Lawmaker who called Planned Parenthood ‘real culprit’ in shootings faces recall effort

A campaign is underway to recall Rep. JoAnn Windholz, R-Commerce City, who stirred up national ire after blaming Planned Parenthood, rather than the shooter, for the murders that took place Nov. 27 at the Colorado Springs clinic.

“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves,” Windholz wrote in a statement first published to friends on her Facebook site and then released to The Colorado Independent and made public — at least, until the public responded with vitriol and she either took the statement down or made it available only to approved friends on Facebook.  

Thousands blasted Windholz for her remarks, and hundreds took to her Facebook page to express disgust and demand her resignation. The Aurora Sentinel, the community paper for part of her House district, joined the chorus Wednesday, asking her to step down. 

But some aren’t willing to wait. If she doesn’t resign, they plan to force her out.

Steven Cohn of Longmont and Naomi Hatfield Bigwood of Westminster, the duo organizing Windholz’s ouster, met Tuesday, online, in the comments section of The Colorado Independent’s story about the lawmaker’s statement. Cohn raised the possibility of starting a recall, and Hatfield Bigwood, who lives in House District 30, signed on to help.

By late Tuesday, the newly acquainted duo had launched a Facebook page: Recall State Representative JoAnn Windholz. As of this writing, more than 450 people have “liked” the page. Many have offered support if the recall campaign takes off.

Windholz’s remarks are “ rhetorically the equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Cohn said. “I respect everyone’s beliefs until they talk about inflicting violence on fellow citizens…she seemed to condone anyone dying in the interest of stopping Planned Parenthood.”

Windholz won her seat in 2014 by a razor-thin margin of 106 votes out of 18,858 cast.

“Anyone who won with such a slim margin needs to watch her words,” Hatfield Bigwood said.

Cohn and Hatfield Bigwood both told The Independent they have daughters who should not have to fight for their rights to reproductive health.

Cohn, a registered Democrat, has volunteered for national campaigns including President Barack Obama’s and then-Sen. Mark Udall’s

“I haven’t been active in local Democratic politics, but that’s about to change,” he said.

He plans to reach out to the Adams County Democratic Party and the state Democratic Party. He’s set a self-imposed deadline of today to come up with the wording for the recall petition, and will submit it to the Secretary of State for approval.

Hatfield Bigwood, who has always taken an interest in politics, was a Republican until several years ago, when she heard Missouri’s former Republican Congressman Todd Akin comment about “legitimate rape.” The year before, Akin sponsored legislation to change the definition of rape to “forcible rape.” The bill was co-sponsored by then-Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma.

The GOP “no longer represented me as a woman,” Hatfield Bigwood said. Now a registered Democrat, this will be her first foray into political organizing.

Cohn said they need to collect at least 5,000 signatures to trigger a recall. That’s a little more than the required 25 percent of 18,858 votes cast in the 2014 election.

Colorado has had its share of recall elections in the past few years, all politically motivated and based on actions by elected officials. A recall based on what someone says versus official actions is unusual, said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver.

But it wouldn’t be impossible. The law does not list what can be considered legal grounds for a recall, Masket said. What’s appropriate for a recall versus inappropriate is in the eye of the beholder, or the voter.

Windholz did not respond to a request for comment.


has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. “Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves,”

    We need adults in Congress; this Representative does not appear to be an adult—like the vast majority of her conservative colleagues.

    We need adults who are mature enough to confront the source of America’s increasing ignorance, greed, corruption, and violence.

  2. Her message is essentially the same as ISIS’, “if you do things I don’t approve of, it’s okay to kill innocent people to show my disapproval.”

  3. There’s no way to gather signatures, validate them and hold an election before the start of the Colorado legislative session. How about doing something MORE sensible and begin organizing now for the November 2016 election?

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