Rein in the recalls 

Voice of Reason

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

State Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs

State Sen. President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood

State Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo

All of these elected officials have a target on their back. It’s nothing more at the moment, but it’s there.

It’s a sniveling threat from some far-right interests, and it’s all because the Legislature passed and the governor signed some very progressive policies during the 2019 session.

Which leaves us with a question. At what point did we become a selfish, whiny society that has made it easier to threaten to take someone’s job away than to admit you made a mistake and change it when the opportunity arises?

Only 19 states accommodate the recall of legislative members, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Clearly, Colorado is one of them.

It’s not an easy process. To successfully start recall proceedings against a seated state legislator, proponents must first get the ballot language approved by the secretary of state, then gather enough supportive signatures to equal 25 percent of the ballots cast in that district during the preceding election. In Lee’s 11th Senate district, for example, that requires about 11,300 confirmed and certified signatures just to get a recall measure on the ballot.
Then there’s the special election — historically a high-ticket item with low voter turnout — and if the effort succeeds, the need to find a potential replacement for the recalled lawmaker. Even if everything comes together, who knows whether voters would even opt to boot a popular legislator such as Lee?

Because, to be clear, Lee is a rare breed. A true public servant capable of reaching across the aisle and building consensus, always with his constituents’ best interests in mind. So why on earth would anyone want to recall that?
And it’s not like Lee, or Polis for that matter, just squeaked into office. Lee won 62 percent of the vote in 2018, easily defeating Republican challenger Pat McIntire. Polis claimed 53.4 percent of the state ballots, compared to Republican Walker Stapleton’s 42.8 percent. Nobody called for a recount; why call for a recall?

Recalls should be for candidates caught up in some moral turpitude — such as those caught with their hands in the public cookie jar. We should never allow well-funded interests from the left or right to punish legislators for doing their jobs.

Look, we all must accept that the political pendulum swings. Right now in Colorado, the swing is somewhat to the left of the bell-curve, which has clearly annoyed the more extreme members of the right.

So rather than find better candidates and prepare them for victory in 2020 and beyond, they’re whining and threatening those who are doing the job for one simple fact: They’re. Doing. Their. Jobs. When it swings back to the right, what’s to stop the far left from doing the same thing?

In the meantime, where does that leave the state lawmakers who are trying, despite the constant challenges and background chatter, to actually accomplish something at the Capitol? Where does that leave the constituents who are eagerly awaiting those accomplishments? And what kind of legislation can we even anticipate, if anything that could signal actual change might undermine the lawmakers’ jobs?

Instead of threatening to recall every lawmaker who doesn’t perfectly match your belief system, why not present better solutions?

If you don’t like the legislation, fine, change it. But change it in the next general election by developing a stronger candidate pool, not via underhanded, costly backdoor techniques like recalls.

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