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Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia responds to effort to recall him

Supporters of the effort to recall Garcia can start gathering signatures for their petition.

DENVER — Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) Pueblo is latest Democrat to face an official recall.

Signature gathering was allowed to begin Monday, after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold approved the format of the recall petition.

The petition mentions Garcia’s support for oil and gas regulations and the cost of lawsuit settlement, including $25,000 to a citizen who was blocked on Facebook for criticizing Garcia.

To be approved, organizers must gather 13,506 valid signatures by Oct. 18.

Kyle Clark spoke to Garcia this week about the recall effort:

What do you think your chances are, now that signature gathering can begin?

From my perspective, I think this group is grasping for straws. We’ve seen them working in conjunction with some groups from outside of this district to either help to try to change election results in a district where I won with 74% of the vote – we’re proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish together and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Fair to say though, there’s going to be a lot of money on both sides of this. Our Colorado Way of Life has already talked to me your recall and supporting you. They’ve got a lot of Washington D.C. money, too. So I mean, there’s going to be interested parties from outside all over, right?

Well, I think the thing that we’re looking at here is the effect that this would have. This is the fifth one now in the state. And there have been those that have been very vocal from right after the election results in November of last year, saying the first thing we’re going to do is recalls in the state of Colorado. They’ve been true about that. I mean, this is the fifth one now to be filed in the south part of the state. So, again, I’m going to stay focused on what my job is. People have elected me in this district to work hard on their behalf, and I’ve been very proud of the initiatives that we’ve been able to do – making sure a Colorado Bureau of Investigation facility was built right here in Pueblo, the new CDOT reaching two headquarters, the state patrol facility. So, that’s the kind of results I’ve been able to deliver for Pueblo and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

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Are you interested in pursuing recall reform next year in the legislature?

I believe in a democracy in which weigh their vote, and that’s what we should honor and respect. There is obviously a recall process. Many states have that for felony, or treason, or malfeasance, or those types of things. Obviously in the case that we’ve seen, the five in Colorado, that’s not the issue. It’s policy disagreements. Policy approaches. And I think it’s being used as a tool and being weaponized. That is my opinion. I’ll leave the people in my district to make up their minds about how they feel this works in our district. But I just feel like if we’re not going to do that – I told someone this last week. This is about not only the statewide official officers, but also what this looks [like] for school boards, and city councils, and county commissioner races, where the thresholds in some of these is even lower. I just think we are getting into some dangerous waters in which people are trying to circumvent and change the process that has otherwise been established through the electoral process.

Do you feel strongly enough about that that you’d like to see action taken to change the standard or you just want to issue the warning?

Well it’s a conversation I’m having with people right here in the district. I mean, I was talking to Republicans, unaffiliates and Democrats this week who were saying look, I don’t know if I want to pay for a new election – a new special election, especially as the timeline looks now in my district during the holidays. Look, there’s times for politics and there’s times for not. There’s times for elections, there’s time for not. I think this is one of things that voters should really asking themselves, does it warrant a recall? And I think that is the question.

Does it make it harder to make the cost of the special election argument when one of the arguments against you is that voters have been on the hook for your settlement cost?

There are some lessons to be learned this year on behalf of the general assembly in regards to social media and other areas, and you know I’m not alone in that. President Donald Trump has been sued. You see Ray Scott from Mesa County… so when you look at the parameters of what we’re looking at, I think I share the obligation the general assembly does. I’ve had these conversations with Senator Ray Scott. We look to seek solutions to that, not just processes in that’s how they use it. Again, there’s some lessons to be learned from that. Those are some of the reasons why you noticed, even in regards when there was the harassment policy last year, one of my first actions was to make sure we were evaluating these processes and making big changes. That’s something we have to do around social media. It’s a newer area, and this again is not just limited to legislators being involved in – it’s city councilors, it’s county commissioners, where we’re all kind of trying to learn how to operate within that process.

You were in the legislature in 2013 when you watched the recall of Senator [Angela] Jiron down in Pueblo, and then also Senate President [John] Morse in Colorado Springs. What did you learn from watching that process?

Well, I mean 2013 and today, 2019, are two different times. Again, what I’m going to do is be focused on the issues that have helped ensure I’ve been elected several times out of this district, the House race, the Senate race, elected this year unanimously by my colleagues to serve as Senate president. I have continued to do the work at hand, the tasks that need to be done. I’m a doer, I’m going to continue to do that in my district. I think those are two different time periods. So I’m going to continue with that approach, continue to advocate for my district. We got the Colorado State Fair just on our heels, a lot fun things happening in Pueblo, and I’m going to be front and center on it.

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