Activists file recall petition against Rep. McLachlan

McLachlan Enlargephoto


DENVER - Gun rights advocates filed a recall petition against state Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, on Tuesday.

A group called Colorado Accountability has been threatening the recall for two weeks. Organizers now have about two months to collect 10,586 valid signatures from voters in McLachlan's House District 59.

"This is their right to petition to recall me. I look forward to a full discussion of the issues," McLachlan said.

He didn't want to comment further until he saw the official petition.

The secretary of state's office will work with Colorado Accountability to make sure the petition is formatted properly. After that, petitioners will have a 60-day deadline to get all their signatures. That puts their deadline around May 7, coinciding with the last week of the legislative session.

Colorado Accountability spokesman Anthony Garcia said the group is also working on a recall of Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and it will file a recall in the next week and a half, after it finishes organizing a local committee. Other legislators could be recall targets, too, but Garcia said the group wants to "keep a lid on them" for now.

McLachlan's votes on four gun bills spurred the recall.

The petition reads: "Representative McLachlan has betrayed the trust of his constituents, his oath to uphold the 2nd Amendment and the rights of gun owners by voting YES on gun control measures in both the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives."

A recall election against a state legislator is an exceedingly rare event, not just in Colorado, but nationally.

There have been only 36 state legislative recall elections since 1908, when the first recall law went on the books, said Joshua Spivak, senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College. Spivak also runs The Recall Elections Blog, which keeps track of recall news nationwide.

"Getting on the ballot is the biggest hurdle, and that is always a problem," Spivak said.

Indeed, McLachlan's opponents face tough odds to get on the ballot. The number of signatures they need is 25 percent of the total vote in HD 59 in the last election. Put in other terms, they have 60 days to get valid signatures from more than half of the people who voted against McLachlan in November.

Despite their rarity, recall elections against state legislators are getting more common. The year 2011 was especially active, with 11 elections in Wisconsin after a labor battle, plus one in Michigan and one against Arizona's state Senate president, Spivak said.

But 2013 has been quiet so far, with movements against only McLachlan and an Alaska representative who switched parties. No recall campaign has qualified for the ballot nationwide this year, according to Spivak's blog.