By Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Jane Norton, who served from 2003 through 2006 as Colorado’s lieutenant governor during Gov. Bill Owens’ second term, is running for the Republican nod for U.S. Senate against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. Norton announced her bid in September 2009 and for much of the race has been considered the front-runner for the nomination. After placing a close second to Buck in a straw poll held at GOP precinct caucuses in March, Norton decided to bypass the assembly process and petition her way onto the August primary ballot. Last month, the Colorado secretary of state certified her for the ballot with roughly twice the number of signatures required.
Norton’s campaign manager, Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, accompanied Norton to the interview. He joined the conversation briefly near the end of the interview.
Norton visited the offices of The Colorado Statesman on June 23. Buck sat for an interview with The Statesman the week before, and his interview was printed in last week’s issue. An interview with Democrat Andrew Romanoff will be in next week’s issue. Find all the InnerViews online at www.coloradostatesman.com.
Below is the full transcript of the conversation with Norton. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): Has this been a little bit of a different campaign than you imagined?
Jane Norton (JN): Yes, it has. You know, in a traditional campaign, in the primary you’re reaching out to all the Republican groups, and we’re certainly doing that, but we have the Tea Party groups and the 9/12 groups and these entities that have just sprung up — people who are just upset about the direction that the nation is headed.
CS: Did you really expect this to be such an intense primary? I mean there was a possibility that Ken Buck was going to drop out of the race, and Ryan Frazier, of course, did.
JN: Right. Well, Ken did drop out at one point and had me in his office and said he was going to support me and all that. And after a couple of days, I think he had remorse about his hasty decision, he said. But we always knew it would be a tough primary. I mean people are very, very concerned about what’s happening not only in the state but across the nation. So we knew it was going to be a difficult challenge.
CS: Did you really expect there to be a primary?
JN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. No, this is too important.
CS: Okay, because Frazier got out of the way and Ken Buck was thinking about getting out, which would have cleared the path for you to be the nominee.
JN: No, I mean I always knew that the fight, whichever route it took, was going to be a difficult one, and we haven’t taken anything for granted along the way.
CS: Have you seen your Republican opponent much the last few weeks?
JN: You know, we’re all doing the Lincoln Day Dinner circuit and we’ve got several forums and we’ve got the lead up to the state convention, had all the county conventions. So we’re actually seeing each other quite a bit.
CS: What’s the relationship these days? Are you friendly, can you put aside the politics?
JN: Oh, I think we’re absolutely friendly, yeah. Ken is a good guy and we’re both competitors, so we’re battling hard.
CS: If he should win the primary, would you support him?
JN: Yes. This isn’t about Jane Norton, this is about taking our country back. It’s about the size and scope of the federal government. And I do believe Republicans — conservatives — have a better approach to that. But frankly, I’m not planning on that happening, so I haven’t thought that much about it. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case, but —
CS: Your campaign released a new poll yesterday that showed you ahead. Do you feel confident that that’s a more realistic poll than the one that was touted last week?
[Editor’s note: A Denver Post/9News poll conducted by SurveyUSA released June 20 showed Buck leading Norton 53 percent to 37 percent among likely Republican voters. A poll released by the Norton campaign two days later showed Norton leading 39 percent to 33 percent.]
JN: Yes. We’re much more confident with the methodology and the scope of who we think are going to be the voters. We know that the 80 percent all mail in ballot is going to have a significant impact — more voters than traditionally are going to vote this go around, women are highly energized this go around. So we feel more confident in the methodology with our polls.
CS: Back to the previous topic, do you think that if should you win the primary, that the party will unite behind you? That’s been a problem in some Republican primaries in the past.
JN: I do think so. I think we are always strongest when we focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us. And I have a history of uniting factions and I do believe, again, that the message that I’m talking about resonates not only with the strong conservative Republicans, but also those independents who are just concerned about the direction of our country. So I do believe I can unite folks.
CS: Bob Schaffer and Pete Coors talked about uniting, but the party was splintered and perhaps contributed to the loss of the Republican candidate a few years ago. But you feel confident that maybe it’s a different year?
