Hudak resigns seat to end recall threat, hold Democrats’ Senate majority

DENVER — State Sen. Evie Hudak has decided to resign rather than risk facing a recall election that, should she lose, would flip control of the senate to Republicans, FOX31 Denver was first to report Wednesday.

Later Wednesday morning, Hudak made her resignation letter public.

“In the interest of preserving the progress made over the last year, I am resigning as State Senator for District 19, effective immediately,” Hudak wrote.

Hudak, D-Westminster, could have been the third Democratic lawmaker to face a recall over a package of gun control bills they helped pass earlier this year.

Sens. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, both decided to fight recall elections against them, but were ousted in September in favor of Republican replacements.

Knowing that Morse and Giron lost every legal challenge in the run-up to those elections, Hudak and Democrats generally appear to recognize the likelihood of the third recall’s success — as long as the group of gun rights activists behind the recall effort got enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Hudak’s decision, finalized Tuesday after days of conversations with top Democrats including Senate President Morgan Carroll, is a gamble of sorts.

Like a poker player folding early, she’s decided to give up her job before recall organizers showed their hand and turned in any signatures, even knowing that more than 19,000 valid signatures — more than double the amount needed to get Morse’s recall on the ballot — are needed to force a special recall election.

Signatures, which are being collected by volunteers and paid petition circulators, were due on Dec. 3.

“Most Coloradans believe that the convenience of high-capacity ammunition magazines is less important than saving lives in tragedies like Sandy Hook, Aurora and Columbine,” Hudak wrote in her resignation letter. “That’s why I sponsored SB 13-197, a bill that takes guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. … By resigning, I am protecting these important new laws.”

RELATED: Read Senator Hudak’s resignation letter in its entirety

Earlier this week, recall organizer Mike McAlpine told radio host Mike Rosen that the group was “92 percent” to its goal in terms of the number of signatures gathered.

Instead of going all-in and risking a Republican takeover of the senate in the early months of a midterm election year, Hudak is playing it safe.

By resigning before the signatures are turned in, she assures that a Democratic vacancy committee will appoint her replacement, keeping the seat — and the senate — in the party’s hands, at least through November, when her successor will be forced to win reelection.

State law says that an office-holder can resign up to five days after the Secretary of State deems signatures sufficient to force a recall election, but it’s possible a judge could disagree and allow an election to go forward.

Given their track record in court, Democrats decided not to take that risk.

One possible replacement for Hudak is state Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, whose House district overlaps with Hudak’s senate seat. But, the first-term lawmaker could opt to stay in her House seat, where next year’s reelection fight looks to be significantly easier.

Financial reports disclosed earlier this week show that the Democracy Defense Fund, a group formed to defend Hudak, has raised $120,000 in contributions, mostly from organized labor including the National Education Association.