Chamber backs Bradford in race against Buescher for Legislature
In a surprise twist for state Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, the Grand Junction business community’s biggest cheerleader, the local chamber of commerce, abandoned the Democratic lawmaker in favor of his Republican opponent, Laura Bradford.
“I am so pleased to have the support of the business community,” Bradford said Friday at a Republican party luncheon, where the endorsement was announced. “It’s because I come from them.”
The endorsement could not have come at a better time for Bradford, who has lagged behind Buescher’s fundraising and has failed to attract much in the way of backing from outside political organizations.
According to her campaign finance disclosures, she has fallen behind Buescher’s 2006 Republican challenger, Bob Caskey, in total fundraising.
Buescher and Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, have “biggie-sized” taxes on business, Bradford said, singling out the so-called mill-levy tax freeze in particular as burdening businesses.
The freeze leaves in place local school districts’ property tax rates, preventing them from falling when they otherwise would have.
Buescher said Friday he was disappointed to hear of the endorsement, in light of his efforts to bring millions of dollars worth of new construction and economic stimulus to Mesa County.
“I’m puzzled why the chamber thinks someone else could do more than that,” Buescher said.
He said he still sees himself as a pro-business Democrat and has the voting record to prove it.
Though Buescher was passed over by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, he has received the endorsement of a handful of business organizations, including the state chamber of commerce and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.
Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, said the endorsement was based in part on Buescher’s support for Gov. Bill Ritter’s mill-levy freeze.
The Colorado Supreme Court is weighing the constitutionality of the freeze.
Schwenke said Bradford’s history as a small-business owner helped her receive the group’s backing.
The Bradford endorsement marked the first time the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce has waded into a contested state race.
The chamber drew up its endorsement policy in December 2006, endorsing candidates for the first time in the 2007 municipal races.
Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, called the endorsement “significant.”
“The local business community has been a central part of his electoral majority,” Penry said. “I think the endorsement certainly shows cracks in that foundation.”
John Redifer, a political science professor at Mesa State College, said the endorsement could provide Bradford a chance to reposition herself as the champion of the business community, a mantle Buescher has claimed for years.
“If I was Laura Bradford, I would be trying to make that case,” he said.
Redifer said if Bradford wants to make the most of this, she needs to use the endorsement to raise money to run ads on local television and radio stations.