In some states, GOP sees the recall as its way back to power
By James Anderson
The Associated Press
DENVER>> Republicans frustrated by losing their grip on political power in some Western states have begun deploying a new weapon: the recall.
Once reserved for targeting corrupt or inept elected officials, the recall has become part of the toolkit for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results. One GOP strategist in Colorado has put a name to it — “recall season.”
To be sure, Democrats also have used recalls, most notably in Wisconsin, where they tried unsuccessfully to oust then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2012 over his actions to weaken public sector unions.
But Republicans have been mounting recall efforts against Democratic state lawmakers and governors at an unprecedented rate over the past two years in a handful of Western states, at the same time their political fortunes in those states have been declining.
In 2018, they recalled a freshman state senator in California as a way to temporarily undo a Democratic supermajority.
The same year in Nevada, two Democratic lawmakers and an allied independent fended off recall attempts.
In Oregon, Republicans are pursuing a recall of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who was reelected last year, after GOP lawmakers walked out of the Senate to try to block votes on climate change and education bills.
Colorado, where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office, is seeing its highest level of recall activity since 2013, when two Democratic lawmakers lost their seats for supporting gun control legislation and a third facing recall resigned.
Recall campaigns are targeting Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, two Democratic state House members and two Democrats in the state Senate. Recall committees have been formed for other lawmakers, and the GOP’s topranking officials have encouraged the efforts.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, newly elected as chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, told supporters earlier this year, “We need to teach them how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.”
Colorado recall proponents accused their targets of overreach on issues of gun control, climate change, taxes, sex education and the electoral college — issues that many of the Democrats ran on during their successful campaigns.
Karen Kateline, a talk show host working on the Polis effort, insists that she and other Republicans aren’t abusing the original misconduct intent for recalls.
“Nobody is putting the brakes on these people,” she said of Democrats.
“It’s our constitutional right to recall,” insisted Nancy Pallozzi, a Republican from the Denver suburb of Lakewood, who is leading an effort against state Sen. Brittany Pettersen. “We can’t wait for new (GOP) candidates to be vetted for the next election. Three more years for the governor? And three more years for Brittany? No.”
Democrats see the recalls as a blatant attempt to undo the results of the most recent elections, which produced a Democratic wave in several Western states.
Matt Harringer, spokesman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, has a simple label for the Republicans pursuing the recall attempts — “sore losers.” The committee, which gets involved in state legislative races, has dedicated $135,000 to help fight the Colorado recall attempts.
“Republicans are definitely on the decline in the West, and Colorado is the leader of that,” Harringer said. “We don’t think there’s a huge appetite to recall legislators who are doing what they said they would do.”
Nevertheless, Republicans see it as a worthy strategy. The Colorado Republican Party started months ago offering training sessions for what GOP consultant Ben Engen calls “recall season.”
Proponents can use the process to time an election and