In 11 days, voters will go to the polls in two Colorado Senate districts to decide whether to recall Democrats from office in a campaign that has become the latest front in the contentious national debate over gun laws.
Over on GovBeat, Reid Wilson has a fantastic primer on why the recalls are happening, what to watch and what's at stake. Below is our conversation with state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, one of the two Democrats facing a recall election Sept. 10. Later, we will post our conversation with her Republican opponent, conservative activist George Rivera.
FIX: What is this recall election all about? Why is it happening?
GIRON: Why is this happening? You know, I'm not sure; a lot of us didn't think that this was going to go this far. ... But I do think — and it's occurring to me every day for the last two months that I've been out knocking on doors and talking — I feel affirmed in my belief that the people of Pueblo, that they recognize that I've always been their voice. ... I was glad when the election got set because I know that I will prove it to people here. I recognize that this certainly has national ramifications, without a doubt. ... Really, we see that the eyes of the nation are upon us because of gun safety legislation here in our state, and as well in other states. You have people here in Colorado saying that they want to send a wave of fear to all state legislators across the country so that they don't do anything. And I don't think that's what any voters really want. They want to see good things done and that's what we did here in Colorado this year. We passed 441 pieces of legislation, and we did it with bipartisan support. Ninety-five percent of those 441 pieces had bipartisan support.
FIX: You said the election has national ramifications. Can you elaborate?
GIRON: Well I do think that these extremist views are not what average Americans, average Coloradans, and certainly not your average Puebloan believe in. To try to say that the law that is asking for background checks for everyone who wants to buy a gun and that you pay for your own background checks — 10 dollars — and that we limit [ammunition] magazines to 15 [rounds], that we're trying to take everybody's guns — you know, that's their easy message. ... So, that's what we've been doing for the last two months, is educating people, really, what the legislation was about.
FIX: Outside groups like the NRA and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have been spending money in the recall campaign. What's at stake for them here? What happens to the debate on guns as a result of the outcome of these recall elections?
GIRON: I think when we win — and I am confident that our Senate president in Colorado Springs and myself here in Pueblo are going to win — hopefully it allows legislators across the country and certainly here in Colorado to know that you can do right by your constituents, do the right thing, and you are not going to be punished for that. ... It is about all state legislators.
FIX: When you voted in favor of the gun control measures, did you anticipate the backlash would be this intense?
GIRON: I did think it was a surprise, because people take votes every day that not 100 percent of their constituency agrees on. I always tell people at the doors, my husband and I don't agree on every piece of legislation that I voted on. There are those. But people have common sense and they look at somebody's whole record. And even the recall people — I had some of them come up to me, trying to film me, who said, 'I know you have done a lot of good things for Pueblo.' So they can't deny that. But they are willing to put that all at stake for two votes out of 441 in this session alone.
FIX: So it surprised you?
GIRON: It was a surprise because I think every day people are voting on things that not everybody agrees on, so it was a surprise. And it's been a surprise how they have been trying to suppress our vote in this. I mean, here we are in the United States and less than two weeks away from the election and we didn't know what the rules were. I mean, there was so much voter confusion out there. It is just unreal.
FIX: What do you view as the most confusing elements for voters?
GIRON: Well, when people in Colorado for at least a decade have been getting mail ballots without having to apply for one, because they are on permanent mail ballots, they were expecting to get a ballot in the mail, and they denied us — and 70 percent of people vote that way. So that is what is confusing.
FIX: How do you intend to close out the remainder of this campaign?
GIRON: We know people who are supporters. We are going to make sure they know where to go to vote. And not only do we have the tremendous amount of volunteers out of Pueblo, there are people I haven't seen in 20-25 years, people who went to grade school with my sister, who are coming out and volunteering and doing shifts to educate people. So we will have that mass effort.