Group’s effort to oust Rep. McLachlan unlikely to succeed – and rightly so

The people seeking to recall state Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, appear to have had something of a falling out, with the “West Slope people” and the “Front Range people” going their separate ways. Add to that the daunting numbers involved, and the fact is the recall effort will almost certainly fail.

That those behind the recall have mostly chosen to remain anonymous does not bolster their chances.

McLachlan cast his controversial gun-control votes openly and on the record. He then showed up at a town-hall meeting and defended them, knowing full well he was facing a hostile crowd. The voters deserve the same honesty from his foes.

In any case, recalls usually fail, and that is for the best. Recalling an elected official – overturning a vote of the people – is supposed to be difficult and most of the time should not succeed.

The ability of voters to recall an elected official is a cherished and important provision. But it was never meant to be an opportunity for a do-over. Like impeachment, recalls are to remove someone who is clearly and demonstrably unfit for office; someone caught stealing public funds, for example.

A disagreement about public policy does not rise to that level of urgency. Setting directions in those matters is the province of regular elections. Voters offended by McLachlan’s votes have every right to remember that and to remind others in the next election. That comes in a little more than a year and a half.

That recalls are meant to be hard can be seen in their requirements. The recall effort’s backers will have to collect 10,587 signatures – all from registered voters in Colorado’s 59th House District. (Such petitions typically have about 30 percent of their signatures thrown out as invalid.)

The number of signatures required represents 25 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for that seat, the votes for McLachlan and those for J. Paul Brown. That works out to about 23 percent of all registered voters in district.

And that is just to get it on the ballot. The makeup of the 59th District should give little hope to recall supporters even if it makes to a vote. Like the state as a whole, voter registration in the 59th is almost split into thirds, with 36 percent registered Republicans, 32 percent unaffiliated and 30 percent Democrats.

Party affiliation is by no means a certain indicator of what voters think about gun control. In Southwest Colorado, Democrats own guns, too.

But there are also Republicans and unaffiliated voters who agree with McLachlan’s votes or who agree with him on other matters and do not consider gun rights their No. 1 issue. And there are still others who just do not like the idea of groups that lose an election getting a mulligan.

Whoever the backers of the recall effort turn out to be, they would do themselves and the taxpayers a favor by simply waiting until 2014 and fighting this out the old-fashioned way.