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Politics and Government

Who’s signing the petition to recall Gov. Jared Polis? People who feel left out in Colorado.

In three places, the critics of the Democratic governor use the recall to voice their frustrations, even as campaign gets off to slow start

Handfuls of voters stop at God’s Country Cowboy Church in Loveland on July 13, 2019, to sign a petition requesting a recall election to challenge Gov. Jared Polis. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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The petitions sat on counters at businesses and volunteers set up tables in public areas.

On Facebook, people from across Colorado asked where they could sign or how they could get copies of the recall petition to circulate.

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This is a glimpse at what the first weekend looked like in the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. In three counties, the people eager to sign the petitions said they were motivated by complaints about new oil and gas regulations, red flag gun laws and the national popular vote compact

The conversations also reflected a broader dissatisfaction with the urban-rural political divide and a general sense that their voices aren’t being heard. All of those interviewed by The Colorado Sun said they did not vote for Polis in the November 2018 election.

The recall campaign started July 8, the governor’s six-month mark. Now his critics face a mammoth task of collecting more than 10,521 a day by the Sept. 6 deadline. There’s confusion among some who want to sign the petition because divisions persist among various groups advocating for a recall.

Dismiss Polis, a group formed last month, filed the recall petitions and is overseeing their printing and circulation. A self-titled Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee has raised more money, but is not supporting the Dismiss Polis efforts.

Karen Kataline, a spokeswoman for Dismiss Polis, said she doesn’t have a tally of how many people signed the recall petition in the first week. The campaign is depending on volunteers to collect the more than 630,000 signatures needed. 

Even if the group could gather enough signatures, which is unlikely, it may need to convince many in the majority that elected Polis to switch positions.

Here’s a sampling of the scene Saturday at three places where Polis’ critics gathered to sign petitions:

Mitzi Deal, center in a yellow shirt, oversees volunteers and petition signers Saturday at God’s Country Cowboy Church in Loveland on July 13, 2019. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)

It’s 1 p.m., and Mitzi Deal is getting petitions, pens, a donation jar and “Polis pennies” out of her van to set out on two tables set up outside God’s Country Cowboy Church just west of Loveland. It’s a church she and her husband, the pastor, founded.

Deal is organizing the Polis recall effort in Loveland with seven locations collecting signatures. She said she’s distributed enough petitions for 8,000 potential signatures, with about half of them already full.

A steady stream of cars pulls into the parking lot with people ready to sign.

Among them: Daryl Holle, of Berthoud, who said he’d suffered a stroke the week before. But he and his wife still drove to Loveland to sign the recall petition.

“This guy’s destroyed this state and we need him removed quickly before he does any more damage,” Holle said, accusing Polis of “passing all this legislation that’s going to cost us money and take away our rights.”

That’s an argument the governor disputes, citing his efforts to lower costs for families by reducing the state income tax rate and advancing health care measures to lower prescription drug and insurance costs.

Holle, a retired dairy farmer, also lamented the influence of metro areas on politics in Colorado.

“I don’t know who voted for him other than Denver and Fort Collins and Boulder,” Holle said. “We don’t have a fair chance to determine who gets elected.”

In fact, Polis, who served as a congressman representing Loveland before becoming governor, won Larimer County with nearly 55 percent of the vote last fall.

MORE: To recall Jared Polis, critics must get 10,521 voter signatures a day. Here’s what else you need to know.

Christina Whitaker drove to Loveland to sign the petition from Johnstown, where she home schools the youngest three of her six children. 

“I feel like he’s not doing the state any good, and I’m trusting the state with a lot of money,” Whitaker said of Polis. “I feel very strongly that we just need to get him out because of the moral values that are being placed on our state.”

As one woman put a $20 bill in the donation jar, volunteer Rich Riendeau of Fort Collins  handed her a “Polis penny.” It’s a 2019 penny attached to a card that reads in part, “The Polis Penny represents the significance of your signature on the Dismiss Polis petition. We hope that you will consider keeping this penny as proof of your participation in Colorado history.”

In reality, the penny back on the $20 bill represents a $19.99 contribution to the Dismiss Polis effort. Without the penny back, the committee would have to report the donor’s name and address on campaign finance reports.

As volunteers guided people through signing the petition, a few asked about the difference between the Dismiss Polis group collecting the signatures and the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee with a broad presence on Facebook. 

The latter group, created earlier in the year, is opposing the current recall campaign, saying there aren’t enough financial or volunteer resources to support a petition drive yet. On Sunday, a leader of the “Official Recall” Facebook group referred to the Dismiss Polis and Resist Polis PAC supporters as “turncoats” who “have been actively trying to bully us out of our own private group to take us over, we have had to lock down our pages.”

