A conversation with George Rivera, Colorado recall challenger

August 30, 2013

Earlier, we posted our conversation with Colorado state Sen. Angela Giron (D), one of two Democrats facing a Sept. 10 recall election in a campaign that has become the latest front in the contentious national debate over guns. (For everything you need to know about the recall campaign, check out Reid's Wilson's primer over on GovBeat.)

Below is our conversation with Giron's opponent, conservative activist George Rivera, who talked about what he is focused on and what he believes is at stake when voters head to the polls in 11 days.

Perhaps the one thing Giron and Rivera agree on is that the election holds national implications.

FIX: What is this recall election about?

RIVERA: It's about Senator Giron's failure to listen to her constituents. A substantial portion of her constituents out here in Colorado reference her votes on gun control, on Second Amendment rights, as people see them out here in Colorado, Pueblo, specifically.

FIX: What's your message been?

RIVERA: My message is that legislators and elected officials need to listen to their constituents and if you have a substantial group of folks, pay attention to them, listen to them, and vote according to their wishes.

FIX: The issue of guns is at the center of this campaign, and outside groups on both sides have been pouring money into the race. What do you think the outcome will say about the larger debate over guns?

RIVERA: First and foremost, when you say outside groups getting involved — here in Pueblo, the initial and mostly continuing campaign, if you will, has been grass-roots. It hasn't been outside interests that have gotten this thing going here in Pueblo. It has been a small group of folks that said to themselves, you know, this isn't right what is being forced down our throats here, and we want to take some action. And they were able to garner support from throughout the city to the point where they were able to get the 12,000 and some signatures for this recall election to proceed. So, as far as money coming from the outside sources and funds and so on, it's not from the recall side, nor is it from my campaign side. I've raised $22,000 and change that's been reported to the state. ... The other issue, once again, is the idea that we're talking about a constitutional right that people feel that this gun control infringed on. And they are rightfully upset and concerned about what that means — not just this legislation that was passed, but legislation that could come down the road. It's kind of like basically saying, okay, this is the point where have have to make a stand, and enough is enough. And I believe it has ramifications in other parts of the country, and possibly even nationwide. This is an issue that has garnered a lot of attention, that's for sure. So, you could almost call it the bellwether state as far as what's going to happen down the road as far as gun control and Second Amendment rights.

FIX: There was a recent poll showing most Colorado voters opposing the new gun laws. At the same time, most said they oppose the recall efforts. Any risk of overreach here?

RIVERA: In any election there is a risk on both sides of the equation. And the thing is, a lot of people throw up a lot of issues. They will throw up the costs, they will throw up whether it was for high crimes and misdemeanors or otherwise, and so on and so forth. But the question some ask is, well, is this how democracy is supposed to work? And I say yes. I say it's very important to hold politicians accountable. We've gotten so used to once they are elected, they are there for four years. Colorado has something that I think only 34 or 37 other states have — the ability to actually hold a politician accountable during their term of office. And I think that is a good thing.

FIX: What would you like to see happen with gun laws? Any changes you want to see?

RIVERA: I was 34 years in law enforcement, and if I learned anything it's that there are people that are going to obey the law, which are the majority of the folks, and there are going to be people that disobey the law. Regardless of what the law is, they will skirt the law and will get around the law. So, gun control falls in that category [involving] people that have evil intent on their minds and they have evil in their hearts and they are going to do anything they can to do it. Whether it's to commit murder, to commit mayhem, or whatever. They are going to do it. And so you put all the laws you want in place, the only people that are going to obey the laws are law-abiding folks. So  I don't believe it really makes a whole lot of difference — the gun control laws that were put in place. The chances that something bad can happen even with the [new] laws being in there is probably what it was before. And so, my thought is more of the accountability and swift and sure punishment.

FIX: How do you plan to spend the final stretch of the campaign?

RIVERA: Our strategy continues to be pretty much what it has been — go out and contact people, talk to them, walk precincts, wave signs and so on for recognition; politics the old-fashioned way.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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