Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper suggests national gun-control groups stay away from a looming recall battle that could switch control of the state Senate to the GOP. The groups poured money into an unsuccessful defense of two state lawmakers recalled over their gun votes earlier this year.
"Colorado is a state that people like to be themselves and solve their own problems," the Democratic governor said in an interview with Capital Download, USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series. "They don't really like outside organizations meddling in their affairs, and maybe the NRA gets a pass on that.
"But (it is) probably not a bad idea" for gun-control groups, such as the one established by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to curb their efforts if gun-rights activists collect enough signatures to force a recall vote on state Sen. Evie Hudak, a two-term Democrat from a suburban district north of Denver, he said.
If Republicans succeed in gaining her seat, Democrats would lose their 18-17 edge in the state Senate.
Petition organizers have until Dec. 3 to collect 18,900 signatures. "They're well-funded and there's a lot of energy behind this, a lot of frustration," Hickenlooper said. "I'm going to guess it's probably 50-50" that they will be able to get the recall vote on the ballot.
But, he noted, "I didn't think they'd get enough signatures for the first two."
The recall campaigns have been aimed at legislators who voted in favor of requiring universal background checks for gun buyers and limiting magazine clips to 15 rounds. The laws, pushed by Hickenlooper, were enacted in the wake of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last year that left 12 people dead.
In September, Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron - both Democrats - were ousted from office by recall votes. Bloomberg's group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, contributed $350,000 to the anti-recall campaign, but the efforts by groups from outside the state became an issue itself for some. After the recalls succeeded, the National Rifle Association gloated on Twitter that Bloomberg had "wasted his money."
Hickenlooper acknowledges the difficulties of passing federal gun laws even after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December and other tragedies. "We have this tradition of the Second Amendment and people's rights to self-defense and a certain suspicion that the government can't be trusted," he said. "That's going to make it very difficult. I think any progress in terms of even universal background checks will be slow."
The governor was interviewed while in Washington for The Daily Beast's Hero Summit, discussing crisis leadership after Colorado's devastating floods last month.
The partial shutdown of the federal government has complicated recovery efforts, Hickenlooper said in the interview with USA TODAY.
"We had the worst floods probably in the history of the state, and yet we don't have the resources of the EPA," he said. The Environmental Protection Agency has been unable to test for suspected e-coli, the possible result of sewage contamination, on grass and parklands where children are playing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development "doesn't have the resources or the flexibility to get shelter" for some of those crowded into temporary housing.
"FEMA still has got all their people on the ground in Colorado," he said of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, "but when they make requests now, all their support staff in Washington is gone."
Hickenlooper, 61, was hobbling on crutches after undergoing hip surgery last month. A former mayor of Denver, he is running for re-election as governor next year, a race that the non-partisan Cook Political Report now rates as solidly Democrat, indicating a likely victory for him.
"Easy for them to say," he said with a smile.
Follow @susanpage on Twitter.