Four Republicans are vying for the nomination to run for the 4th Congressional District seat left open by U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner’s decision in late February to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.
Two of the candidates — Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Steve Laffey of Larimer County — turned in petitions last week and the other two — Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley — are hoping to win the support of at least 30 percent of delegates at Friday’s CD 4 assembly in Broomfield.
The candidates are trying to make the ballot for the June 24 primary and the winner will face Trinidad Democrat Vic Meyers, Libertarian Jess Loban of Castle Rock and Grant Doherty, an unaffiliated candidate from Lochbuie, in November.
The district encompasses Weld and portions of Larimer County and portions of Douglas County, along with the eastern plains.
Buck, who had been running for the U.S. Senate nomination, was the first to enter the race and did so the same week Gardner let it be known he was running against Udall. (State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, had been the other leading candidates for the Senate nomination but withdrew soon after Gardner jumped in. State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is still in the running for the Senate primary and will be chasing delegate support along with Gardner at Saturday’s state Republican Party assembly in Boulder.)
“The Senate race has never been about me but about helping change the direction of the country. I hope to have the opportunity to lead the fight for limited government and fiscal responsibility as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Buck said when he switched races.
Gardner endorsed Buck for the seat he’s vacating, saying, “Washington’s lack of common sense and leadership grows daily. In the many years I have known Ken, his dedication to helping others as a district attorney, coach and community member have shown me that he will help fill this void. Ken will work hard to put Colorado and America back on track. I look forward to working with Ken to return fiscal responsibility, free-market economic ideas and common sense Colorado values to Washington. Ken will be a great, independent leader for the 4th Congressional District.”
Buck’s wife, state Rep. Perry Buck, R-Greeley, has served as vice chair and secretary of the Colorado Republican Party.
Buck lost the closest Senate race in the country four years ago to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. For a time last year, he had been among the Republicans weighing a run for Colorado attorney general, a seat held by term-limited Republican John Suthers.
Buck was the only candidate raising money for a federal race earlier this year — he can transfer the money he raised for the Senate run to his congressional campaign — so none of the other candidates have filed Federal Election Commission reports yet, although the deadline for the 1st Quarter filings is next week. Buck reported raising $154,109 in the 4th quarter of 2013 and had $262,347 cash on hand.
Kirkmeyer, who has served as Weld County commissioner in two stints spanning more than two decades, said her experience running the county will serve her well in Washington.
“In Weld County, we walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk,” she said. “We balance the budget. We have no debt. We take our responsibilities to the taxpayers very seriously. I will take the Weld County model to Washington. I am appalled at our $17 trillion national debt. That debt endangers our children’s dreams, the opportunities of our grandchildren, and threatens the prosperity of our great state.”
Former Gov. Bill Owens, who was Kirkmeyer’s boss in the 1990s when she worked at the Department of Local Affairs, endorsed her, calling her “clearly the most qualified candidate in the race.”
Owens — the only Republican elected governor in Colorado in more than 40 years — said that Kirkmeyer’s experience stands her head and shoulders above the competition.
“Who else do you want to send to Washington to represent one of the nation’s largest agriculture districts in the country than someone who has made a living milking cows on a dairy farm?” Owens asked in his endorsement statement. “Who else do you want to send to Washington to represent the 4th Congressional District, which has more small businesses than almost any other district in the country, than someone who successfully started from scratch and ran a small business? And who else do you want to send to Washington to deal with our national debt than a county commissioner from the only county in the United States that has no debt, no county sales tax and actually gives a tax refund annually?”
Kirkmeyer has also been endorsed by fellow commissioner Sean Conway, Greeley Mayor Tom Norton and former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland. (Conway and Nikkel were among numerous Republicans who considered getting into the primary in the weeks after Gardner dropped out.)
Kirkmeyer was a key supporter of the 51st state initiative last year, when voters in 11 counties rejected a proposal to pursue creating a separate state of Northern Colorado.
Renfroe, who is term-limited, has been endorsed by state Reps. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Parker. He’s also won the coveted endorsement of the Windsor-based National Association for Gun Rights PAC.
“There is no one in Colorado who is a bigger defender of our gun rights than Scott Renfroe,” said NAGR-PAC director Dudley Brown. “Scott’s fought against the gun grabbers at every turn. He understands that that we cannot give an inch when it comes to our foundational liberties,” Brown continued. “Scott Renfroe is the right choice for gun owners in Colorado’s 4th District. He has a proven track record of standing up for our gun rights. I’m voting for him, and I hope gun owners across the district will too.”
Laffey lives just a few miles outside the district — the redrawn lines after the 2010 Census moved him into the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Democrat Jared Polis — but he notes that the law only requires that he be a resident of Colorado to run for one of its congressional seats.
“I am running for Congress because I have experience speaking out to protect our freedoms,” said the author, filmmaker and radio personality. “I have a deep yearning to help fix this country’s massive problems and the passion and proven ability to fight for the little guy and get things done.”
He continued: “In holding public office, in my book “Primary Mistake,” in my movie Fixing America, and on my TV/radio network I have set forth a simple yet complete set of solutions to help fix this country for our children. These solutions and the solutions offered by the citizens of the 4th District must go to Washington so that your children and my children have a chance to live the American Dream.
“Today that dream is dying and unless brave new leaders come to the forefront and take this risk of running for public office, it will die,” Laffey said. “America doesn’t have much time.”