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Go West, Young Man! An Ohio Activist's Experience in the Colorado Recall Elections

Friday, September 20, 2013

Whether across the street, across town, across the state line, or across the country, we as EVCs or NRA-ILA Volunteers, should not limit our volunteerism by self-imposed geographic borders.  What we offer as experienced grassroots activists is unique, highly respected by those we assist, and feared by those who oppose us and the liberty we fight to protect.   Just because the area you live in is not currently embroiled in a heated battle for our freedoms doesn't mean you can't lend your valuable assistance elsewhere.

The tools and training you have acquired--whether from attending an NRA University, Grassroots Workshop at an Annual Meeting, or just from your contact with NRA-ILA--staff will set you up for success wherever you fight for freedom.

Recently, I found my activist strategies work just as well in Colorado State Senate District 11 in Colorado Springs as they do in Ohio's 8th Congressional District in Liberty Township.  With NRA engaged in the recall elections of two state senators in Colorado, I decided to travel to Colorado for the final seven days of the campaign to see if I could help unseat anti-gun Senators John Morse and Angela Giron.

After reading a Grassroots Alert and then watching Cam & Company, I decided there was no way I could sit these elections out, even though they were occurring well outside my state's boundaries.  Giving Bloomberg and Mayors Against All Guns a foothold anywhere in America was too much for me to risk by just sitting at home.

After I made my decision, I contacted my NRA-ILA Grassroots Coordinator, Miranda Bond, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Within minutes after asking Miranda if my services were needed, I was contacted by Glen Caroline, Director of NRAILA's Grassroots Division , Robert Melvin, NRA ILA Grassroots Coordinator, and Dennis Rhodes, NRA –ILA's Campaign  Field Representative (CFR), who was on the ground in Colorado Springs planning for my arrival. 

One email was all it took for me to be a part of these historic victories in Colorado.  One email or call could be all it will take for you to be part of your historic victory in your state or wherever the battle is currently raging.

I landed in Denver at approximately 10:00 a.m. After a short trip to the rental car agency to pick up my minivan (the ultimate campaign vehicle), I was on my way to Colorado Springs.

Thanks to Glen Caroline and his staff, the hardest part of my trip was making the decision to go to Colorado!  Since NRA was already on the ground and had established a campaign field office with the other various recall organizations, I was set up for success.  I followed the NRA-ILA Grassroots game plan from start to finish.  At times, I was given far too much personal credit for merely using the skills I learned from NRA- ILA at any number of Grassroots Workshops I had attended.  I had used these same skills many times before in Ohio. 

Easier still than my decision to travel to Colorado was deciding what to do once I arrived.  At 1:00 p.m., I arrived at the NRA-ILA recall campaign headquarters in Colorado Springs.  NRA-ILA CFR Dennis Rhodes greeted me as I arrived, along with a half dozen or so other volunteers who wanted to thank me for volunteering my time to defend their freedoms--truly a humbling experience.  

As expected, Dennis handed me various precinct walking lists for the 11th senate district in Colorado Springs--the district of Senate President John Morse.  (Don't get me wrong, I wanted a complete victory in both recall elections, but I really wanted to defeat Morse, the man who advised his fellow senators to ignore the calls and emails of their pro civil rights, pro-gun constituents.)   Within minutes after arriving, I jumped into my van and programmed the first address into my portable navigation system, and was off knocking on doors.  I began by simply reminding people to get out and vote.  I also provided them information on where to find their polling locations and provided those who asked with NRA-ILA campaign literature. 

Not one person asked who I was or where I was from, but many thanked me for taking the time to remind them that it was time to recall Morse and begin to take their rights back.  That first afternoon, I easily made contact with over 100 registered voters.  Going from 482 feet above sea level in Cincinnati, to 6,035 feet above sea level in Colorado Springs didn't seem to bother me.  If it did, it was overcome by the awe inspiring views of Pikes Peak rising up to 14,110 feet above sea level!

I returned to campaign headquarters early that evening with a sense of accomplishment and renewed excitement generated by the people I had been visiting in my efforts to get out the vote.  With no rest for the weary, Dennis tore another page out of the NRA-ILA Grassroots victory handbook and handed me a list of all the retail Federal Firearms Licensed gun dealers, shooting clubs and gun ranges in and around the District 11.  It was time for me to "hunt where the ducks were" for pro-gun voters.  Though it was intuitive for me to visit these natural resources that were filled with hunters, shooters and other Second Amendment advocates, most of whom were registered voters, many at recall headquarters thought I was a campaign genius for thinking of it!

