Brushfire: The Colorado Recall Story

The state of Colorado bore witness to two historical political events in 2013, neither of which received much local media coverage but both of which underscored a growing sea change in the relationship between American citizens and those they elect to represent them.  The first event was the stunning passage of several gun control bills by the Democrats of the Colorado Legislature and Governor Hickenlooper, despite unprecedented opposition from everyday citizens who packed the state house to overflowing, crashed email servers and filled voicemail boxes to object to their passage.  The second event was more even more shocking.  Seven of those everyday citizens – men with no political experience but who were horrified at the heavy-handed and dismissive way in which the laws were passed – started an unlikely movement that would lead to Colorado’s first recalls of not one but two sitting state senators and the removal of a third, who resigned just prior to the certification of a recall petition against her.

From the start, the founders of the recall movement discovered that they were strangers in the strange land of politics and that their obvious enemies were not their most motivated ones.  While they themselves were driven by a sense of duty to their Republic and a desire to defend their Second Amendment rights, they were faced with a legion of established Conservative entities - power brokers, career politicians, even established gun rights groups - that seemed to care more about solidifying their political positions and exploiting the recalls to fill their coffers than they did about providing assistance.  What little public attention was initially garnered came from partisan, anti-gun bloggers and media, portraying the recallers as bigoted "gun nuts" and shills for the very groups that hindered or ignored them.

Often demoralized, opposed by both sides of the political aisle and with few allies, these citizens stubbornly pushed forward their own efforts while attempting to financially and legally aid other groups that had followed their lead.  They "pulled a second shift for liberty" - coming home from a day at work only to spend still more hours making phone calls, attending meetings and traveling across the state to raise support.  They learned the political ropes the hard way, finding opportunities and loopholes that many had overlooked by listening more to the fellow disenfranchised than to established players.  They navigated uncharted waters of election law to ensure that their petitions and elections were not undone by some frustratingly minute mistake, even as changes to those laws were fast-tracked beneath their feet, making their uphill battle even more difficult.  They used social media to garner grassroots support and took a crash course in applying political pressure to get their message out, even as former President Bill Clinton recorded robocalls urging Coloradans to vote against recall.  And while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote quarter-million-dollar checks to oppose them, they financed their effort with their own wallets, selling personal firearms to raise cash when privately donated funds were exhausted.

Nearly six months after the gun bills were signed into law, Colorado's first recall elections were held and Senators John Morse and Angela Giron were removed from office by the citizens of their districts.  Local media downplayed the event, focusing instead on unprecedented flooding that struck the northern part of the state.  National media, however, finally began to take notice.  Within days, "Colorado killed gun control" was a theme repeated often in print and online.  Ripples began to spread to other states where recall committees, formed by private citizens inspired by the actions of "the Colorado patriots," sought to hold elected officials accountable for perceived overreach.  Those ripples continue to radiate outward, over a year later, with more citizens taking back the reins of government or simply refusing to comply with laws they believe to be unjust.

"Brushfire: The Colorado Recall Story" describes the experiences of the handful of men who made up the Basic Freedom Defense Fund in their journey from complacent residents to political activists and history-makers.  From their first meetings to their ultimate victory and beyond, you will learn about their motives, their mistakes, their lessons learned, and their hopes - and plans - for the future.  Whether you are a student of political history or an activist in the making, "Brushfire" will change the way you see local politics and your ability to influence it.