Backers of a proposed recall of Colorado state Rep. Tom Sullivan over his support for a gun-control measure are ending the effort.
Kristi Burton Brown, vice chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and the chief organizer of the recall drive, announced in a Facebook post Tuesday that "we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts." She said that Sullivan's foes will instead focus on ousting the Centennial Democrat in the 2020 election.
"Sullivan does not get a free pass," Brown added. "2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is. The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall."
(Brown's full post is at the end of this story.)
Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat whose son was murdered in the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater, was elected last November to represent House District 37, which includes parts of Centennial, Lone Tree, Parker and Foxfield.
The recall effort was backed by gun-rights organization Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and a group tied to Colorado House GOP leadership.
Sullivan's detractors sought to recall the first-term lawmaker over his support of the so-called "red flag" bill that passed the Colorado legislature in this year's session. The measure allows a judge to order the surrender or seizure of firearms from a person deemed a threat.
RMGO is also suing to overturn the red flag law.
Recall petitions against Sullivan were approved in mid-May. Supporters of the recall had a July 12 deadline to collect 10,035 valid signatures of registered voters in Colorado's House District 37.
Sullivan cheered the news in a statement to Colorado Politics.
"The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Colorado GOP again underestimated the support we have from the people in my district. I'm excited to continue talking to voters and making sure their voices are heard in the state House. I'll always work hard to earn their votes and make sure that fringe groups can't undermine our democracy," he said.
Sullivan had been going door to door in his district recently to campaign against the recall attempt.
The spokesman for a Democratic group working to defend Democratic legislators facing recalls on Tuesday tore into Sullivan's critics.
"Their recall effort was an absolute non-starter in the district and their extremist messaging did more to hurt their efforts than help it," said Matthew McGovern, executive director of the Democrats' House Majority Project and and an organizer with Our Colorado Way of Life.
"If there was any chance of this recall succeeding, they wouldn't be running away from it, and their statement shows that they learned nothing from this failed attempt. We hope that they will cease this endless election cycle and let voters decide Colorado's future during normal elections, but we are ready to beat them again if they launch additional recalls."
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners said in a statement Tuesday that the group had also decided to suspend gathering signatures to recall Sullivan "in order to refocus our resources on upcoming recalls and legislative battles."
Dudley Brown, RMGO's executive director, said in a statement: “It’s clear from our work on the ground in HD-37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at-large. Tom Sullivan’s socialist voting record and radically anti-gun positions will be a central discussion piece of the 2020 general election.”
The announcement that Sullivan's opponents are pulling the plug on the recall comes as costs have been mounting for organizers on both side of the recall push.
Just hours before Brown said she was cancelling the effort, one of the groups defending Sullivan announced that national gun-safety organizations had poured more than $100,000 into the anti-recall campaign.
Democracy First Colorado, a group organized to push back against recall campaigns aimed at Democratic legislators, said it had received $100,000 from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, an organization mostly funded by billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and $10,000 from Giffords, an organization founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and wounded in a 2011 attack at a supermarket gathering of constituents.
“We are proud to stand with Rep. Sullivan in the face of this cynical effort to undermine the will of the people,” said John Feinblatt, Everytown president, in a statement.
RMGO's Dudley Brown told 9News that his group had spent $45,000 on the recall effort, including $30,000 on paid petition gatherers.
Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, hailed the recall's demise.
"I think that Tom Sullivan is a dedicated public servant who took personal tragedy and turned it into a drive to make life better for other Coloradans, and I'm glad that he won't have to go through something as divisive and negative as a recall, and I'm looking forward to working with him in the next state legislative session," Polis told Colorado Politics in an interview.
Brown declined Colorado Politics' request for an interview about Tuesday's announcement.
Brown has said she was leading the recall effort "as a citizen and a mom" and not as a state GOP official. Party leaders had not officially endorsed the effort.
"Kristi initiated this recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party," U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the party's chairman, told Colorado Politics last month. "We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election."
Sullivan also angered conservatives over his support for other bills, including one that would allocate all of Colorado's Electoral College votes for president to the highest vote-getter nationally, regardless of who wins in Colorado, if a minimum number of other states agree to follow suit.
Conservatives are gathering signatures to hold a statewide referendum on that legislation, which won't take effect before the 2020 presidential election.
Opponents of the recall had cast the effort as an attempt the thwart the will of the voters.
Last year, Sullivan unseated Republican Assistant House GOP leader Cole Wist, who in 2018 sponsored a different version of the red flag legislation that was backed this year by Sullivan.
Sullivan showed up at the Capitol every day of the session wearing a leather jacket that belonged to his son, Alex, one of 12 victims killed in the theater shooting.
Wist announced last month that he opposed the recall of the man who had defeated him.
"Last year, state GOP leadership failed to speak up to defend me when RMGO carpet bombed my house district with negative flyers," Wist tweeted May 14. "Now, these same leaders pledge to work with RMGO to take out my successor in a recall. I do not support this effort."
Wist added: "It is unfortunate but crystal clear. RMGO owns the Colorado Republican Party."
Democratic and liberal groups hailed Tuesday's news in a series of statements.
“Today’s decision proves these recall efforts by the Colorado Republican Party are a sham," said Morgan Carroll, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. "Representative Sullivan is an honorable man who kept his promises to the voters of HD37, and Colorado Republicans folding shows just how little support there was for this cynical recall. But they clearly haven’t ended their scheme to undermine democracy, since their statement indicates they’re still window shopping for Senate seats they can try to steal through a recall effort."
"The misguided recall campaign against Tom Sullivan exposed the biggest problem in Colorado politics today," said Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, a liberal political advocacy group. "Unserious extremists and outright grifters have taken control of the Colorado Republican Party. The problem has been festering for years while the local party establishment believed it could direct Dudley Brown's mob to its own ends. Now the inmates have taken control of the asylum, and this latest humiliating failure for Colorado Republicans is the inevitable outcome."
And Jessica Post, executive director of the Washington-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, issued a statement saying: “Colorado’s extreme Republicans wanted to recall Representative Tom Sullivan because he followed through on his campaign promises — and they quickly learned what a dumb reason that is for a recall. Representative Sullivan passed common-sense gun safety legislation and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee was proud to help defend him against this undemocratic abuse of the state’s recall system.”
Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland contributed.
Here is Kristi Burton Brown's full statement on Facebook:
PERSONAL STATEMENT ON THE SULLIVAN RECALL:
This last month has confirmed everything we suspected about Tom Sullivan and the Colorado Democrats. They are, flat out, too extreme for House District 37 and for our state. The recall effort has provided us with the opportunity to talk with voters and determine that they are predictably shocked when Sullivan’s full voting record is exposed. His votes supporting government funding of heroin injection sites, giving away Colorado’s presidential vote to California and New York, letting schools hide information from parents, and stripping citizens of their privacy and property rights are extreme and out of touch.
The Democrats were so scared by this recall that they pulled out every stop to defend Sullivan: from Attorney General Weiser to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Democrat Socialists screamed their “outrage” and exposed their true colors. Nearly $100,000 of out-of-state money was spent almost immediately to defend the Democrats’ radical agenda.
We have been able to confirm everything we already knew: Tom Sullivan’s days as a State Representative are almost over. While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is. The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat Senators who are not up for re-election in 2020.
Together, we will take back our state from the Democrat politicians who want to control our families, our jobs, and our industries, and we will give it back to the people of Colorado.