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McLachlan recall faces tough road

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald - DURANGO - 06/21/2012 - ¬ Mike McLachlan, House District 59

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – Second Amendment activists who want to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, have a lot of work to do.

Organizers said Monday they plan to file their recall petition with the secretary of state this week. When they do, they will have 60 days to gather at least 10,586 signatures from registered voters in McLachlan’s House District 59.

McLachlan is likely just the first Democrat targeted for recall by gun-rights activists.

“There are definitely more recalls in the works. They’re getting ready to announce more. Hopefully, he will be the first of many,” said Anthony Garcia of the newly formed group Colorado Accountability, which is behind the McLachlan recall attempt.

The group was one of a few that rallied people to pack McLachlan’s town hall meeting Saturday in Durango. A 9-12 group, the Durango Gun Club and group called Constitution First also invited supporters to the meeting to decry McLachlan’s votes on four gun bills that recently passed the state House.

McLachlan said he respects his opponents’ constitutional right to try to recall him.

“It’s disappointing. It’s distracting,” he said. “But they have a right to do it.”

He said despite overwhelming opposition to his votes from most of the 400 people who attended the meeting, not everyone in his district feels the same.

“I’ve gotten a lot of very strong support from moderate people – not only people who voted for me, but people who live in the district and appreciate what I’m trying to do, who appreciate that I’m trying to strike a balance between a constitutional right and public safety,” McLachlan said.

No state legislator has been recalled from office in the memory of anyone at the secretary of state’s elections division, said Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Gessler will oversee the counting of petition signatures. He will have to verify that all the signatures belong to registered voters in the counties of La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Hinsdale, Lake and the southern part of Gunnison.

If the petition drive succeeds, Gov. John Hickenlooper would set a special election date. Voters would be asked whether they want to recall McLachlan and, if so, whom they want to replace him.

Former Rep. J. Paul Brown said he has been approached about running in the possible recall election, but he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

“I don’t know whether it would be better to just wait. The (2014) election’s not too far out. But I know there are some people who are very, very upset, and they don’t want to wait,” Brown said.

McLachlan beat Brown, R-Ignacio, by 917 votes last November.

The slim margin of victory gives his opponents hope that a recall can succeed.

“Even if we don’t succeed, it’s about sending a message as well. I think either way it’s going to be a win-win,” Garcia said.

Garcia is from Brighton, a town north of Denver, but the original organizers of Colorado Accountability are from Durango, he said. Several Second Amendment activists began organizing online since the gun debate began in the Legislature. Garcia is doing website technical work and social media for Colorado Accountability, he said.

The group has about 160 local volunteers ready to circulate recall petitions. Garcia said he thinks the group also will use paid petition circulators.

McLachlan said he tried to strike a middle ground, opposing his party’s proposed ban on ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. McLachlan voted for the bill after raising the limit to 15 rounds, and eight for shotguns.

McLachlan wasn’t alone in taking heat from gun activists last weekend. Large crowds also flooded meetings with Democratic senators Morgan Carroll of Aurora, Angela Giron of Pueblo and Jeanne Nicholson of Black Hawk.

But McLachlan is concerned that his drive to find a compromise on gun rights vs. gun safety hasn’t succeeded.

“It’s very frustrating for me because I consider myself a centrist,” he said. “There’s such a great divide on this issue, and it’s so emotional that I don’t know we’ll ever be able to come to consensus.”

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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