Whether the Ward 2 recall election in Louisville is a microcosm of America’s plunge into fractured discourse or an isolated clash between an elected official and a collection of her constituents is a matter of perspective.
Realtor Mario Jannatpour, 61, tilts toward the latter view. He is among those seeking the removal of Louisville City Councilwoman Maxine Most in the Oct. 3 recall, citing what he depicts as her failures following the Dec. 30, 2021, Marshall fire that destroyed 1,084 homes, including Jannatpour’s. It was the most devastating fire in state history, causing more than $2 billion in damage. Two people were killed.
Most voted against allowing homeowners to rebuild under 2018 codes rather than tighter measures passed the same year as the fire. That showed she was “not taking into account the needs of her constituents,” Jannatpour said. Most was outvoted, but Jannatpour said her decision sowed the seeds for the recall effort launched a year later.
Having decided to pursue a council seat to represent “people without a voice,” Most was elected 58 days before the fire. She said a disaster fueled by climate change shouldn’t be the reason to lower rebuilding standards, a stance that stirs the continual ire of her foes. Most believes that tighter regulations may help prevent some of the widespread damage from natural disasters. Authorities in June said the Marshall outbreak was sparked by an unmoored Xcel Energy line and the embers from a week-old trash fire.
The push against her, Most said, is indicative of the modern political divide, not along partisan lines — Louisville is a blue town in a sea of blue in Boulder County — but ideologically. She said she believes she has riled pro-business Democrats, who view her as opposing growth. The recall seeks to replace her with Judi Kern, who did not respond to interview requests.
“They have said this isn’t just about the fire,” said Most, 62, a self-employed marketing and business consultant. A successful recall, she said, would reflect “this thing that’s going on across the country, the toxic, vitriolic national politics.”
Colorado is part of a larger shift: In each of the previous two years, the number of officials facing recall efforts nationwide has topped 400 for the first time, according to Ballotpedia, a nonprofit project that tracks politics and public policy across the country. Recalls are on pace to continue the trend this year. Ballotpedia began tracking recalls in 2012.
Colorado ranks third so far this year behind Michigan and California for the number of officials targeted for recall. The rankings were the same last year, when Michigan led the U.S. with 133 officials facing recalls followed by California, 72, and Colorado, 34.
City council officials such as Most are commonly the targets. Of 448 officials who faced recalls last year, 175, nearly 40%, were city council members. The National Conference of Legislatures wrote in a 2021 report that some estimates say three-fourths of recalls are for city council or school board officials.
Just 19 states have provisions for recall elections with a 20th, Virginia, providing for recalls through the courts, a high bar seldom cleared. Colorado is like most other states that allow recalls in that voters can pursue the option for any reason, a point of contention for Most, who points out that she’s not been accused of wrongdoing.
As the state legislatures conference explained in its report, “recall differs from another method for removing officials from office — impeachment — in that it is a political device while impeachment is a legal process” typically involving the two legislative chambers in central government.
Instead, Most and officials like her are subject to trial by way of public vote. Her supporters, such as Tim Stalker, who resides in Louisville’s Ward 3, insist opponents’ concerns are more personal than procedural.
“People in this group on the recall side are calling her out for personality traits and expressions,” said Stalker, 56, a web developer. He referred to the recall as “trickery” in a guest opinion appearing in the Boulder Daily Camera under the headline, “Louisville recall is akin to an attack on democracy.”
Foes of Most such as Jannatpour said the initiative is driven by what they describe as her lack of engagement with her constituents in a ward heavily impacted by the fire.
“We live in a representative democracy,” Jannatpour said. “Our elected representatives are there to represent us, their constituents. They should be advocating for their constituents. The feeling was that she didn’t listen or advocate for us.”
Most cites back-and-forth emails between her and Jannatpour, contesting the notion that she was disengaged. She labels the recall a waste of taxpayer money, saying if people were unsatisfied, they could vote her out when her seat is up again in 2025.
Mannatpour is among five donors to the recall committee, which tallied $2,450 in contributions, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 12, according to its latest campaign filing. Tim Crean, who works at the University of Colorado and has led the recall effort, contributed $700. Architect Christian Dino, retiree Hank Shaw and financial analyst John Dolliver donated $500 each. Mannatpour gave $250.
Campaign reports for Most show she raised $1,611.84 from 20 donors, including her, the largest contributions a pair for $250 each coming from Cynthia Corne, a Louisville business consultant.