The Plumber vs. the Billionaire on Colorado Gun Rights

bloombergMichael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York and a media mogul who weekends in Bermuda and whose net worth is an estimated $27 billion. Victor Head runs a plumbing business with his brother in Pueblo, Colo.

The two clashed from a distance Tuesday in the Colorado gun recalls, and Head gave the billionaire a righteous drubbing. The defeat of two pro-gun control Colorado state senators in recall elections sends a message that should be heard all the way back on the Upper East Side, and maybe even in Hamilton.

It wasn’t too long ago that Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns was supposed to be the great equalizer in the gun debate. For too long, the National Rifle Association had dominated with its big dollars and its fierce commitment to its cause. Bloomie would change that. Or so we were told.

This was before dozens of mayors quit the organization, some of them explaining that it had dawned on them that the group wasn’t against illegal guns so much as for making more guns illegal. And that was before the Colorado recall. The vote reinforces the failure of gun control in Congress earlier this year, with the extra sting of a direct populist rebuke.

The gun control measures at issue are relatively mild, certainly compared with what gun control advocates truly want. Colorado limited magazines to 15 rounds and imposed background checks on private transactions. Nevertheless, it was a career-ending vote for the two targeted Democrats.

The recallees, state Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, weren’t fighting on hostile territory. In terms of registration, Morse’s district is split three ways among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Giron’s district is much more favorable, a heavily working class and Latino area that has been a Democratic stronghold forever. President Barack Obama carried it by nearly 20 points in 2012.

It was always thought that Morse, who has alienated all sorts of people besides gun rights advocates, could go down, and he did by 51 percent to49 percent. That Giron would follow him and by a larger margin, 56-44, was shocking.

It is true that the recall didn’t have Colorado’s accustomed voting by mail and turnout was low, but it was a free and fair election in which people could go to the polls and vote their preference. That’s generally what we consider democracy. Were the circumstances unusual? Well, yeah — no one has ever been recalled before in Colorado.

As for the NRA and the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, they certainly played in Colorado. The pro-recall forces were still badly outspent, by as much as 8-to-1 according to some estimates. Bloomberg wrote a personal check for the anti-recall side for $350,000.

Victor Head is not writing those kind of checks. Months ago he set out on what has all the hallmarks of a classic story of taking on City Hall.

… Head, a Pueblo native, was working as an auto mechanic in Wyoming when his father fell ill. He returned home to help his brother run his father’s plumbing business. When they heard that Colorado was going to adopt new gun control measures in the wake of Newtown, Conn., Head initiated what would become the recall with that most fearsome of political weapons — some fliers.

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