JN: I do. I think that conservatives in the past have always been satisfied or content to be right on the issues and they haven’t cared too much about winning. But this year we have to win, because if you can’t win, then you can’t change the direction of our country, and that’s what this is about. You can’t govern and then you can’t change the direction, and that’s the most important thing, is winning. You’re going to have to put that away (said to Penry, who was on his BlackBerry.)
CS: It seems that when you (addressed to Josh Penry) joined the campaign, the tone of the campaign changed, and perhaps that is one of the reasons for bringing you on. Do you view it as having changed?
JN: Oh, absolutely.
CS: In what ways?
JN: There’s a much better energy. Josh is from Colorado, He knows what it takes to run statewide. He’s brought a much sharper focus to the campaign, and it’s been a huge help in that regard. I had over $1 million worth of negative advertising in the form of a 527, and we hadn’t responded to it, and we needed to respond. So I have my hands up in the ring now, whereas before, I hadn’t. So it’s been a huge help.
CS: Some people, including your Republican opponent, have said that it’s taken a nasty tone and that the negativism is far more apparent than needs be against a fellow Republican. Do you have any comments on that?
JN: Oh, I think he has taken quite a nasty tone, I would agree with that.
CS: You see it just basically coming from —
JN: The 527 that has greatly supported him, absolutely, has created that. And you need to respond. I mean it’s not being negative, I don’t think, to respond to allegations that just aren’t true.
CS: Among the allegations — and this wasn’t from a 527 but from Tom Wiens when he was in the race, ran a radio ad basically, simply saying you supported Referendum C earlier in the decade and asking if that’s what Republican voters want.
JN: And by the way, he did as well, as you know that, in previous votes.
CS: He did in some different votes in the Legislature.
JN: Yeah, in previous votes, right. And I think his rendition of Ref C was, I believe, an eight-year time out instead of a five-year time out. But I did support Ref C, but I am an advocate of TABOR. I believe that the public sector should not grow any faster than the private sector. I would like to see a TABOR restriction at the federal level. And the people had a say.
CS: Do you have any regrets, having supported Referendum C?
JN: You know, I would not support a Referendum C in this environment. I regret that the money didn’t go to what — as Hank Brown and I talked about it — the money didn’t go to what it was intended to go to. But I do believe strongly that people should have a say.
CS: Do you think it shows anything about your conservative credentials? In other words — and again, I’m taking something that your opponent has said, that it kind of speaks to the core of what a conservative is?
JN: I would ask people to look at my record. I was part of an administration, I was a lieutenant to a governor who cut taxes 43 times, 30 of them permanently. Ken likes to — Let me just look at the records of spending. I’ve had two budgets that have been entrusted to me by the taxpayers of the State of Colorado. One when I was head of the state health department and one when I was lieutenant governor. Both of those budgets, my general fund appropriation was less when I left office than when I started. At the (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), I cut my general fund appropriation by 28 percent in four years. When I was lieutenant governor, I cut it by 10 percent in four years.
Ken Buck, as Weld County district attorney for the last five years or so has increased his budget by 40 percent. So I would ask, who is the conservative candidate? If you look at your own spending, I would assert that that’s one of the primary reasons that I would be a conservative. The other thing is, I took a leave of absence when I was at the Department of Colorado Public Health and Environment to run for lieutenant governor. A leave of absence without pay. Ken is campaigning on the Weld County taxpayers’ dole right now.
CS: He has said that he’s not a wealthy man and that that’s part of his livable income. Is that something that you don’t think is fair to accept?
JN: I think that the taxpayers will have to make that decision. He was elected to do the job of the Weld County district attorney, and he’s not there, he’s not doing that job. So they’ll have to decide whether that is a concern to them or not.
CS: Do you have any specific instances that you can say he hasn’t been doing his job in any certain areas or just a general — ?
JN: Just being out of the office, just being out of the office and campaigning all across the state.
CS: Any regrets about not going through the state assembly?
