DENVER – The local group seeking to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, has split with a Front Range organization that is targeting other legislators.
The Basic Freedom Defense Fund was incorporated this month as a nonprofit with an address in Durango – the same address as the San Juan Freedom Defense Committee, the campaign to recall McLachlan for his votes on gun bills.
But Monday, the groups announced they were parting ways.
A dispute over who spoke for the recall was part of the reason for the split, said Dave Saleh of the San Juan group.
A day after a story about the two groups ran in the Herald last week and quoted Saleh, who submitted the recall petition, a Denver-area man named Nick Andrasik called the newspaper and identified himself as the sole authorized spokesman for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund.
During the weekend, the groups decided to part and focus on their own geographic regions.
“We’re West Slope people, and they’re Front Range people. The Hatfields and McCoys have been going on a long time in that regard,” Saleh said.
He said the Durango organizers wish luck to their former Front Range colleagues.
Andrasik’s group is seeking recalls of Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster. Recall petitions for those two have not yet been submitted.
(The Herald spelled Saleh’s name wrong in an earlier story because it relied on an erroneous spelling in the state’s campaign finance database.)
On Thursday, Andrasik sent out a press release disputing a Herald report that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners was involved in the recall. The group and its leader, Dudley Brown, turned out most of the hundreds of opponents to the gun bills who packed legislative hearings.
The Basic Freedom Defense Fund “is not affiliated with or supported by RMGO or Mr. Brown in any way or with any other organization,” Andrasik said in a news release.
Brown, however, said Saleh is a member of his group, and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is sending out emails to supporters to promote the recall. RMGO has not decided whether to spend money on the recall campaign, Brown said Friday.
He has also offered advice, although some recall proponents aren’t listening to his counsel to choose their targets carefully, he said.
“We’re not going after Governor (John) Hickenlooper. Frankly, anyone who says they’re going after the governor is smoking crack,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Saleh’s group secured final approval from the secretary of state for its recall petition Friday. The group will have until May 21 to collect 10,587 signatures from registered voters in House District 59.
Basic Freedom Defense Fund will remain registered in Durango, although its focus will be the Front Range, Andrasik said.
Basic Freedom Defense Fund leaders told the Durango activists, “‘It’s your game now,’ so they’ve got it,” Andrasik said.
It’s unclear who is behind Andrasik’s group. As a nonprofit organization, the group does not have to disclose its donors, and it won’t have to reveal its board of directors until it files tax forms at least a year from now.
“From what I’ve come to understand, we won’t be disclosing who’s on the board,” Andrasik said Thursday, citing privacy as the reason.
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