Bradford stuns Buescher in rare Republican highlight

No. 10 of the Top Ten stories for 2008

Rep. Laura Bradford

Even as Colorado voters pushed the state into the blue column, backing Barack Obama for the presidency and Mark Udall for U.S. Senate, Republicans found one bright spot in Mesa County: Laura Bradford.

A businesswoman and tree farmer, Bradford upset state Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, in his quest to win a third term in the state House and to become the speaker of the House.

On an election night that led some Mesa County Republicans to shed tears at their party in the Roper Music ballroom, Bradford surprised everyone.

“I was never supposed to win this race,” Bradford said a month after her 605-vote victory.

“Every single odd was against me.”

The unlikely lawmaker received a standing ovation when House Republicans gathered to elect their leaders two days after the election.

Her victory also ended a nearly eight-decade-long dry spell for eastern Mesa County residents at the Capitol since W.V. Watson, R-Plateau City, held the seat in 1930.

Bradford’s election, which came after Buescher decisively defeated his Republican opponents in 2004 and 2006, followed a nearly yearlong campaign dedicated to tying the incumbent to Gov. Bill Ritter.

That strategy helped her overcome the more than $260,000 Buescher spent and the hundreds of thousands liberal political groups invested in the race.

Bradford reported spending less than one-quarter of Buescher’s total, though she also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in help from Front Range political groups.

Her first challenge of 2009 will be to prove to House District 55 — and many of her doubters — that she can effectively replace Buescher as a player at a state Capitol where Republicans have been the minority caucus for nearly half a decade.


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