JN: You know, I don’t. We have the opportunity — We looked at it, we came out of the county conventions and said, “This is not a business as usual year. There are many people who are engaged in this process, fired up about the country who are not going to be at that state convention,” where I believe there were 3,200 delegates. So we went the petition process — which by the way, Congressman Tancredo, Congressman Lamborn, Congressman Coffman did. It’s a legitimate way of getting on the ballot. So we came out of that process with 35,600 signatures of people who wanted to see my name on the ballot. So we said either 3,200 (delegates) or 35,600 signatures and it was just one of those decisions that we made that really did help us with our grassroots organization.
CS: Do you feel like you yourself met a lot of those people? You had petition carriers, basically, getting signatures.
JN: Right, right, exactly, exactly. But it was a potential voter touch, and now we’re calling through those lists. You can’t meet everybody in a TV conversation or a radio ad, but this is one of the ways that we wanted to touch as many people as we could in a short amount of time.
CS: Were you surprised at some of the uproar when you decided to go by the petition route?
JN: You know, in some regards I wasn’t surprised at all because people who are part of the process understand that this is just one of the ways — it’s one of the ways to do it. However, the people who were new to the process who maybe didn’t understand that — and certainly that’s understandable, when you’re new to the process, you don’t know that that’s one of the customary ways of getting on the ballot. We knew that when Tom Wiens decided that he was going to petition on, we were assured of a primary. We knew we were going to have a primary. So that’s when we decided to take the message to the people.
CS: Okay — that’s a fair explanation. And were you concerned much that you may not have gotten the threshold amount to get on the ballot at the assembly?
JN: No, because I went through all the county conventions, so we had a pretty good feeling of what was going to happen. So we decided you have a limited amount of time and resources, how do you have your biggest bang for your buck?
CS: You talked about the newer participants in the state assembly process and the caucus process. This year it was more newcomers at the state assembly than in living memory. And I think a lot of them were Tea Party, 9/12 folks, people who were riled up about something. Did the petition process bypass them?
JN: No, I don’t think it did. I spoke at the congressional districts. The 7th CD was done on Thursday night and I spoke there and then I believe all but the 2nd Congressional District asked me to speak. So I had an opportunity to speak there. But again, it was, what do you do with the limited amount of time and resources? And we thought that that was a better decision for this campaign. So we’re reaching out to Tea Parties and 9/12 groups all across the state, and we’re doing debates and forums, and we certainly think that they’re a very important part of the process, and we’re glad for the support that we’re getting. Don’t have all of it, obviously Ken’s got some support there, but we have some of it as well.
CS: Were you expecting Sarah Palin to endorse you when she came to Colorado?
JN: No, no, no. No — that wasn’t the purpose of the event at all.
CS: But there were certainly a lot of people thinking that that was going to happen.
JN: I think that there was anticipation because the week before, I was at a Celebration of Life that was put on by the Susan B. Anthony pro-life PAC, and they’re endorsing me for my conservative, pro-life stance and my work on the adoption initiative. So in (Palin’s) speech to that group, she mentioned the Mama Grizzlies, who are going to make a difference in November, and she mentioned me by name. And I think that the hullabaloo was Ken trying to preempt any kind of an endorsement.
CS: Is there a chance, do you think, that she might come before the primary?
JN: There always is a chance. And I would welcome, I would welcome her endorsement, absolutely.
CS: Have you asked her, or been in communication?
JN: Because of that breakfast, we’ve been in communication.
CS: What do you think the chances are that she’ll do that?
JN: It’s really hard to say. We don’t know, we don’t know. The way she does it is she just announces it on Facebook, that’s her mode of endorsing. So again, we’d welcome it but I don’t have any expectation that that’s going to happen.
CS: How’s fundraising been going?
JN: Well, it’s never enough, but we’re working hard on that component. You’ve got kind of two campaigns going, you’ve got the grassroots support and the organization and those kinds of things. And then of course, as you all know, you’ve got the fundraising. And we are reaching out to a lot of different areas. Aerospace was an issue that I worked on — I was an advocate for our aerospace industry here in the State of Colorado — and my background in healthcare have been two good areas for me in that regard.
And then I’ve had some wonderful endorsements, like the American Conservative Union endorsement. That really is the gold standard for conservative credentials, so that’s been a help. The Susan B. Anthony endorsement was very helpful. The Family Research Council, another good conservative group, has endorsed me, and so they all have constituencies. And my favorite, the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, the Colorado Springs-based Second Amendment group. So those four endorsements have certainly been helpful as well.
