CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Through a short Twitter thread, former state Rep. Cole Wist broke with high-ranking members of the Colorado Republican Party and said he did not support the recall effort currently underway against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial).
Sullivan defeated Wist in the Centennial district during the blue wave of 2018 that swept Democrats into power in both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's mansion.
Sullivan is the father of Alex Sullivan, who was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. He championed the red flag bill during the campaign. He was one of the sponsors of the red flag bill that became law during the 2019 legislative session.
Wist was the party's Assistant Minority Leader before losing reelection to Sullivan.
In 2018, with a GOP-controlled state Senate, the legislature considered and then killed a red flag bill that was passed this year. The bill would allow for law enforcement to ask a judge permission to take a person's guns away from them if they appear to be a danger to themselves or others.
Wist was a co-sponsor of last year's red flag bill. At the time, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners — which is currently trying to recall Sullivan — handed out flyers encouraging Centennial voters not to reelect him. A Colorado Times Recorder article shows one of his GOP colleagues in the House — Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Severance) — even shared a photo of the flyer.
In his Twitter thread on Tuesday, Wist pointed out that during the 2018 legislative session, his party abandoned him for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
"I was in denial," his tweets read. "Until yesterday. Last year, state GOP leadership failed to speak up to defend me when [Rocky Mountain Gun Owners] carpet bombed my house district with negative flyers [Note: see this link for the flyers]. Now, these same leaders pledge to work with RMGO to take out my successor in a recall. I do not support this effort."
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is a nonprofit gun rights advocacy group that operates in Colorado, according to the group's website. The group is firmly against Colorado's newly signed "red flag law" and has already filed legislation to have it deemed unconstitutional.
"It is unfortunate but crystal clear," Wist goes on to write. "RMGO owns the Colorado Republican Party."
Wist goes on to say that "Dudley" did not ruin his life by helping Sullivan defeat him, a reference to Dudley Brown, the head of RMGO.
"I lost an election," he wrote. "Get some perspective. Compared to what folks go through every day, my bad election day is just so insignificant. I am blessed with an amazing family and great friends. I will be just fine."
"There was a group that targeted me in last year's election that are now targeting the individual who succeeded me in office, and it seemed to be the height of hypocrisy. So it was time to, I think, speak out and talk about why this process doesn't work for voters, it doesn't work for the process, and frankly, I think, it makes everyone much more cynical about politics," Wist said in an interview with 9NEWS on Tuesday afternoon.
The recall, which was filed by attorney and vice chair of the state GOP Kristi Burton, has been approved by the Colorado Secretary of State.
"Kristi initiated this recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Colorado GOP Chair Ken Buck said in a statement sent to 9NEWS on Wednesday.
Supporters of the recall have until July 12 to collect enough signatures to hold a recall election. The Aurora shooting took place on July 20, 2012.
"In Rep. Sullivan's defense, he did exactly what he said he was going to do when he campaigned for this office," said Wist. "Now, I think there are some legitimate reasons why people have concerns about some of the bills that passed in the legislature, but in the House of Representatives, you have an opportunity to have an election every two years. So, Mr. Sullivan will be on the ballot next year, it seems to be that that would be the more appropriate time to have a conversation of whether he should be returned to office."
In a phone interview with 9NEWS, Brown responded to Wist's complaints.
"Some guy goes out and supports red flag laws as a member of Republican leadership, what are we going to do? Of course, we're going to tell people," said Brown. "Sorry Cole, that we didn't keep it a dirty little secret in the State Capitol."
Why support a recall against a lawmaker who is doing exactly as he promised?
"RMGO's criteria is, you got a vote wrong on red flag and you're a leader on it and you're from a district that has decent (competitive) numbers," said Brown.
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