DENVER, June 11 (UPI) -- After national gun control organizations flexed their muscles, Colorado Republicans and a gun-rights group abandoned an effort to recall a Democratic freshman lawmaker whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting.
Colorado GOP Vice Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown announced in a Facebook post Tuesday that her team of conservative Republicans and the gun-rights organization Rocky Mountain Gun Owners were dropping a campaign to call a special election for the recall of freshman state Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, whose son Alex who was killed in the 2012 mass-shooting.
Burton Brown said the party had to "pull essential resources" from the recall campaign, but vowed to continue to fight to defeat Sullivan.
"While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is," she said in a message to her followers. The campaign would have had to collect 10,035 signatures by July 12 to get the recall on the ballot.
Sullivan, a retired postal worker, drew the ire of some Republicans when he became the face of the state's new "Red Flag Law" that would allow a judge to temporarily remove guns from the possession of a person deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Opponents of the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, worried that it would erode Second Amendment rights.
Democratic heavy hitters, including Attorney General Phil Weiser and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Denver have been canvassing the district in support of Sullivan over the past weeks. Boulder-based Moms Demand Action also offered volunteers to knock door-to-door.
The recall attempt drew national attention. National gun control organizations Everytown USA and Giffords, affiliated with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, had announced they would donate $110,000 Tuesday to support Sullivan's campaign to fight the recall.
"Today the gun lobby finally acknowledged what should have been clear to them on Election Day: Voters want leaders like Tom Sullivan, who is doing everything in his power to spare others from the terrible pain of gun violence," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement to UPI.
Boulder resident Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America called Sullivan "a hero in the gun safety movement" and called the recall effort a "sham."
"This victory is proof that when Americans come together to fight for what's right, we can beat the gun lobby," Watts said in a statement.
Sullivan called the people behind the recall a "fringe group."
"The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Colorado GOP again underestimated the support we have from the people in my district," Sullivan said in a statement to UPI on Tuesday. "I'm excited to continue talking to voters and making sure their voices are heard in the State House. I'll always work hard to earn their votes and make sure that fringe groups can't undermine our democracy."
Colorado's election laws allow a special election to be called to recall an elected official after six months by submitting signatures of 25 percent of all votes cast for that office in the previous general election.
In 2013, guns-rights groups and local GOP lawmakers, with heavy donations from the National Rifle Association, successfully used the state recall mechanism to bounce two Democratic lawmakers who brought forth legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines after the mass shootings at the Aurora theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Colorado Republicans have been split by the 2019 Tom Sullivan recall attempt. Some distanced themselves from the campaign. Former GOP House Minority Leader Cole Wist, Sullivan's defeated 2018 opponent, did not support the recall.
"[Rep.] Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it," Wist wrote in an op-ed in the Colorado Sun. "Elections have consequences. Absent gross malfeasance or defrauding the voters, Rep. Sullivan deserves to serve out his term."
The Our Colorado Way of Life issue committee, which supports Sullivan, called the recall campaign "out-of-touch with Colorado voters," in a statement to UPI. "We hope that they will cease this endless election cycle and let voters decide Colorado's future during normal elections, but we are ready to beat them again if they launch additional recalls."