Why The Latest Colorado Recall Effort Is About More Than Just Guns

Colorado state Sen. Evie Hudak is skeptical.

Despite all the attention being paid to her votes for gun control earlier this year, the Democrat told TPM recently she believes the latest conservative effort to remove her from office is about something else: control of the Colorado Senate.

“I just really think its purpose is to grab the power by the Republicans,” Hudak said in an interview by phone last week. “They didn’t win enough elections to be the majority and so I guess they feel the need to waste our taxpayer dollars on these recalls but I don’t think this is the way our government should function and it’s not how we’ve done business in Colorado.”

Conservatives already tried and failed to force Hudak to face a recall earlier this year. But the successful efforts to throw out two of her Democratic colleagues, Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, emboldened the organizers to take another run at Hudak.

The latest effort is called Recall Evie Hudak Too, and its organizers are trying to gather 25,000 signatures in her district by early December to force a recall election. The group bills itself as a response to her votes to tighten the state’s gun laws. The state earlier this year imposed limits on the size of ammunition magazines and expanded background checks for people who wanted to buy guns. The laws came in the wake of last year’s shooting massacres at an elementary school in Connecticut and a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

But one thing that’s been conspicuous so far in this recall attempt is that if it’s successful, control of the state Senate will flip to Republicans. Democrats currently hold the majority by just one seat.

Hudak said despite all of the problems it has caused her politically, she wouldn’t change her votes on gun control.

“I believe I voted the right way. I’m proud of my legislative record,” Hudak said. “I carried a bill to take guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders.”

Hudak, a New York native and graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, has spent much of her career in education. She is the chairwoman of the Senate’s education committee and worked as a teacher at the lower, middle, and college levels before being elected to office in 2008.

In March, she drew criticism for comments she made to a rape victim about guns. At a hearing on legislation that would ban concealed-carry guns on college campuses, Hudak got into a exchange with a college rape victim. Hudak told the woman that even if she had been armed when she was attacked, that probably would not have been enough to repel her attacker. Hudak later apologized for the remarks. The people trying to remove her from office have cited the interaction as one of their reasons for doing so.

Supporters of Hudak have been quick to say that the senator is very involved with her constituents and active in her community. While Hudak has served on a range of committees as a state senator, she has also stayed active as a member of the Colorado PTA. Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said that while there may be Coloradoans out there who disagree with Hudak in some way, she’s always ready to hear them out.

“For all of the people who may agree or disagree with the positions she takes, no one can ever accuse Evie Hudak of not engaging her constituents because she’s constantly out doing just that,” Palacio told TPM. “I mean there are very few — and as the chair of the Democratic Party you always want your candidates to knock and walk. Knock on doors and talk to folks. And it’s hard enough to get some candidates to do that during the regular election. Evie Hudak does that all year. So she makes a point of knocking on doors of everyone who comes to her town hall meetings whether or not they’re in support of her or and the position that she’s presenting.”

Palacio said he expects the gun debate to fall flat in Hudak’s district, which covers the Denver suburbs of Arvada and Westminster. He noted that while the other recall elections and the debate over the gun laws had “ginned up gun rights supporters,” those supporters aren’t particularly plentiful in Hudak’s district. (Hudak won her last election by just 584 votes.)

Still, the issue over guns pervades in the recall push. Hudak told TPM that one of her constituents recently received a robocall from the National Rifle Association in support of the recall (The NRA told TPM on Monday it has not launched a robocall there).

Hudak was cagey about discussing the recall. She deflected a number of questions, noting that signatures are still being collected so a lot of facts about the recall would be speculative. When pressed, the senator repeatedly called the recall effort a partisan move.

“I think it’s just a partisan political power grab,” she said.

Democrats aren’t the only ones who have criticized the recall effort. Palacio’s counterpart, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call, said in an interview with a local Fox affiliate earlier this month that the push could undermine Republican chances for higher offices in Colorado in 2014. Asked about Call’s comments, Hudak said they underscored that the recall fight wasn’t about guns or even representative of the entire Republican Party, just a right-wing fringe.

“It’s like the tea party fringe,” Hudak said. “So it isn’t obviously something that’s endorsed by the entire Republican party but they’re doing it. They are Republicans even though they’re a fringe of the party.”

Like others in Colorado, Hudak also said she worries that if the effort against her is successful, recalls will become a regular legislative tool used to block bills and gum up the works, like the filibuster has become in the U.S. Senate.

“I think with each success it’s likely somebody would see it as a successful tool,” Hudak said.

However she also said she’s unshaken by being targeted twice in a row.

“I intend to just continue working — focusing on the 2014 legislative session and advocating for women and seniors and education,” Hudak said. “And I’m going to continue being a senator as long as I’m a senator.”

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