September 14, 2013
Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York and a media mogul who weekends in Bermuda and whose net worth is an estimated $27 billion. Victor Head runs a plumbing business with his brother in Pueblo, Colo.
The two clashed from a distance in the Colorado gun recalls, and Head gave the billionaire a righteous drubbing. The defeat of two pro-gun-control Colorado state senators in recall elections sends a message that should be heard all the way back on the Upper East Side, and maybe even in Hamilton.
It wasn’t too long ago that Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns was supposed to be the great equalizer in the gun debate. This was before dozens of mayors quit the organization, some of them explaining that it had dawned on them that the group wasn’t against illegal guns so much as for making more guns illegal. And before the Colorado recall.
The gun-control measures at issue are relatively mild compared with what gun-control advocates truly want. Colorado limited magazines to 15 rounds and imposed background checks on private transactions. Nevertheless, it was a career-ending vote for the two targeted Democrats.
The recallees, state Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, weren’t fighting on hostile territory. In terms of registration, Morse’s district is split three ways among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Giron’s district is a heavily working-class area that has been a Democratic stronghold forever.
It was always thought that Morse could go down, and he did by 51 percent to 49 percent. That Giron would follow him and by a larger margin, 56-44, was shocking.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz waved off the defeats. She blamed “voter suppression, pure and simple,” and the National Rifle Association and the Koch brothers.
It is true that the recall didn’t have Colorado’s accustomed voting by mail and turnout was low, but it was a free and fair election. As for the NRA and the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, they certainly played in Colorado. The pro-recall forces were still badly outspent, by as much as 8-to-1 according to some estimates. Mayor Bloomberg wrote a check for $350,000.
For his part, Victor Head embarked months ago on a grass-roots campaign to take on city hall. When he heard that Colorado was going to adopt new gun-control measures in the wake of Newtown, Conn., Head initiated what would become the recall with that most fearsome of political weapons — some fliers.
He printed and distributed them to local gun clubs to make people aware of an upcoming town-hall meeting for Giron. Head got dozens of people there, but he felt Giron short-circuited the discussion. At the next town hall, he again handed out fliers to build a crowd, but this time Giron ruled that the discussion was to be exclusively about mortgages.
Head still got Giron to agree to hold one more town hall before the vote on guns, and this time roughly 1,000 people showed up. If Giron didn’t realize then that she had a populist revolt on her hands, she needed to be in a different line of work — and now she is.
What so got under Head’s skin, the sense that his representative wasn’t listening to him, added fuel to the recalls more broadly. Morse turned away people who wanted to testify on the measures in the Senate. It was a notable act of highhandedness in a body that, as Dave Kopel of the Colorado-based Independence Institute points out, usually has limitless patience for citizen input.
The anti-recall side can now make excuses, but it used to be cleareyed about the stakes. In an interview with The New Republic prior to the recall, Giron said, “For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that.”
Score one for the plumber.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.