CS: And you’ve gotten a lot of money from and some other groups. Do you think that contributes to some people thinking that you might be the insider in this race, compared to your opponent?
JN: Oh, the fact of the matter is that people all across this nation know that Michael Bennet is vulnerable and Jane Norton can win this race. And just like we invited our supporters to consider participating financially in Scott Brown’s victory, people across the nation are investing in the Jane Norton campaign. Because they know that that 42nd vote in the Senate — and the 43rd and the 44th — are going to make a difference. So when (Florida Senate candidate) Marco Rubio, (Pennsylvania Senate candidate) Pat Toomey and I campaigned together, people are saying that even though people across the nation can’t vote for me, I can vote for their conservative principles.
CS: You were elected lieutenant governor in 2002, and that was the last year when Republicans did really well statewide. Since then there’s been some erosion in the state Legislature, members of the Congress, two Senate seats. Is this the year that you’re going to turn it around and bring it back?
JN: I do believe that this is a good year for conservative Republicans. Again, we’ve been — or some conservatives have been — content to be just right on the issues, but now there’s a real concerted effort to say we need to win to change the country. And so I do believe that people are working together in ways that we haven’t seen before.
CS: Polls show that the enthusiasm is much higher in both Republicans and Conservatives and their counterparts. Are you finding that on the road?
JN: Everywhere we go, people say, “You know, I am nervous about the country. I am afraid about what’s happening in the country, I am downright angry about what’s going on.” Everywhere I go, I ask how many people are new to the process. There’s always several hands that go up. People are saying, “You know, I’ve never, never wanted to work in a political campaign, I’ve never given a check. This is the year I’m going to do it.” So we’re seeing a high level of engagement. Couple that with the all-mail-in primary ballot, and I think we’re going to see record-high turnout in August.
CS: What’s your anticipation for the primary vote?
JN: We think we’ll see upwards of 65 percent of Republicans voting in the primary.
CS: That’s about twice what it’s been in previous years.
JN: Right. Usually 30, 35 percent. But if Washington and Oregon are any example of what can happen in a mail-in ballot, we think that’ll help. Again, Colorado’s only about 80 percent mail-in.
CS: Did you used to work for AARP?
JN: I did, I did.
CS: What did you do for them?
JN: I was — gosh, what was my title? Oh, that was so long ago. I’m sorry, can I get back with you on that? I can’t even remember what it was.
CS: I don’t think it’s on your bio. Is there any reason for that?
JN: No, no.
CS: A lot of jobs over the years.
JN: Yeah (laughs). It was so short, I think it was even less than a six-month stint. So that might have been why. But I can’t even remember what — May I get back with you on that and call you on it?
CS: Sure, absolutely.
[Editor’s note: A Norton spokeswoman told The Statesman that Norton worked for the AARP from December 1993 to March 1994 and “did member education on health and consumer issues.”]
CS: Crisscrossing the state, have you crossed paths with Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff at any events?
JN: I’m trying to think — at the Aurora Economic Development luncheon. And I saw Andrew at the Colorado Ski Country, but it was kind of in passing.
CS: Everyone was there that day, right?
JN: Yeah. But we weren’t on a podium together or on a dais together.
CS: What’s your impression of Senator Bennet?
JN: I really like him, he’s a good guy. But I do believe he’s out of touch with the views of Coloradans.
CS: How long have you known him?
JN: Just really within the last year, since he was appointed.
CS: You find him pleasant?
JN: Absolutely. And in fact, when my father died, he called and expressed his sympathy to me, and I thought that was a real standup thing to do. But again, voting to increase the debt ceiling, wanted a public option, wanted to use reconciliation, that Coloradans know was abusive, that procedure. So many things I just feel like he’s out of touch with Colorado voters.
CS: He’s taken some heat from the left side of his party for some of the votes that he’s made, positions he’s taken. Are there any votes or positions that you agree with that he’s done?
