COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Just off Interstate 25 a few miles south of downtown, a union hall hums with dozens of volunteers and paid staffers, calling voters, heading out with clipboards and campaign literarture to knock on doors and coordinating this campaign from their laptops.
This is the nerve center of a the Colorado Democrats’ vaunted ground operation — an operation that, in recent years, has propelled many a recent Democrat to even the most improbable of victories.
State Senate President John Morse, a Democrat facing a historic recall election from constituents upset by his support of tougher gun control laws earlier this year, is counting on this small army of activists, volunteers and campaign professionals to save his seat.
“We’ve done the work, we’ve put ourselves in the position to win,” Morse told FOX31 Denver Monday afternoon. “Now we just need to translate all of it into votes.”
Nearly 13,000 people have already cast ballots in the recall here in Senate District 11. Maybe as many as 10,000 more could cast ballots before 7 p.m. Tuesday night when voting ends.
“When this is all over with, we expect that every voter in this senate district will have had someone call them or come knock on their door at least seven times,” one operative at Morse headquarters told FOX31 Monday.
A recorded message from President Bill Clinton went to voters in both senate districts Monday night. The short message urged voters to vote “no” in the recall. Listen to it here.
It may take that kind of GOTV (Get Out The Vote) machine to help Morse stave off the recall challenge.
After voting Monday, 878 more registered Republicans (5,192) had cast ballots than registered Democrats (4,314); although Monday also marked the first day that Democrats started to eat into what had been an even larger GOP voter registration advantage.
3,291 unaffiliated voters have also cast ballots as of Monday night.
“This is the first day that they’ve had a few more voters than us,” said Laura Carno, a Republican whose 501(c)4 nonprofit, I Am Created Equal, has supported the Morse recall with around $50,000 in expenditures, mostly on local radio and television advertising.
“We’re still getting great feedback from people who are talking with voters on the phone and on their doorsteps. There are a lot of people here who strongly support this recall.”
The pro-recall side, despite a more than $300,000 in contributions from the National Rifle Association, is getting dramatically outspent — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote a $350,000 check to a pro-Morse group last month and has likely given even more money to the Democrats (contributions that won’t be reported until October.)
While Carno and many of the pro-recall volunteers resent the outside spending, they recognize that this battle has morphed into an all-out proxy war, pitting the country’s most powerful forces on both sides of the gun control issue against one another on opposite sides of this small election.
“People think this is only a Colorado thing,” said Dan Englert, who greeted voters at the polling center downtown with a flourescent green sign stamped with black letters that read: ‘RECALL MORSE.’
“If it was, people like Bloomberg wouldn’t be spending their money here. It goes to show you that this is national.”
The pro-recall campaign believes it’s got momentum and enthusiasm on its side.
“They may have a lot of people from other places down here, but we’ve got people from Colorado who really care,” Carno said. “I think that enthusiasm gap favors us.”
But there’s plenty of emotion on Morse’s side too.
“Gun violence can happen to anyone,” said Lonnie Phillips. “It happened to us.”
Phillips and his wife, Sandy, have been doing a lot of walking on the streets of Colorado Springs, knocking on doors, stopping to talk to people out on the street and sharing their story — the story of how their daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was among the 12 people killed last July inside the Aurora Century 16 theater.
“We’re only here because the N.R.A decided to try and use a recall election to punish a lawmaker who did the right thing.
“And if this works, if they win, you’re going to see this all over the country.”
Democrats lead early voting in Pueblo recall
In Senate District 3, a district far more favorable to Democrats, Sen. Angela Giron is also making a final push to get out every last vote by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
There, 26,875 people have cast ballots as of Monday night.
Of those, 12,419 of them have been registered Democrats; 8,755 have been registered Republicans.
Additionally, 5,501 unaffiliated voters have cast ballots.