2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Airwaves quiet during first state-level recall campaigns

Published: July 12, 2013, 7:54 pm, by Alison Noon

By Alison Noon | alison.noon@gazette.com

In the first election to recall a Colorado state legislator, advertisements are harder to come by than 30-round magazines.

Since the petition to recall Colorado Senate President John Morse was organized in March, about $23,000 has been spent on radio advertisements for and against the proponent of 2013 gun laws. It’s not much, but it’s more than the zero dollars that have been spent on television ads.

Campaign organizers said they expect to focus on ground game in the run-up to the special election, leaving behind the 2012 election season when roughly $70 million was spent in Colorado on political television ads.

Nearly all the political ads in Colorado Springs this year came from A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, the issue committee leading his fight.

Adelstein Liston, a Chicago-based consulting firm that coordinated the pro-Morse ads, wrote “Colorado Springs” on the memo lines of checks totaling $19,074.50 in May.

Their radio spots ranged in price from $10-55 for 60 seconds of airtime on both general news and music frequencies.

“Radio is more bang for your buck,” Christy Le Lait, campaign manager for A Whole Lot of People, said.

The sole proprietor of advertisements for the recall, Laura Carno funneled all of her advertising dollars, however few, to conservative talk station KVOR and The Jeff Crank Show.

This year, Carno spent $3,865 through her Colorado Springs-based organization, I Am Created Equal, on radio ads urging listeners take action against Morse and Democratic gun legislation.

Carno, a former producer of The Jeff Crank Show, said her expertise is in radio. Working in an audience as small as Senate District 11, Carno said, advertising on cable would reach more people than could vote in the recall election.

“With TV being more expensive, you’re over-advertising,” she said. “You’re going to overshoot, but there are a lot of people outside the district who are interested.”

While it is certain that the campaigns have not bought airtime on local TV stations, no information on their cable presence was readily available. An initial quest to find Comcast advertisements in Colorado Springs fell short because the company’s listed location for public files, 5020 North Nevada Ave. Suite 140, was vacant.

A lull in advertisements came in June, when the recall became tied up in legal opposition.

On June 18, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office verified 10,137 signatures on a petition to hold the recall election. It was 2,959 past the 7,178 signatures required to initiate a ballot. That same day, a Morse supporter filed a protest against the petition citing legal specifications. Colorado’s deputy secretary of state cleared the recall of that hurdle on July 3, and the protestor’s lawyer said he planned to appeal the decision to a Denver District Court.

No date has been set for the recall election in Senate District 11.