JN: Obviously we focus on the ones that are in sharp contrast and I think he won’t tell us how he feels about Card Check. I don’t think that that’s a particularly nuanced issue; you’re either for or against it — I am against it. He was one of 22 senators that wrote the leader and said we need Cap and Trade, which I believe would be a damaging, job stifling piece of legislation for Colorado and the nation.
CS: You’ve known Andrew Romanoff longer because you were working in the statehouse at the same time, with him at least. What’s your impression of him?
JN: Again, very likeable guy, smart. He’s always been very pleasant. But I believe both Michael and Andrew have a big government mentality when it comes to solutions that are important to Colorado, and I believe that that’s bad for the economy and it’s bad for the country.
CS: Are you operating on the assumption that Sen. Bennet will be the nominee?
JN: I’m not so sure who is going to be my opponent come August 11. But again, I believe there are going to be kind of two sides to the same coin. Michael Bennet is going to be a rubber stamp for the Obama Administration. He really doesn’t have much room at all to do what he thinks is best, it’s going to have to be what the president wants. And I believe Andrew, again, is, as a Democrat, it’s about big government solutions, so I don’t think it’s going to be much of a difference.
CS: One more question about Democrats — not to dwell on the topic — but how’s your relationship with Mark Udall? Whatever happens, he’ll be the senior senator.
JN: I’ve enjoyed a good working relationship with Sen. Udall. When I was lieutenant governor, we worked on aerospace issues and I have found him to be responsive and pleasant to work with. I look forward to working with him in the U.S. Senate.
CS: This is something we’ve asked everyone, including Andrew when he was here back in February. Each incoming senator — are you aware of the mentor program?
JN: I’ve heard a bit about it.
CS: Each incoming senator gets to pick one senator from each party, and they kind of serve as a guide and a mentor, learning the arcane ropes of the body. Michael Bennet picked (New York Democrat) Chuck Schumer and (Arizona Republican) John McCain and tells a lot of stories on the campaign trail about how that’s affected him. Apparently his kids have fallen in love with John McCain and can’t stand it when they’re arguing on television. If the Senate had the same composition as it does today, which two would you pick?
JN: Well, on the Republican side, I’d pick Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. She has an incredible depth of understanding of the importance of the energy issues, which are of paramount importance to Colorado as well. She’s the ranking member on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, so I think she would be a fabulous mentor. She’s been, I think, a terrific spokesperson for her state, so I would choose her.
On the Democrat side, let me think. (Long pause.) Let me think about it, let me think about it.
CS: — Just curious if there’s Democrats that you admire in the Senate —
JN: Lieberman would be an Independent, that wouldn’t count. But he’s done some —
CS: He caucuses with the Democrats, so he counts.
JN: I very much appreciate his advocacy around the Israel question and he’s done some great work around mental health issues. So I believe that I’d choose him, if you’ll let me do that.
CS: Have you traveled much outside of the country, outside of the United States?
JN: Yes, yes.
CS: Where have you been?
JN: I’ve been to Israel. Canada, to the oil sands and visited Ottawa. Mexico — I was on a Council State Government trip to Mexico, and learned a little bit about the immigration issue there. El Salvador — was part of a presidential delegation that witnessed the swearing-in of the new El Salvadoran president a while back. Been to Brazil, Europe.
CS: Do you think that’s an important — not a requirement, but that it helps round a person out in terms of their ability to govern the United States, having visited other countries?
JN: Sure, sure I do. And on the American ACYPL — American Council of Young Political Leaders — I went to China. And was also privileged to go to Indonesia and study their systems of government.
CS: So everywhere but Australia.
JN: I haven’t been to Australia. I would love to go to Australia.
CS: Can we clear up something that pops up? It’s not a huge controversy, but the whole thing about the best man in Bill Ritter’s wedding. What’s your take on that and why has that come up in your campaign?
JN: Well, Ken from time to time likes to accuse me of being an insider, when he has been a government attorney for 18 years, had a stint with the IRS, was in the Clinton Administration, and his wife was eight years the vice chairman of the (Colorado Republican) Party here in the state. So he likes to say that I’m an insider, and so if it’s fair to say if it’s guilt by association because I supported John McCain, then is it fair to say that he asked Bill Ritter to be his best man?
