DENVER (AP) — Colorado voters ousted two state lawmakers Tuesday in first-ever recall elections that came in reaction to the Democrats' support for tougher gun laws in the aftermath of last year's mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.
Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo lost their jobs as lawmakers in an election seen as a national measure of popular support for gun legislation. They were replaced by two gun-rights Republicans.
Angered by new limits on ammunition magazines and expanded background checks, gun rights activists filed enough voter signatures for the recall elections — the first for state legislators since Colorado adopted the procedure in 1912. The recalls prevailed despite some $3 million in contributions for the incumbents.
The recalls were the latest chapter in the national debate over guns — and, for some, a warning to lawmakers in swing states who might contemplate gun restrictions in the future. The outcome narrowed the Democratic majority in Colorado's Senate to one seat.
Tuesday's vote also exposed divisions between Colorado's growing urban and suburban areas and its rural towns. Dozens of elected county sheriffs have sued to block the gun laws and some activists are promoting a largely symbolic measure to secede from the state.
Morse recall organizer Timothy Knight said voters were upset that Colorado's Democrat-majority Legislature seemed more inclined to take its cues from the White House than its constituents. The gun laws passed this year with no Republican support.
"If the people had been listened to, these recalls wouldn't be happening," Knight said.
Morse was recalled by 51 percent of voters in the Republican stronghold of Colorado Springs, according to unofficial returns. He was replaced by Bernie Herpin, a former city councilman. Morse, a former police chief in a Colorado Springs suburb, was first elected to the Senate in 2006.
Some 56 percent of voters favored Giron's recall in a strong Democratic district in Pueblo. George Rivera, a former police officer, replaced her.
"We as the Democratic party will continue to fight," Morse said in conceding the race. "We will win in the end because we are on the right side," Giron said in her concession speech.