The scuttlebutt at the state Capitol these days revolves around recalls. Nine committees containing the word “recall” have been registered with the Secretary of State’s Office since 2019 began.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, recalls are the new normal in Colorado politics.
Yet, despite committees targeted at higher-ranking elected officials, including both Gov. Jared Polis and Senate President Leroy Garcia, the only petitions approved to date have been for state Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Democrat from Greeley.
More striking, while the other eight recall committees have raised grand totals ranging between $20 and $100, the kitty for the Committee to Recall Rochelle Galindo already tips the scales at more than $100,000.
The jaw-dropping disparity has led to substantial speculation over why Galindo has become the primary recall target in Colorado.
First and foremost, from a statewide political perspective, the Galindo recall makes zero sense. Her recall wouldn’t create the same shockwaves Republicans delivered with their 2013 recall efforts, which cost then-Senate President John Morse and two other senators their offices.
With Galindo, Democrats control 41 state House seats to Republicans’ 24; without her Democrats still have 15-vote advantage. A strategic recall effort would focus on the state Senate, where Democrats hold a much narrower 19-16 lead.
So, if it’s not a strategic move, then why the recall?
Local recall organizers point to Galindo’s votes, particularly her support of SB-181, the highly controversial oil and gas bill recently passed by the legislature.
Because Weld County is home to the densest concentration of oil and gas wells in Colorado, many fear her vote will cost jobs and cripple the economy. It’s the stated purpose on the recall petitions being circulated and motivated the Wells Ranch to cough up $100,000 to jump start the effort.
Galindo and her Democratic allies say oil and gas concerns are just a ruse. They argue the recall isn’t about how she votes, but who she is; specifically, because she is gay and Latina.
That would be a wild accusation except a second recall group, run by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s brother, Joe, began their campaign with a news release touting support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Greeley Pastor Steven Grant.
Grant has used his pulpit to call Galindo a “homosexual pervert” who is “trying to insert her lifestyle into our lives.” From personal experience, I know RMGO front man Dudley Brown shares Grant’s beliefs; when I ran for state Senate in 2014, Brown organized and funded a primary challenge against me.
As then-state Rep. Justin Everett explained at the time, I earned Brown’s ire by supporting civil unions in 2012 and 2013, or as Everett put it, “Dudley’s mad about the gay thing.”
The toxicity introduced by Neville, Brown and Grant likely explains why the local group decided not to work with them.
That’s not surprising given that the local recall group includes supporters like former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, a champion for civil unions, an avowed arch-enemy of Brown and an oil and gas proponent.
Neville’s group has since terminated and left the field, but likely not before casting a permanent pall over the entire recall effort. For instance, when the local group’s spokeswoman and former Weld County GOP Chair, Stacey Kjeldgaard was asked if she’d work to recall Galindo even if she had voted against SB-181, Kjeldgaard responded, “Absolutely.”
Galindo supporters immediately pounced on her answer as proof that the recall was about something insidious.
My opinion? Local Republicans still stinging from monumental losses at the ballot box in 2018 want to recall Galindo because she is a Democrat. Galindo gave them an excuse with her SB-181 vote, but was subsequently gifted her own message by Neville, RMGO and Grant.
And around and around both sides go in the new recall normal.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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