CS: Is there something wrong with having friends in the opposite party? Why is that even —
JN: No, but the assertion is that I’m some insider. But I mean your best man is a pretty close friend of yours, and if it’s guilt by association, I think it’s fair game.
CS: Right. But he wasn’t the governor at the time, Bill Ritter. It’s not to say you shouldn’t associate with people in the opposite party?
JN: No, no. The point was, because I supported John McCain, do I believe in all of his policies? Well, no, I don’t. I disagree with McCain on McCain-Feingold, on his stand on immigration, on Cap and Trade. I thought he would keep us safe, so I thought it was fair.
CS: But did not your conversation with (McCain) prompt you to get into the race? It was a factor, was it not?
JN: I had decided to run prior to that. Mike (her husband, Mike Norton) and I had decided that and it is true we had many people call and encourage. And there was a senator who got me involved in this race, and his name was Barack Obama.
CS: What has been the role of Charlie Black in your campaign?
JN: He’s been my brother-in-law (laughs).
CS: Right, and in terms of the campaign, what is his involvement?
JN: Oh, I called him from time to time and asked for advice.
CS: Does he still provide ongoing advice to you?
CS: Running for the Senate, or even contemplating serving, on the campaign trail, it’s got a scope beyond probably anything you dealt with in the statehouse or in the governor’s Cabinet beforehand — foreign policy, national economics, things like that. Who do you turn to for advice on some of those topics that you haven’t spent years and years working with? Do you have some sort of brain trust on different topics?
JN: Well, I have had the privilege of bringing together a variety of different experts from my time when I was lieutenant governor, and certainly people that I turn to from the aerospace and the veteran’s community for help with military and veterans affairs and things like that. On the foreign policy, economic side, I really do appreciate that Heritage Foundation and some of the folks that are doing some of the good research in that regard as well.
CS: Speaking of foreign policy, what’s your take on what’s happened with General McChrystal being replaced today with General Petraeus?
JN: I thought it was a very shrewd move on the president’s part. I think it underscores that there’s been a lot of confusion, timidity in the Afghan strategy. I hope that the transition occurs quickly so that nothing is hindered in terms of our strategy to execute this war in a successful manner.
CS: Are you supportive of the president’s general strategy since it was announced?
JN: General McChrystal had asked for 40,000 troops. The president, I think, took too long to come to the conclusion and offered 30,000. I do believe that we saw the surge work in Iraq and it can work in Afghanistan. But my concern is, if we leave too quickly in Afghanistan with some kind of artificial timetable that doesn’t reflect what’s happening on the ground, I think that that would be detrimental to the stability of Afghanistan and our national security.
CS: Speaking of foreign policy and the war on terror, there was some criticism about your Web site. Did that surprise you?
JN: I have three priorities that are Colorado priorities that I talk about. I’m big on focus. And the first one is jobs and the economy. We have to create and keep jobs, the economy is the very first priority.
The second one is to stop out-of-control spending.
The third priority I have is to keep America free, safe and sovereign. And I do believe that what we’re witnessing is what some have called an America in retreat. That we have forgotten that we are prosecuting two wars on terror. And so we wanted to highlight and get some conversation going about the need to remember that we are in a war on two fronts. And we need to talk about foreign policy — what’s happening in Israel, what’s happening in Iran as they charge ahead with the nuclear capability that’s very disconcerting. So we wanted to put the ad out. We knew it would be controversial. And it did what we hoped it would. It got people talking — we’ve had 60,000 hits, I believe, on our Web site.
CS: There was a petition from some veterans asking you to remove the ad, and I think you or your spokesperson said you have no intentions of doing that.
JN: No. One of the people who endorsed me is Sandra Dahl, and she is (United Flight 93 pilot) Jason Dahl’s widow. And she previewed the ad. I wanted to make sure that it was not something that would be considered callous in any way. In endorsing me, she was thankful that we’d not forgotten. I think that was an important endorsement.
CS: Surprised, though, at the reaction?
JN: No, we knew it was going to be controversial. But you know what? I mean, I’m not going to be a politically correct senator. We’ve had enough of that.
CS: How’s the media coverage, from your perspective, been of your race?
