“I support what I believe is right. I’m a part of the labor movement and that’s all I’ll tell you,” said a young man with an anti-recall sign and a “Sheet Metal Workers” T-shirt who declined to give his name to a reporter.
Audrey Kline, a recent Arvada West High School graduate who held a homemade “Gun Owners for Hudak” sign, said that she agreed with Hudak’s votes in favor of three gun-control bills in the 2013 legislative session.
“In fact, I feel safer because the bills were passed,” said Kline. “This is not about guns. It’s about a majority in the Senate, and Evie’s been one of the most supportive people in the Senate of what I believe in.”
On the other side were recall supporters like Bob Kagohara, who said he worried about the loss of his constitutional rights.
“I’m a third-generation Coloradoan, and this isn’t the Colorado I grew up in,” said Kagohara. “People from California have moved in and turned it into a [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg state. I support the Constitution, and I see the Second Amendment being eroded by liberals and progressives.”