A Democratic, pro-gun control state senator who faced a potential recall in Colorado abruptly resigned Wednesday, less than a week before the recall petition was due.
Sen. Evie Hudak's surprise resignation means a Democratic committee can appoint a new state senator in her place. Had she stayed in office and possibly faced a recall election, she would have gone up against a Republican, thus risking the Democrats' slim one-seat majority in the state Senate.
"In the interest of preserving the progress made over the last year, I am resigning as State Senator for District 19," she said in a letter to the secretary of the Senate.
After the successful recalls in September of two Democratic state senators who supported the state's unpopular, restrictive new gun control laws, a group of voters began to organize a recall effort against Hudak. (Voters had tried collecting signatures to recall Hudak earlier this year when similar efforts were waged against the other lawmakers, but the campaign against Hudak never made it to the recall level.)
"By resigning, I am protecting these important new laws for the good of Colorado and ensuring that we can continue looking forward," Hudak said in the letter.
The deadline to submit the 18,900 signatures needed to start the latest recall election would have been Tuesday, December 3.
With her resignation, however, that effort is over. And her opponents aren't happy.
"This is not a victory," said Dave Palm, a registered Democrat and a small business owner who helped organize the grassroots campaign to collect signatures. "It's not a victory for the voters. It's not a victory for us."
Palm did not have an exact count of the signatures they had collected so far, but said they were 92% of the way toward their goal as of last Saturday, with the goal being more signatures than needed to ensure enough were valid.
He speculated the state's Democratic Party pressured her to resign, out of fear of possibly losing the majority in the Senate. Of the 35 seats, Democrats have a narrow 18-17 advantage over Republicans.
Palm, who says Hudak is a poor legislator for more reasons than simply her position on gun control, was still not satisfied with the fact that she would no longer be in office.
"If she had stayed with it and we had a chance to kick her out, that would be one thing. But at this rate we have no control over who's going to represent us," he said.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said the Jefferson County Democratic Party would appoint a new senator. Michael Sargeant, executive director of the DLCC, said Hudak's "decision cannot have been easy," but added he was "confident the Jefferson County Democrats will appoint a new senator every bit as dedicated as Evie to carry on her legacy in the Senate majority caucus."
Being in her second term, Hudak was term-limited and unable to run for re-election in 2016. She narrowly won re-election last year with less than half her district's vote in a three-way race against a Republican and a Libertarian.
Her district covers Arvada and Westminster in the metropolitan area of Denver.
Hudak became a controversial figure during the gun control debate earlier this year. Most notably, she received sharp criticism for her reaction to a rape survivor who said she wished she had been able to use her concealed-carry permit to protect herself.
"I just want to say, statistics are not on your side, even if you had had a gun," Hudak told the woman, adding that even if she had a gun, her attacker "would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you."
Hudak later apologized, saying she "didn't meant to be insensitive," according to the Denver Post.
The new laws in Colorado, which took effect in July, limit firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all firearm sales.
Responding to Hudak's surprise announcement Wednesday, Colorado Republican Committee chairman Ryan Call said her move was nothing but a political ploy.
"By side-stepping the recall process and not allowing the voters to choose a senator who will represent them, Evie Hudak's resignation shows that Democrats are much more concerned about holding onto political power than in being held accountable," he said.