JN: Well, I think it’ll certainly focus after July 4. There hasn’t been a lot going on right now, but I do believe as we move into the primary — You know, you’ll like some of it and you don’t like some of it, but that’s the nature of the game.
CS: Have you noticed a difference this campaign season compared to previous ones when there were two dailies (newspapers) in Denver?
JN: Oh, I think it makes a big difference not having that second daily, sure.
CS: Are you getting a lot of reporters following you?
JN: The Democrats are following me pretty closely (laughs) — the Democrat State Party.
CS: Do you recognize the faces?
JN: Oh yeah, he’s a great guy. Yeah, we got John the Democrat (laughs). He’s a nice guy.
CS: That’s kind of new, that didn’t used to happen. As much, anyway — do you remember that?
JN: No, it really kind of is a “gotcha,” you know? And the difficulty with that is you can take snippets of something without the context in that, and it really doesn’t do service to the situation or to the discussion. So hopefully people realize that there’s a perspective to the discussion that isn’t always met.
CS: But there have been some occasions where you’ve tried to keep them out of your appearances — is that correct? Or didn’t want them recording anything?
JN: Well, it’s up to the host, it’s up to the host.
CS: Not your campaign?
JN: No, if it’s my campaign event — but usually if it’s the host — and we’ve certainly had him at quite a few events.
CS: Something you said on a radio show last week, or a couple of weeks ago, on (the KHOW) Caplis and Silverman (show), you alluded to a “cloud,” an alleged cloud that Ken Buck left the U.S. attorney’s office under. Could you be a little bit more specific?
JN: It was actually a national reporter who asked me about it, that’s how I had heard about it. It was a national magazine that had asked me about it. And I don’t know any more about it, but I do believe that it’s important that Ken answers any questions about his record at the Justice Department.
CS: What is the cloud that you're referring to?
JN: It’s a personnel action that I’m not familiar with. I would just hope that he would answer the question about it.
CS: What’s the question?
JN: Well, what was the personnel problem? Was there a personnel problem when he left the U.S. attorney’s office?
CS: Personnel files usually are secret —
CS: So how is he to answer that question, do you know what I mean?
JN: Could you release your personnel records?
CS: You’re asking him to release his personnel records?
JN: I think if there is an accusation, that it would be good if he released them.
CS: But you have no specific knowledge of any cloud yourself, you were just repeating — ?
JN: This was, again, a national magazine that had asked me, and their reporting, as I understand it, was that in Ken’s first — in his run for Weld County district attorney, there was a blogger who had indicated that he had left under a cloud of suspicion. That person called on him to release his personnel records.
CS: But as far as you know yourself —
JN: I do not have personal knowledge. I just have knowledge of the fact that there was a blogger, that his — Yeah, yeah. So, to clear up any confusion —
CS: Speaking of bloggers, the campaign landscape is definitely different than when you ran last. Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerries in constant use (laughs, nods to Penry). Are you comfortable in the online environment, with social media?
JN: I’m getting more so in that regard. We are on Facebook and tweeting, and the instant pictures from the road are really fun, and people say they like to follow in that regard. I think that it is definitely an important part of a campaign strategy. My frustration — many frustrations with the 2008 presidential campaign — was that we did not reach out to young people. And I think the Obama campaign did a remarkable job of utilizing social networking capabilities to reach people where they are. And so we’re trying to replicate some of that.
CS: Do you spend much time online yourself — do you ever tweet?
JN: I do, I do. Not so much as —
CS: (Campaign tweets are) actually from you, not staff?
JN: They are — many of them are, many of them aren’t. So yeah, I do some of them on my own.
CS: Could you talk a little bit about the complaint that you know of that was filed — have you heard anything new about the (complaint filed against your) petition?
JN: There’s two complaints — there’s an FEC complaint and —
CS: — the lawsuit against (Colorado Secretary of State) Bernie Buescher that’s going to be heard Friday.
[Editor’s note: Grand Junction resident and Republican activist Tom Bjorklund sued Colorado’s secretary of state alleging Norton’s petitions didn’t meet legal requirements. The case was heard June 25 in Denver District Court but the judge hadn’t issued a ruling by press time.]
