By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
For the first time since 1963, a Democrat is serving as Colorado’s secretary of state.
Former Grand Junction Democratic state representative and businessman Bernie Buescher ascended to the office Wednesday, Jan. 14, after breezing through Senate confirmation hearings.
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher speaks to lawmakers during his senate confirmation hearings on Monday.
Buescher, 59, was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill out the term of Republican Mike Coffman, who is settling in as Colorado’s representative from the 6th Congressional District. Buescher was sworn in by Colorado’s Chief Supreme Court Justice Mary Mullarkey in the Old Supreme Court Chambers, amid a packed room of supporters and lawmakers representing both sides of
“I am truly overwhelmed with the confidence the governor has expressed in me,” Buescher said.
“I absolutely agree with (his) comments about the right of the citizens in this state to have a voting system that works and to have confidence in that system. In the two weeks since my appointment, that fact has been driven home in every conversation I have had.”
Buescher’s path to office has been rocky, and his tenure promises no bed of roses.
Buescher had been expected to win re-election in House District 55 in November, then to replace Andrew Romanoff as the speaker of the House. But the voters had other plans, and he was narrowly defeated by Republican Laura Bradford in November.
Romanoff and former Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who came in a close second to Coffman in the race for secretary of state in 2006, also were on Ritter’s short list to replace Coffman.
The nod, however, went to Buescher.
In a conversation with lawmakers and former colleagues before the swearing-in ceremony, Buescher said he had been surprised at how “life always has a strange way of working out,” referring to his disappointment at losing the election and his subsequent happiness with his new post.
Buescher won’t have much time to celebrate, however. Coffman left the office with Republicans and Democrats embroiled in a fight over the best way to run fair elections in Colorado. A crisis is developing that could decertify thousands of electronic voting machines in counties across Colorado if no fix is found for a law that sunsets in July. For his part, Buescher has said he will work with the Legislature to craft a bill that is fair and equitable to the voters and country clerks in the state.
“I will do everything in my power to make the process as transparent and as effective as it can possibly be and to make sure the citizens have confidence in the election process,” Buescher said.
Always one to throw his sense of humor around lightly, shortly before finishing his acceptance remarks, Buescher said he will strive to work on non-partisan level when addressing the state’s needs — a task he already is beginning to understand more clearly.
“I felt like I really worked in the middle (while working in the Legislature) but I didn’t really know what the middle meant until an hour ago… when I found out that tomorrow I get named as substitute defendant on litigation filed (against the state) on one hand
by Common Cause and on the other hand by the Independence Institute. That truly is as ‘in the middle’ as you can get.”