Leroy Garcia

State Sen. Leroy Garcia addresses the crowd at the watch party for Colorado Democrats in downtown Denver on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold's office approved the wording of a petition that seeks the recall of state Senate President Leroy Garcia, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin.

The petition targeting the Pueblo Democrat was submitted by Victor Head, Susan Carr and Ernest Mascarenas with BadforPueblo.com.

The petition will need 13,506 valid signatures and must be turned in by Oct. 18. That's too late to get it onto the November 2019 general election ballot, so if the petition drive is successful, a special election would have to be held for the recall.

The petition states as its reasons for seeking Garcia's recall that Garcia "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 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.

"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 told Colorado Politics last week 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."

The objections by the recall group stem from Garcia's vote on Senate Bill 181, which made sweeping changes to the state's regulatory structure for oil and gas operations. That's a big issue in Pueblo, Carr told Colorado Politics last week, because that impacts jobs, including at the steel mills that build pipes for oil production. 

The lawsuit referenced in the recall is one filed by Senate Republicans last March over a 2,023-page bill that they requested be read at length. 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.

Reaction from Democrats to the petition filing was swift.

State party chair Morgan Carroll pointed out that Garcia, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, has "served our country with honor. As the State Senator for Pueblo, Leroy has led the charge on innovative legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, and to ensure that veterans can access the proper healthcare they need and opportunities for jobs when they transition into civilian life. This is yet another attempt by Colorado Republicans to steal a Senate seat because they can't win elections through legitimate means. His community re-elected him overwhelming by over 70% in 2018, and the people of Pueblo will not fall for this shady attempt by right-wing political operatives to overturn their decision."

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which has put more than $177,000 into campaign committees that are fighting against the recalls, also weighed in. 

“Colorado Republicans are sore losers,” said DLCC spokesman Matt Harringer. “We’ve already stopped one recall in its tracks and we’re going to fight to defend every Democrat they target with these anti-democratic recalls.”

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