Posted: May 01, 2010
Election 2010: Republican Ken Buck vies for U.S. Senate seat
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck gains momentum after caucus winBy Mike Cote
Despite a much more modest campaign war chest than presumed frontrunner Jane Norton, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck narrowly bested his opponent in the Republican caucus in March.
We recently talked with Buck about the campaign in Denver. The following transcript was edited for space and clarity. View the complete interview and complete transcript at cobizmag.com. In the months ahead, we will feature interviews with the remaining Senate candidates as well as the gubernatorial candidates.
ColoradoBiz: When Jane Norton entered the race last summer, you reportedly were considering leaving the race. Now just a few weeks ago, you ended up with a slight edge over Norton in the Republican precinct caucuses. Why do you think this happened?
Ken Buck: We have really been working hard to develop a grass-roots organization in Colorado, and it is paying off. We have a very clear message about the fact that you can't really trust the Republicans who have been in D.C., and you can't trust the Democrats that are in D.C. We need a different person to go to D.C. to clean up the mess back there. And I think that message is being accepted by a lot of people in Colorado.
ColoradoBiz: You've had support from some Tea Party-related groups. What does that tell you about the current state of the Republican Party and what does it mean for your campaign?
Buck: I think frankly the Republican Party is in transition. I think that there are a lot of disaffected voters who have decided that they are going to become part of the process. And as a result, the Republican Party can either move toward those voters or continue to really flounder.
ColoradoBiz: You mentioned that Jane Norton has been spending a lot of money. How do you plan to keep up the momentum you gained with the caucuses and be on the same keel as her in terms of fundraising and getting your name out there?
Buck: We've got a lot of $50, $100, $500 donors - people who it really hurts when they write a check, and they believe so strongly in this cause that they are writing those checks. We won't raise the same amount of money necessarily as a Jane Norton, who gets a lot of her money from outside the state of Colorado. But the people who write checks for me are willing to walk their neighborhoods, are willing to put up a yard sign, are willing to talk to their neighbors.
ColoradoBiz: Now that the health care reform bill has passed, do you think it's realistic to be able to repeal any of it?
Buck: I think we have to repeal most if not all of the health-care legislation. And the reason is, it was passed in such a corrupt way - by buying votes: $300 million to the senator from Louisiana, the Cornhusker kickback to the senator from Nebraska. The public does not believe that it is the best bill at this point in time. No. 1: The corrupt process is enough to repeal this bill. No. 2: It is not a free market-based approach to health care. I feel very strongly that we need to really look at what would bring down costs and what would increase the quality of care to our citizens.
ColoradoBiz: We've yet to see a significant rise in hiring by small businesses during this recovery. They're still stymied by a lack of a capital. What needs to happen to turn this around?
Buck: I don't think it's just a lack of capital. I think it's the uncertainty that's in the marketplace right now. Are taxes are going up? Are energy costs going up? Are health-care costs going up? Who would expand with all of that uncertainty? I think we've got to resolve some of those issues so that small businesses know they can predict that their bottom line is going to be in the future.
ColoradoBiz: You've said you're not in favor of a cap-and-trade policy, which seems to have faded from view for now. How do you think the United States can balance its energy policy so that we're not dependent on foreign fuels? And how much support should the government give to renewable energy projects?
Buck: I think renewables are a part of our energy future, but they have to stand alone. They cannot be subsidized in the way that they are subsidized now. Energy is one of the keys, not just for business, but for a lot of reasons. We have got to move toward energy independence in this country. We've got to drill for oil and gas more. We've got to develop nuclear energy. We've got to work on renewables. We have clean coal technology, which is right around the corner, and we have to use that.
ColoradoBiz: You mentioned clean coal. As you know the state is pushing our largest utility to phase out some older coal plants and replace them with natural gas. Do you think this was a smart move?
Buck: It was a dumb move because government shouldn't decide what the marketplace demands. If Xcel decided that it was time to do that and they were looking at all the different factors, that would be great. For the government to make that decision I think is wrong.
ColoradoBiz: Immigration reform is another issue that has taken a back seat to economic concerns, in part because the need for labor in this state right now has tapped down. How can the government maintain secure borders but still meet its needs for labor?
Buck: I don't think that small businesses or agriculture businesses were relying on illegal immigration as a source of labor. We need to work on getting workers into this country more quickly and legally so there is a disincentive for people to do it the wrong way. If they get caught here, they'll be deported.
ColoradoBiz: You've pledged that you won't vote for tax increases and will push to decrease the size of government. What parts of government would you aim to downsize?
Buck: When you look at the founding fathers' intent with the Constitution, we have gone so far afield from what they thought the federal role was. We need to give states and local communities authority in the education area. The best education decisions are made locally, not by a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. Every area we got, the federal government should be either out of that business or it should be significantly reduced. The federal government has a responsibility to secure our borders. They're not doing a very good job of that because they are so focused on other areas. And national defense is another priority for the federal government. And I think they're doing a wonderful job in national defense.
ColoradoBiz: When you endorsed a proposed amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget, you noted the failure of both Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington to control spending. How could you change that culture?
Buck: We are looking at $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities. We're looking at a $12 trillion national debt and a $1.7-$1.8 trillion annual deficit right now. If we don't change the culture in Washington, D.C., a crisis is going to cause us to change that culture.
ColoradoBiz: One of the most pressing issues facing Colorado and the West is how to secure enough water to meet the demands of a growing population. What steps do we need to take to have a sensible plan for the future?
Buck: The best answer that I've been able to come up with, and I've talked to people in all the different parts of the state, is water storage. We're not talking about creating a new dam on a river. We're talking about increasing the size of reservoirs that already exist so as the metropolitan area grows and requires more water, we can still farm in Northern Colorado and not create an environmental disaster there as a result of drying up all the land.
Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at email@example.com.