MORE: Gov. Jared Polis recall effort mired by infighting and legal questions about donors, review finds

Deal said she just tries to “stay on course” when people ask about the conflict.

“I’ve had tons of Official Recall people coming here,” she said. She said she tells them, “read, look, call me, ask me questions. I’ll answer. I have nothing to lose, nothing to gain. I love you guys. I want you to have the truth, but what I want more than anything is a good governor.”

Clint and Kristin Lanning look at a bottle of livestock conditioner at High Plains Cattle Supply in Platteville on July 13, 2019. The store was listed as a place to sign a petition to recall Gov. Jared Polis, but it didn’t have the petitions at the start of the campaign. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)

A few hours earlier, Morgan Smith, of Kersey, pulled into High Plains Cattle Supply north of Platteville with her family, looking for livestock supplies to prepare for the county fair.

First, though, they asked saleswoman Kristin Lanning about the recall petitions. High Plains in Platteville and a sister store in Brush are listed among the locations to find and sign a petition on the Dismiss Polis website.

But Lanning told them the store hasn’t received any petitions yet.

Smith, an accounting student at the University of Wyoming, is home for the summer. She voted against Polis in November, as did 58 percent of Weld County voters.

“My dad and our whole family relies on the oil industry to make a living, and obviously everything that he’s been working against has put our family in a hard spot with trying to find work in the oil industry,” Smith said of Polis. “So we definitely want to get him recalled and get him out of town.”

She’s referring to a bill allowing cities and counties more control over oil and gas development, a measure amended at the behest of the industry before reaching the governor’s desk but one that opens the door to stricter regulations on drilling.

Lanning said she’s had several people every day coming in to the store in the middle of farm country on U.S. 85 who want to recall the governor. She said she hopes to have petitions early this week. And she’ll be signing, too.

“He’s not really helping our agricultural business or life,” Lanning said.

Her husband, Clint Lanning, cites Polis’ support for animal rights groups such as the Humane Society, which has campaigned for better treatment of farm animals. The governor’s partner, Marlon Reis, is an animal-rights advocate. The Lannings see that as a threat to their way of life, which involves raising livestock for food.

“I’m born and raised in Colorado, and I don’t like living here anymore,” Clint Lanning said. “My voice isn’t heard anymore. If you don’t live in Denver or Boulder County … they’re kind of running the state for us.”

Dave Arnold works at Warrior’s Revolution in Longmont on July 13, 2019. The store, which sells ammunition and survival supplies, is one place where people can sign a petition to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Later in the day, Patrick Binder set a tourniquet and a kiwi-flavored energy drink on the counter at Warriors Revolution, a Longmont store that sells tactical gear, ammunition and survival supplies. 

But Binder, a professional truck driver, said his real reason to drive up from Broomfield was to sign the recall petition. As a gun owner, Binder has plenty of thoughts on the Second Amendment and its guarantee of the right to bear arms.

“I think it comes down really for me, it comes down to the red flag law,” Binder said. “He’s violating the Constitution of the United States.” 

That law allows law enforcement to take firearms away from people considered to a potential harm to themselves or others. Courts have upheld such laws in at least two states, and Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser has said he believes the law is constitutional.

Dave Arnold, a Firestone resident working at the store Saturday, also cited the red flag law as well as other legislation cited in the recall petition application.

“The issues that are driving this, which would be the red flag laws, the oil and gas thing and that whole popular vote debacle. Where were those in the campaign? Did Jared Polis talk about any of this stuff in the campaign? Nope,” Arnold said. “So this is a hidden agenda that’s being implemented now.”

MORE: Don’t like what state lawmakers do? Here’s how to recall a law in Colorado

In fact, the Polis campaign did mention supporting the red flag law and other gun control measures on his campaign website and in debates. Polis opposed Proposition 112 to create mandatory setbacks for oil and gas development around the state in the 2018 campaign. But he’s supported some level of oil and gas regulation in the past.

The measure to award the state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote –– now the topic of a separate recall effort –– wasn’t an issue during Polis contest against Republican Walker Stapleton. 

Arnold cited the $23 million of his own money that Polis put into his campaign as one factor in the Democrat’s 2018 success. But Arnold, an unaffiliated voter, also expressed frustration with the Republican Party and its gubernatorial candidates.

“Walker Stapleton didn’t show up,” said Arnold, an unaffiliated voter. “The Republican Party hasn’t put up a viable, truly competitive candidate in at least three cycles.”

Rising Sun