Tea party favorite Buck outduels Norton
Ken Buck, who a year ago nearly walked away from the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, walked away with it on Tuesday.
Buck outpolled Grand Junction native Jane Norton 52 percent-48 percent statewide, though Norton won in Mesa County with 61 percent of the vote to Buck’s 39 percent.
“Thank you Mesa County, you did awesome,” Norton told The Sentinel Tuesday night after conceding the election to Buck.
Norton campaigned on Sunday in Grand Junction at Mesa State College and on the Front Range with Arizona Sen. John McCain, drawing a distinction with Buck on foreign policy, calling for a continued commitment to the war on terror on Afghanistan and putting Buck into the “isolationist wing” of the Republican Party.
Norton endorsed Buck, however, saying “I will work for him” in the campaign against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat.
Knitting back together the Colorado Republican Party won’t be that difficult a task, Buck said.
“I think we are going to come together in this general election because of the differences between myself and Bennet,” Buck said, calling himself a “Colorado conservative” and Bennet a “Washington, D.C liberal.”
Tea party supporters backed him as the result of a grassroots effort that Buck said he would continue in an effort to reach unaffiliated and Democratic voters.
“This is bigger than Ken Buck or Jane Norton,” Norton said, calling Bennet vulnerable because of his voting record.
Bennet is “out of touch with Colorado views,” Norton said.
Buck in his acceptance speech alluded to a misstep of his own, when he told a voter she should support him “because I do not wear high heels” and that his cowboy boots were stained with real barnyard droppings.
“It’s not easy to love a candidate that has a cowboy boot in his mouth,” Buck joked.
Norton, whose father, legendary Mesa College coach Walter “Bus” Bergman died this spring, commented on her competitive background in her concession speech, telling supporters the outcome “was a little more than disappointing.”
Norton, a former lieutenant governor and former head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, announced her bid in September 2009 and was tagged as the front-runner, nearly sending Buck out of the race.
Persuaded to remain in the race and helped by 527 organization attack ads painting Norton as the establishment candidate, Buck made steady progress and captured 77 percent of the vote at the GOP state convention.
Norton, meanwhile, brought on Josh Penry to manage her campaign soon after announcing that she would petition her way onto the primary ballot.
Penry, the former minority leader of the Colorado Senate, had given up his own gubernatorial bid, citing the need for party unity.