Skip to contents
Opinion Columns

Wist: I disagree with Tom Sullivan on policy, but the effort to recall him is wrong

The cure for recall fever? It's you.

Why are people so cynical about politics? Every day, more and more of our citizens opt out of political parties to join the unaffiliated ranks. Who can blame them? Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities

Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.  

Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money.

Cole Wist, a Centennial Republican, is the former assistant minority leader in the Colorado House of Representatives. (Handout)

Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.

Apparently, an election every two years isn’t enough.  

RMGO has been effectively playing this game and making money off of chaos for decades. RMGO has driven discussion about public safety, mental health and gun violence into the shadows.  

If you dare to speak about these subjects or, God forbid, have open dialogue about them in the public square, you are shamed, ridiculed and threatened. Knowing about this risk, politicians (and political parties) cower in fear.

The result is echo chamber politics and partisan rancor. This in turn thwarts and skews the democratic process and hampers the ability of average citizens to have influence with their elected officials.  

In short, it is undemocratic.       

RMGO and its allies have no interest in thoughtful policy discussions. Instead, they see the political process as a blood sport designed to control people and stifle debate, ultimately for the purpose of financial gain. Follow the money. It tells you everything you need to know.

In Colorado, our laws make it fairly easy to recall a sitting legislator. However, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. That’s not to say all recalls are wrong, but this one against Tom Sullivan is wrong on many levels.  

I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.

Elections have consequences. Absent gross malfeasance or defrauding the voters, Rep. Sullivan deserves to serve out his term.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Ultimately, he is accountable to the voters, and we will have our say in November 2020. But why now?

There is a scene in the movie “Primary Colors” when the candidate played by Larry Hagman offers the following assessment of our political process. It is spot on.  

“This is a terrific country, but sometimes we go a little crazy and maybe that’s part of our greatness, part of our freedom.

“But if we don’t watch out and calm down, it all may just spin out of control … Eventually instead of even trying to explain things [political leaders] give up and start slinging mud at each other. And it’s all to keep you excited. To keep you watching. Like you watch a car wreck or a wrestling match. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what it’s like. Professional wrestling. It’s staged and it’s fake and it doesn’t mean anything. … It seems it’s the only way we know how to keep you all riled up.”  

At some point, elections have to be over and we must allow our elected officials to work. Recall fever is at odds with governing. It is designed to keep you riled up, to keep the contributions flowing, to feed the beast.

Our national politics (and social media) haven’t helped. We don’t really talk to each other anymore. We stay in our lane, keep our heads down and watch “our” channel.  

We have lost our ability to have respectful dialogue and cordial debate. Insult, bombast and vitriol are the flavors of the day. And begrudgingly, they work.

When we allow fear and manipulation to drive our political process, we appeal to and reward the worst among us. I know we can do better. Let’s always keep in mind an enduring principle that has served us well.

We may not always like the decisions, but the voters are always right.  

Cole Wist, a Centennial Republican, is the former assistant minority leader in the Colorado House of Representatives. He was unseated in November by Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat, who is now facing a recall effort. Wist works as an employment and labor attorney.

The Colorado Sun has no paywall, meaning readers do not have to pay to access stories. We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable.

This reporting depends on support from readers like you. For just $5/month, you can invest in an informed community.