The following morning, I began visiting these "natural resources."  I met with some of the finest Second Amendment advocates at many of these locations.  Many apologized for the need for my being there in the first place, and all were appreciative of my presence, promising they would never let the circumstances leading up to the loss of their rights happen again.  Looking into their eyes, I believe it.   I spent each morning visiting these "natural resources" and dropped as much campaign material off as requested. 

Each day, after visiting the FFLs, clubs, and ranges, I again conducted a door-to-door campaign; often just me and one other volunteer.  But on occasion, I would team up with a group of five or six others and canvass several voting precincts in District 11.

As the weekend approached, I asked Dennis to obtain the high school football schedules for the schools I had walked past in the district.  I learned long ago that there is nothing more efficient than having the voters come to you.  So on game night, two volunteers holding "Recall Morse" signs and wishing everyone "good luck" in the game, reached thousands of potential voters as they filed past into the high school football stadiums.  Another brick in the "Recall Morse" wall was cemented.

During my seven days in Colorado, there were three NRA-ILA Grassroots-sponsored rally/information sessions.  We rallied in Pueblo, in Colorado Springs and in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver.  Despite my navigation system noting the 73 miles between Lakewood and Colorado Springs, I learned that distance is not too far for a committed NRA volunteer to travel.  I listened as dozens of people asked NRA-ILA Grassroots Coordinator Miranda Bond what they could do to help.  I was energized when I walked into recall headquarters and saw many of those same people who I met in Lakewood manning the phone banks in Colorado Springs!  To me, that epitomized the "I'm The NRA" slogan!

Voting began on the Wednesday after I arrived, and ended on the following Tuesday, September 10th.  On most days when the polls were open, I delivered ice cold water to the volunteers working the polls.  I spent my Saturday working a poll for four hours in the morning and early afternoon, and then went on water delivery runs once again.

On that Saturday, in 95 degree heat, on the side of the road near the entrance to a remote voting location near the Colorado Springs Airport, I met a woman who was retired, well into her sixties, who had been standing waving a "Recall Morse" sign for over five hours!  She thanked me for the water, and told me that she was starving, but refused my suggestion that she take a break to get something to eat while I held her sign.  When I asked if I could take her picture, she politely asked me not too, because "I am nothing special."   Talk about commitment!

While in Colorado, I arranged for friends, family members, and fellow members of Buckeye Firearms in Ohio to make phone calls to registered voters in the Pueblo's 3rd Senate District--to supplement our on-the-ground efforts to recall Senator Giron, as well as in Colorado Springs' 11th Senate District to bolster our effort to recall Morse.  

Since my return from Colorado, I have been asked by many people, "What can I do to help?"  First, commit to getting involved. After that, the rest is easy.  I think I demonstrated that by merely dedicating the time to help, and then enlisting the assistance of the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division.  If you make the decision to help, then make the commitment, and finally, seek assistance from NRA-ILA. You can accomplish great things!  

What did this outsider from Ohio accomplish?  I will probably never really know.  I can tell you this, though--my friends, family and fellow Buckeye Firearms Association members made thousands of phone calls.  I personally knocked on well over 700 doors.  I spoke to hundreds of people in total; at their front doors, at their polling locations, at their gun range, gun store, and at clubs.  I had casual conversations at the gas pumps, local diners, my hotel lobby, VFW Clubs and just about anywhere else imaginable.

What did I accomplish in Colorado Springs?  You tell me--Sen. Morse was recalled by less than 400 votes.  I am afraid to imagine what the results of Colorado's historic recall election might have been if I had sat at home in Ohio, waiting for the recall election results, instead of volunteering my time to recall Senators Morse and Giron.

One thing that I did learn during the Colorado recall elections is that it is not enough to fight to protect my Second Amendment rights solely within the confines of the borders of my home state of Ohio.   The battle must be fought wherever it exists.  I didn't travel to Colorado as an Ohioan fighting for the rights of Coloradans.  I traveled to Colorado as an American, fighting for our right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment!

We all can give something in our continuing fight for freedom.  As for me, I hope to see you in Virginia!

(Sean Maloney serves as an NRA-ILA EVC in Ohio.  His efforts have led to his induction into the NRA-ILA EVC Hall of Fame.  Our thanks also go to NRA Board Member and Ohioan, Linda Walker, and the Buckeye Firearms Association, and of course, to all the freedom fighters in Colorado who made these victories possible!)

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.