After the governor signed the gun bill, Rivera decided to challenge Senator Giron in 2014. “She thinks that the gun bill is ‘awesome,’” he says. “She walks around saying it.” But “when the recall came along, I brought my plans forward and entered the race.” Rivera, the son of a Mexican immigrant, talks of the broad base of support that he has managed to attract. It “goes across ethnicities and party lines” to all people who are “jealous of their rights,” he tells me. The “conventional wisdom,” he continues, “is that a recall wasn’t even possible. We’re defying all the odds. This is a Democratic area. I’ve had Democrats say to me that they wish they could have signed my petition but couldn’t because they aren’t registered Republicans.”
Rivera not only is faced with the challenge of putting his case to an electorate that tends to vote for Democrats, but is also working against a torrent of money, much of it from out of state. New York’s Michael Bloomberg contributed $350,000 to the anti-recall efforts, while California’s Eli Broad chipped in $250,000. By my calculations, the pro-recall side is being outspent about 8 to 1. But this might turn out to be counterproductive. “People see the money that’s coming in, and I don’t think it’s sitting well with them,” Rivera says. “Colorado is an independent state.” Still, he tells me, he is “working as if I’m 15 to 20 points behind.”
Unlike Rivera, Herpin has some political experience under his belt. In March 2006, after he retired from the military, he was appointed to the Colorado Springs city council, and he served there for five years. But he is not a traditional political animal. An aerospace engineer, he has spent his career on submarines in the Navy and as a private contractor for the Air Force. “This election is about having our voices heard,” he tells me.
Odd as it sounds for a single-issue recall, the primary focus of the pro-incumbent commercials isn’t gun control, but other issues such as abortion. “Senator Morse and his allies are trying to deceive voters and change the subject from his liberal agenda and his unwillingness to listen to his constituents,” Herpin says. “People are fed up, and it isn’t going to work.” Still, for his part, Herpin seems more than happy to discuss other issues: He has made much political hay out of his support for Jessica’s Law, a proposed measure that would put convicted sex offenders on probation for life. (Senator Morse opposes the idea, arguing that it is impractical, and possibly unconstitutional.) “They’re trying to deflect from the core issue,” Rivera tells me. “It’s a typical political ploy.”
The potential consequences of the challenges are significant. If John Morse is deposed, the Democrats in the state senate will have to choose a new leader, which may well mean a significantly moderated agenda. If Angela Giron goes, too, the Democrats’ advantage in the senate will be cut from 20–15 to 18–17. As it takes 18 votes to pass legislation, the Democrats’ power would be seriously curbed — just one dissenting voice, and the party’s agenda is in trouble. And, perhaps most powerful of all, if the pair is removed, then sitting among the ranks of Colorado’s legislators will be two men who were ultimately sent to the senate for one reason only: to remind the government who is boss.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer for National Review.