In a continuation of this post, I'll try to explain, to the best of my knowledge, how Colorado wound up where it is. And as usual I completely circumnavigate even the most fledgling attempt at brevity. So fill your glass, grab some snacks and remove any objects of a toss-able nature.
Bill Owens (it is claimed he was a republican) reached across the aisle and did a lot of co-operating during his first term as governor here. He won re-election by the biggest landslide in Colorado history. The senate and house were in republican hands. So, what'd we get?
Aside from the least cool concealed carry option (as explained in great detail here) we had a closing of the "gun show loophole" (which was a referendum but Owens pimped it out) and an expansion of the guilty until proven innocent doctrine which permeates background checks. In Colorado the republicans pushed through a measure that makes an arrest without an acquittal grounds for denial to purchase a weapon. If you're arrested for the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, and the prosecutor realizes that you weren't even alive at the time and simply doesn't press charges, you won't be able to buy a firearm in Colorado until you convince the CBI that you didn't make any cement loafers for aforementioned teamster. Usually the process takes a month or so and involves getting the court in the district where you were arrested to send them a note saying there was no conviction.
All of that from republicans. Moderate republicans who in theory could appeal to the states more socially liberal voters. From there the democrats have been racking up victories. By 2012 they had the governors mansion and both chambers of the legislature. Of course what happened was gunowner control even more nefarious than what the republicans had wrought, but it happened for a number of reasons.
The democrats had been pouring a bunch of money into Colorado to win it over. The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care) is a book by two local fellows, Rob Witwer and Adam Schrager. It details the strategy implemented in Colorado. The Denver Post has an excerpt of the book up at this link here. Another excerpt can be found at the Huffington Post.
The republicans in this state were not prepared for this kind of political warfare. They weren't caught with their pants down, they were caught with their pants in another room and their drawers on their head. The Colorado GoP is, even more-so than the national GoP, concerned primarily with preserving its structure; winning elections is a distant second. That structure revolves around those in power staying in power. If you get a bright, up and coming libertarian leaning or principled conservative republican that can potentially take away a seat from a democrat, the Colorado GoP would give a kind word or two instead of actual support. However if there's a republican that's made from the same mold as those in power now, then they'll bend over backwards to help him even if he's got virtually no chance of winning.
Beauprez is a good example of this. The old guard wanted him to run for governor (again) because he was one of them (take a gander at his endorsements - Romney? Owens? A former mayor of Boulder?). A few of his competitors in the primary would have been better choices to go up against Hickenlooper, but they weren't the old guard or old guard friendly. So they pushed for and backed Beauprez, and Beauprez lost (again).
During Beauprez's campaign he gave the obligatory lip service to gun owners. He mentioned that he'd push for repeal of the UBC and magazine capacity laws, but he didn't focus on them. He spent more time playing up that he'd be a better leader than Hickenlooper. His speeches lacked fire, but in fairness it's tricky to have fire in a speech when the content is about management style rather than an actual issue. But Beauprez was old guard friendly, and he'd do a better job of appealing to the moderates. Besides, it was his turn.
He should have spent every waking hour within 20 feet of a microphone decrying the gunowner control laws Hickenlooper signed. If he sneezed it should have sounded like "ka-I'll repealthosedamnedgunlawshickenlooperpassed-chew. He maybe should have gotten a tattoo across his forehead stating "Repeal Gunowner Control Laws NOW!". Hiring a chorus to back him up as he said "Mr. Hickenlooper, tear down those bad laws!" wouldn't have been amiss. But while it was an issue, it wasn't the issue. Thus in a state where hundreds, perhaps thousands had rallied around the capital to oppose impositions on their freedom, Beauprez ran a "nice" campaign" that highlighted how he'd be a better manager than Hickenlooper and only occasionally mentioned anything about guns. In a state where gunowners would have crawled over broken glass, walked barefoot across a bed of hot coals or listened to the entire "N'Sync's greatest hits" CD to fire the guy who signed limits on their freedom, Beauprez lost by over 3 points and 68,000 votes (the Libertarian only received 39,590 votes so you can't blame it on him). But all is well, cause the old guard are still in charge.
Volumes have been written on Bloomberg's butting in. The Colorado dems were emboldened as they were bought out and pushed through Bloomie the Hut's agenda (though not without consequence). The republicans should have walked off the job when the first of these bills were signed into law. Instead they stuck around, did what little they could, and focused on other efforts of theirs.
The recalls. Here's the wikipedia article on them. This was not an effort by the Colorado GoP. In fact some in the GoP's hallowed halls were upset at the recalls for various reasons. The recalls were started by amateurs - folks with no real history or experience in politics (one of whom, Timothy Knight, is running for the NRA board btw). The NRA and others did step up and send funds and some support, but the state Gop was less than helpful, at least at first:
"[Colorado GoP Chairman Ryan Call] scoffed at us. He
told us we didn't have a shot at getting the recall signatures
certified and that what we were doing was just wrong,' said Victor Head,
a Republican and leader of the group, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, which
took the initial steps to have Giron recalled. 'He did not care to
listen to what was going on with the grass roots in Pueblo, and that's a
problem with leadership in the Republican Party."
The state GoP eventually, begrudgingly lent support to the efforts, but the old guard clearly didn't like it, even after they'd been won.
