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Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The campaign to recall Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia failed on Friday afternoon after the group decided to turn in just a fraction of the signatures that they collected.

Friday was the recall campaign’s deadline to turn in 13,506 valid signatures from voters in the Pueblo Democrat’s Senate District 3 to force a special election to try and oust Garcia.

The campaign delivered some signatures — 120 at most, they said — to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office in a pair of cardboard Budweiser boxes. (Elections officials said there were actually only four signatures in the boxes.)

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Dave DeCenzo, a recall organizer, said the group is withholding the rest of the collected signatures out of “fear of voter intimidation.”

“We are submitting a small number of petitions in protest of the voter intimidation that we experienced,” DeCenzo said. “We promised our circulators that we would submit, and we did.”

Dave DeCenzo, right, and Joseph Santoro, speaks to reporters about why the campaign to recall Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia opted not to turn in all of their signatures on Oct. 18, 2019. DeCenzo led the Garcia recall and Santoro worked on the campaign gathering signatures. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Joseph Santoro, who worked on the recall campaign gathering signatures, said that gatherers were screamed at and called racist.

DeCenzo declined to say how many more signatures his group collected, but cast doubt on whether they would have had enough to force a recall election.

By not turning in all of their signatures, the recall organizers can also try again in their effort to remove Garcia from office. Once someone has signed a recall petition for an elected official that is submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State, they cannot sign another attempting to oust that official during his or her term in office.

Not turning in the signatures also prevents the public from knowing who signed the petition to recall Garcia.

Dave DeCenzo speaks to reporters about why the campaign to recall Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia opted not to turn in all of their signatures on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Garcia was not made available for an interview on Friday, but in a written statement defended his work at the legislature.

“In the last 60 days, we spoke to tens of thousands of Puebloans,” he wrote. “Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters told me they didn’t want this. … Now, we can get back to the business I was elected to do, to work for all of my constituents and focus on solving problems and not playing politics.”

Garcia was targeted for recall because of his votes for legislation rewriting Colorado oil and gas regulations and another signing Colorado onto the national popular vote compact. Recall proponents also criticized Garcia for taxpayer-incurred costs of lawsuits he has faced.

Of the six recall efforts that were launched this year against Democrats — including one longshot effort to remove Gov. Jared Polis from office — all were unsuccessful. In one of those cases, the target, state Rep. Rochelle Galindo, D-Greeley, resigned before the process was complete.

“It’s incredibly vindicating that these desperate attempts by the Republicans were rejected so decisively,” Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said in a written statement. “Now, Colorado can continue to move forward and our Democratic legislators can get back to doing the work of the people without interference from these cynical distractions.”

With the failure of the Garcia recall, there are no more active recall campaigns against state lawmakers.

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul