Organizers of a petition drive aimed at a recall of Senate President Leroy Garcia say they plan to turn in signatures on Friday to Secretary of State Jena Griswold's office.
Volunteer Dave DeCenzo of BadforPueblo.com, the group behind the recall of the Pueblo Democrat, confirmed that they plan to take the trek up to Denver on Friday, as first reported by Colorado Public Radio.
The group needs at least 13,506 valid signatures. To get to that number, common practice would be to gather about 20% more than that, to ward off invalid signatures, or about 16,200.
Asked how many signatures have been gathered, DeCenzo said she didn't know, adding that the group is still counting signatures and petitions are still coming in.
The recall group had 60 days, starting on Aug. 19, to collect signatures.
DeCenzo said they've had to combat opposition, including a man recorded on Oct. 4 at the Pueblo Chile Fest telling people not to sign the petitions as the recall organizers are "fraudulent," don't intend to turn in the signatures and would misuse signers' personal information. The man also swore at the recall volunteers, DeCenzo alleged.
"This is just a sample of what the petitioners have dealt with from the resistance," the recall organizers stated in a Facebook post. "The petitioners (moms and grand moms) in this case were subject to this vial[sic] outbreak — then forced to leave because a public scene was created in front of a business. Agitators have persistently stalked/harassed petitioners to prevent those of the public from exercising their right of signing a petition."
The petition states as reasons for seeking Garcia's recall that the Senate president "has voted against the best interest of his district by voting YES on SB 19-181 which would restrict oil and gas production in Colorado. According to one of Pueblo county’s largest employers, EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel, these restrictions will threaten jobs and tax revenue in Pueblo county.
"Garcia has betrayed the trust of his constituents by blatantly refusing to carry out the desires of the overwhelming number of the people he was elected to represent when 60% of Pueblo county voted no to similar oil and gas restrictions in proposition 112," the petition adds, referring to a failed measure on last November's ballot that would have severely restricted oil and gas operations.
"Leroy Garcia has cost taxpayers ten of thousands of dollars in legal fees from a lawsuit settlement, and put thousands more at risk from another lawsuit because he ignored legislative rules," the petition says.
That reference relates to a lawsuit filed by Senate Republicans in March over a 2,023-page bill that they requested be read at length in the Senate. Senate Democrats set up a bank of computers with reading programs that read sections of the bill simultaneously, and Denver District Court Judge David Goldberg later ruled the reading was unintelligible. Senate Democrats appealed that ruling in June, stating that the District Court violated the separation of powers, "in creating standards for and directing implementation of legislative procedures that are within the province of the legislative branch," according to a June 28 motion.
The recall petition adds: "Because of his recklessness as Senate President, and his failure to represent the values and opinions of the citizens of the 3rd Senate district of the state of Colorado, we demand a recall election for Senator Leroy Garcia as the only reasonable and available means to defend the interest and values of the people of his district."
Garcia noted to Colorado Politics in August that he won re-election last November with nearly 74% of the vote. "I have a lot of support from Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. I don't think there's an appetite for taxpayers to pay up to $275,000 for a special election," he said.
Curtis Hubbard, spokesman for the anti-recall group Democracy First Colorado, said in a statement Tuesday that "one thing is crystal clear from the recall scams that have fewer wins than the Broncos this year: Don't take anything the grifters, sore losers and extremists say at face value. We will believe it when we see it."
The recall committee has raised $18,560. The largest donation of $5,554 in cash and non-monetary contributions came from recall organizer Victor Head of Pueblo, a former GOP candidate for Pueblo County Clerk and who also was active in the successful recall against Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo in 2013.
The largest expenditure to date is $2,000 paid to attorney (and KNUS-AM conservative talk radio host) Randy Corporon.
If the organizers turn in the signatures on Friday, the deadline for the petition drive, it will be the only one of the five recalls mounted during 2019 to do so. Recall efforts against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial and Democratic state Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood all failed to gather enough signatures and those recall organizers did not turn in their petitions to the Secretary of State.
Groups organized to combat the recalls, such as Democracy First Colorado and Our Colorado Way of Life, have raised a total of $1.105 million to combat the five recalls in 2019. Since August, when the Garcia recall launched, Democracy First has raised $281,000, including $75,000 each from Conservation Colorado, the Colorado Education Association and Education Reform Now, the fundraising arm of Democrats for Education Reform, a dark money group that doesn't disclose its donors. The Pueblo Education Association contributed $5,000 to Our Colorado Way of Life in the past month. The same committee spent $5,641 on anti-recall ads with the Pueblo Chieftain and $2,5000 on anti-recall ads for Garcia on Facebook.