Bernie Buescher is the best choice for Colorado secretary of state
Secretary of state is one of the elected state offices that should be non-partisan. But, since it is not a non-partisan position, the next best option is to elect candidates for the office who put their constitutional duties before their party loyalties.
Bernie Buescher’s predecessor as secretary of state failed that test. Just days before the 2008 election, Mike Coffman was sued by several voting-rights organizations to stop his purging of registered voters from the system. A judge ruled the purging violated the federal Voting Rights Act, and 20,000 voters were added back on the rolls.
Despite the state’s position that the purge was an attempt to eliminate duplication in the voting rolls, Coffman appears to have politicized the secretary of state’s office in an attempt to suppress the vote. The situation clearly illustrates the danger of a political operative overseeing elections.
Challenger Scott Gessler’s history of representing conservative Republican causes raises serious questions about his suitability for a position that should be above politics. As The Denver Post said in its endorsement of Buescher, “Gessler has so closely aligned himself with high-profile, Republican-backed election lawsuits over the years that we wonder whether he’d be able to separate that advocacy from the secretary of state’s work.”
Gessler is an attorney for Republican issues and candidates. His client list includes Club for Growth, Weld County Conservative Alliance and the Colorado Right to Work Committee, along with Republican campaign committees and conservative clients. In 2006, he represented Bob Beauprez during his gubernatorial campaign.
None of this activity disqualifies Gessler from serving as secretary of state, but his previous dealings with the office raise substantial questions about his suitability to serve. During the Beauprez campaign, Gessler appealed to Secretary of State Gigi Dennis to limit the campaign fund-raising activities of traditional Democratic groups.
Though Gessler claimed to be making the request on his own behalf, he also admitted to political motivations. “It was not my sole motivating factor to help Bob Beauprez,” he told The Denver Post, “but I was aware of it.”
By way of justification, he added, “The rules are riddled with exceptions that help out Democratic constituencies.” He just wanted Secretary Dennis to tilt the playing field a bit to favor his candidate.
It is hard to believe that Scott Gessler could resist similar partisan appeals from GOP lawyers if he is elected secretary of state. After all, he told The Denver Post, “Everything with campaign finance is politically motivated. People destroy their enemies and help their friends.”
This is not the attitude we need from the official entrusted to assure our elections are fair and secure. The office of secretary of state should never be part of a scheme to “destroy … enemies and help … friends.”
Returning Bernie Buescher to office for a full term is the best defense against Gessler’s attempt to capture the secretary of state’s office as a Republican political asset.
When Buescher became secretary of state after 45 years of unbroken Republican administration, the office was inefficient, voter rolls were inaccurate and Coffman was being sued for violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Today, much of that has changed. Even Gessler acknowledged that Buescher had “done a pretty good job” managing the business of the department. He reduced the budget, increased office efficiency, and returned money to the state at a time when the every available dollar was needed to balance the budget.
To address voter registration problems, Buescher worked closely with county clerks, deleting duplicate files to establish a reliable state-wide voter list. “I can say to voters and citizens today that we have merged all of the duplicate files,” he said. In the process, he reports, all but two of the issues raised by the lawsuit against the department have been resolved.
These achievements are reason enough to return Buescher to office for a full term. But most importantly, he has managed the office with a minimum of partisanship and no discernible attempt to use the office for the particular benefit of either party.
In today’s tense political environment, Bernie Buescher is the best choice for Secretary of State.