DENVER -- The group working to recall Colorado Senate President John Morse over the passage of Democratic gun control legislation earlier this year turned in more than 16,000 signatures at the Secretary of State's office Monday morning.
That's more than double the number of valid signatures -- 7,178, a percentage of voter turnout in 2010 when Morse was elected -- that will be needed to force a recall election in El Paso County later this year.
"This sends a strong message," said Rob Harris, who delivered three boxes full of petitions to the Secretary of State's office. "We've obtained enough signatures to recall a state legislator for the first time in the history of Colorado."
The Secretary of State's office has 15 days to review all the signatures and determine how many valid ones were received. After that, Morse's team will have 15 days to contest those signatures deemed valid by the state.
Two other recall efforts against Democratic lawmakers who supported the gun control measures have already failed; signatures in another aimed at Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, are due next Monday.
But the push to oust Morse has drawn most of the attention from pro-Second Amendment activists within the state, not to mention a lot of financial help from undisclosed groups that have funneled money, through a non-profit called "I Am Created Equal", to Kennedy Enterprises, which has paid petition gatherers to collect signatures.
But Harris insisted it's been a grassroots effort.
"I ran this recall," he said. "Not the N.R.A. It sends a message to Denver and Washington, DC that we, the people, are watching and that we will do something about it."
Meanwhile, the group backing Morse, "A Whole Lotta People for John Morse", has drawn most of its funding from "America Votes", a national non-profit that lists New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose group was a driving force behind the new Colorado gun laws, as one of its donors.
Last week, the group released a video showing a petition gatherer mischaracterizing Morse's record in hopes of getting someone to sign.
"We'll go through these signatures with a fine-toothed comb," Morse told FOX31 Denver Monday afternoon. "And we'll file some protests with the Secretary of State's office because we know a lot of these signatures were gathered based on misinformation and lies."
Morse has insisted that he won't resign his seat to avoid the recall election, but that's still a possibility, given that the move would allow Democrats to appoint former state Rep. Michael Merrifield to finish out the final year of his term.
"This is a hill worth dying on," Morse said. "This is a fight worth having; it's a fight we've already had on the floor of the Senate; it's a fight worth winning."
Merrifield has already filed papers to run for Morse's seat in 2014 and would likely be a Democratic candidate on a recall ballot should an election take place.