Skip to contents
Politics and Government

Recall effort against state Rep. Tom Sullivan is stopped as GOP focuses on other lawmakers, national popular vote

The nascent effort to oust Sullivan, whose son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, energized Democrats

Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, stands as House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, talks about a red flag bill on the opening day of the Colorado legislature on Jan. 4, 2019. His son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. “It’s a saving-lives bill,” said Sullivan, who is one of the prime sponsors of this year's red flag bill. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)
  • Credibility:

The Republican-led effort to recall Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan was shut down on Tuesday amid mounting disagreement within the GOP about the efficacy of the push and growing support — both in terms of manpower and money — for Sullivan.

“While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass,” said Kristi Burton Brown, vice chair of the Colorado GOP and the person who was leading the recall.

Burton Brown said Republicans would work to oust him next year when he is up for reelection.

“The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat senators who are not up for reelection in 2020,” she added.

Make more journalism like this possible with a Colorado Sun membership, starting at just $5 a month.

The effort to recall Sullivan, whose son was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, energized Democrats from across the state and nation to come to his aid. Sullivan has been one of the biggest proponents of tougher gun-control legislation in Colorado and beat out an incumbent Republican in 2018 to secure his seat.

“It’s an affirmation of what we’ve been doing and what the people elected us to do,” Sullivan, of Centennial, told The Colorado Sun when asked about Tuesday’s news.

Sullivan has been out talking to voters in his district to battle back against the recall effort. He says constituents have been voicing support for his work at the Capitol.

“They would say: ‘We want you to do exactly what you have been doing,'” he said.

House Speaker KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat, called the recall attempt an “effort to short circuit the regular election process” and “an effort to intimidate legislators.” 

Burton Brown, in a Facebook post, cited the out-of-state backing for Sullivan — including from U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are also running for president in 2020 — and an announcement of a $100,000 investment to keep Sullivan in his seat as why the recall effort was dropped.

Burton Brown did not say who the state senators were that Republicans intend to try and recall, but Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, is among those who have been targeted by nascent ousting efforts. He is term limited.

The GOP has also been trying to gather signatures to ask voters to halt a bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis that joins Colorado onto the national popular vote compact.

If enough states adopt the compact, that could mean Colorado’s presidential electors would be forced to cast their votes for whichever presidential candidate won the most votes nationally instead of the person who won in the state.

Backers of the Sullivan recall effort would have needed 10,000 signatures by July 12 to put the question before voters.

Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, speaks at a news conference announcing the “red flag” gun bill on Feb. 14, 2019 inside the state Capitol building in Denver, while members of the group Moms Demand Action stand on the steps behind. Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting, is one of the bill’s primary sponsors. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Sullivan says he took the recall effort seriously but that he won’t be stopped in his efforts to tighten run regulations.

“This is serious stuff. I know who I am. I know what the district is,” he said. “I know who the people are out to get to me. This is affirmation that I’m not going away. I’m not going to stop. I will just find whatever avenue is presented in front of me to continue to move forward.”

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.