Buescher faces challenges as secretary of state
DENVER — Like his former colleagues at the Capitol, Colorado’s next secretary of state, Democrat Bernie Buescher, will spend much of 2009 focused on rebuilding bridges.
Buescher, who is expected to be confirmed to replace Mike Coffman this week, said when he took stock of his new office, he found it largely in order. Outside his office’s walls, he said, he found a different picture.
From county clerks irate over lack of communication to voters worried about whether their votes counted, Buescher said, “There’s work to be done.”
Buescher said when he informally polled a group he gave a speech to Wednesday, upwards of 15 percent of attendees said they were unsure their votes were accurately counted last year.
“I think that plays out what the challenge is here,” he said. “The challenge is to deal with the perceptions of some individuals that the system doesn’t work.”
Buescher’s tenure at the Secretary of State’s Office will follow four years of supervision, under Coffman and Gigi Dennis, that drew cries of partisanship and mismanagement.
Coffman, most noticeably, drew criticism after he threw the 2008 elections into disarray by temporarily decertifying electronic voting machines used across the state. Dennis also weathered concerns that she politicized the office and failed to ensure the state’s voting machines were immune to tampering.
Buescher said convincing the state that his office is nonpartisan and willing to work with local elections officials to restore confidence in elections will be his first task.
“That is our challenge together,” Buescher said.
Gov. Bill Ritter alluded to Buescher’s task as he nominated the former Grand Junction lawmaker last month to replace Coffman, who recently joined the U.S. House of Representatives.
“He works in a bipartisan, even a nonpartisan, fashion,” Ritter said in making the nomination.
Buescher’s former colleagues at the state Capitol said even with steep tasks awaiting him, he is the right man for the job.
“Bernie Buescher provides a great opportunity for county clerks to have a better relationship with the Secretary of State’s Office,” Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.
Bacon, who sits on the committee overseeing Buescher’s office, said he expects nothing but fairness from his former colleague.
Buescher’s confirmation hearing before the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is scheduled for Monday afternoon.