I'll note that Dudley Brown of RMGO didn't think the recalls were a good idea initially. They did go on to support the recalls once they were underway. The difference twixt Brown and Call is that Brown simply thought they wouldn't succeed, but went on to help as he and RMGO could once he realized he was wrong. Call on the other hand saw it as a threat to his (and the old guards) power, especially when the recalls were successful.
The second Hudak recall attempt deserves special mention. An initial recall attempt was halted by the organizaers. If you see news articles about failing to gather enough signatures to recall Hudak in the spring of '13 that was because the organizers decided to wait in order to focus on the other recalls. They somehow almost always leave that part out.
After the recalls of Giron and Morse, the second recall effort was launched at Hudak. The Colorado GoP was not thrilled.
“This recall election would undermine our efforts in the governor’s
race, the U.S. Senate race and to win a senate majority if voters
perceive that Republicans are trying to win a majority through recalls.”
So spake Chariman Call in a very biased article at the local Fox affiliate. And as you can see he was wrong about the u.S. senate race and the senate majority in Colorado. The governor's race was due to the Colorado GoP, not the recall efforts. Hell, most folks don't realize the state's GoP wasn't behind the recall efforts, and likely the GoP picked up some support from folks who thought they were behind the recalls.
Here's a detailed article that was written during the second recall attempt on Hudak, but before she resigned. It gives some nice background on things.
The second time around, the recall organizer got more support up front from everyone except of course the Colorado GoP. RMGO was supportive not only in the recall attempt but in the follow through. What happened was that as recall organizers got close to having enough signatures, Hudak stepped down. I'm unsure if carrot or stick was offered (though carrot seems plausible enough), but I'm fairly certain she didn't make a noble self sacrificing move for the sake of something bigger than herself. The committee that was to nominate a replacement decided early on that it must be a woman (because gender shouldn't matter or something) and they chose (or rubber stamped Hudak's choice) Hudak's pal and old campaign manager Rachel Zenzinger, who left a seat on the Arvada city council to take the job. That preserved the democrat majority in the senate. This was in late November of '13.
Now this is the important bit - Hudak wasn't due for re-election until 2016. By her stepping down, an election for someone to complete her term was required in the next election cycle, which meant 2014. If Hudak wouldn't have stepped down, she'd be in the state senate until 2016. Therefore the state senate would likely still be democrat controlled.
(Another tidbit that has somehow been glossed over - since the recall elections here Bloomie the Hut has focused on ballot initiatives. Why? Because he realized that politicians would remember the price paid in Colorado for legislative support of his gunowner control agenda. In a state like NY or Massachusetts it's not a big deal, but in a swing state like Oregon or Washington the politicians know that gunowner control laws can cost them their jobs. That's why Colorado did and should matter to the rest of the country - we dispelled the rumor that a politician could vote for gunowner control laws without consequences. And we did it on our own, without much support from the state level parties (though with some help from the NRA and others outside the state). A multi-partisan grassroots effort cost 3 anti-gunowners their jobs. And you're welcome. :) But that's why Bloomie the Hut switched tactics.)
Laura Woods, one of the recall organizers, went through and won the primary. In the primary she was pitted against an old guard pick name of Sias who was as inspiring as Beauprez (he's the one who lost to Hudak in the first place). She was outspent but still won. She went on to the general election and while being outspent again she defeated Zenzinger and thus the Colorado GoP won control of the senate.
Is the Colorado GoP grateful? Nope, in fact there are rumors that they're going to primary Laura Woods as her seat is up for election in 2016.
The candidates who won the recall elections both lost to democrats. In part this was because the Colorado GoP didn't support them that much. It would have been tough as the districts were democrat to begin with, and unlike the recall elections, mail-in ballots were allowed (which from what I can deduce makes cheating that much easier even if you don't consider the new voter fraud enabling law here), but the lack of GoP support was a noticeable factor.
If the Colorado GoP had any say, the recalls would not have happened, the senate would still be in democrat hands, and we'd be rallying at the capital to protest, futilely, the latest round of Bloombergian gunowner control laws they decided to pass. Nationwide Bloomie the Hut would be pushing through his gunowner control agenda in legislatures, not on ballots.
This is not because the state GoP isn't fielding candidates that appeal to moderates or the socially liberal among us; in my professional assessment it's because they're freaking stupid. They care about preserving their power, not about winning elections or advancing any cause or ideal. To preserve their power they're fielding candidates whom they think will appeal to moderate republicans, not conservatives or libertarians.
The establishment GoP candidates that won are doing a bit of fan service. They're passing pro-gunowner bills out of the senate, which they control. There is virtually no chance those bills will make it out of the kill committee in the house. They know this, so there's no harm in voting for a permitless carry bill. If the Colorado GoP had wanted a permitless carry or constitutional carry law, they could have done so easily back in 2003 instead of pushing the inferior "shall issue" law we have in place now. They could have done it in 1999 before the Columbine murders. But they didn't, because they don't care about Rights. In short, they'll do a little for gun owners, but gunowners aren't a priority for them, even now. There are a lot of Colorado republicans who do prioritize gun owners, but they aren't the ones running the state GoP. So they vote for a few things they know will please gunowners while also knowing those things won't actually become law, and then reach across the aisle to work on getting other things accomplished that are important to them.
What they could do, if they were serious is to put the brakes on everything.
I'll explain in another post.