JN: Oh. I think it’s a Buck operative, I think it’s frivolous.
CS: (Directed to Penry) Did you cross paths with him back in Grand Junction?
Josh Penry (JP): Yeah. I know Tom and Shari (Bjorklund), they’ve been friends and supporters, and they’ve been opponents. They play with baseball bats and brass knuckles usually, so it’s not a surprise. But you know, that’s sort of the MO of their campaign, that’s why they rely — Ken has relied on other people to do his dirty work.
CS: Can you give us an example?
JP: A million dollars in third party advertisements, you know?
CS: Do you believe there’s a coordination between his campaign and — ?
JP: It’s remarkable to me, the question they’ve never— that (Hensel Phelps CEO) Jerry Morgensen himself has never answered a question. He’s the single largest — As I’ve said, Ken wouldn’t, this race wouldn’t be a competitive race, but $4 million from this third party group. It’s the worst kept secret in town that Jerry wrote the check. And so those are questions that should be put to them, frankly, from the perspective of the media, and those are questions that Jerry Morgensen himself should answer: Why is he putting so much money into a race?
CS: Speaking of that, there was something also brought up where you were alleging — or the campaign was alleging — that he got some Stimulus money or something to do with Hickenlooper — I couldn’t quite follow it. Do you know what I’m…?
JP: Jerry is sort of the consummate political insider, which again, is ironic for a guy — the chief backer of a so-called insurgent grassroots guy, is a guy who supports John Hickenlooper. Jerry Morgensen is —
JN: — and the DNC (Democratic National Convention, held in Denver in 2008) —
JP: He put a huge amount of money into Hickenlooper, a huge money into the DNC and got about $200 million in stimulus. That’s why we brought that issue up. Again, it’s fair game. But spare us the whole “outsider” routine when he’s the one guy that’s got $1 million in money from a secret third party organization. No one else boasts that besides him.
JN: The concern is special interests. And that’s why I was the first one in this race to sign a pledge that I would not seek or support earmarks. And when my opponent has a third of all the money that’s raised comes from one company, then people should be, perhaps, rightly concerned that that could be an issue.
CS: Which company is that?
JN: Jerry’s (Hensel Phelps) — yeah, yeah.
CS: What do you think about Washington D.C. as a city? Is it a place you look forward to spending some time in and are you comfortable with the city?
JN: No, I don’t look forward to being in Washington D.C. But that’s where the job is, and I look forward to being part of a class of people who are elected in 2010, if I have that privilege, to really change the debate and change the direction of our country. We are overspending, there’s job stifling going on left and right, with policies. We have a president who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. And if that’s where the job is, that’s where you have to do it.
But I’m from Colorado, I’ll be from Colorado, regardless of how this race turns out. Colorado is my home and I think that people are rightly concerned about, “Do we send somebody back who’s going to drink the water, get Potomac Fever and forget the people who elected them to do a job?” And I can tell you that Colorado is where my roots are.
CS: Have you thought about what committees you would like to serve on?
JN: I have, I have. I believe Energy and Natural Resources would be a huge committee for Colorado, one that we need extensive work in to help rebuild our coal, our oil, our gas industry, to help with wind, solar and an all-of-the-above approach, including nuclear and other renewables. I’ve also thought about the Select Intelligence Committee because it’s important to our aerospace companies.
CS: Are there any things out on the campaign trail that you changed your mind on or learned from the voters that have broadened your perspective on things? You’ve been out campaigning now for what, close to nine months?
JN: Yeah, yeah. Term limits is something that — not that I’ve changed on this campaign but probably over the last year, what I’ve watched this president do. And I do believe that the time has come because of the power of the incumbency, as I’ve watched what’s happened — the Kennedy dynasties and people staying longer than they’re effective — I do believe — Let me back up. I would support a term limits amendment, if it was for the entire United States.
CS: On the federal level?
JN: On the federal offices, yeah.
CS: It’s been a long time since Colorado’s had senators serve more than two terms — that’s a reason people say Colorado doesn’t have much power in the Senate, because they don’t accumulate the seniority there. Would you plan to serve as many terms as you could or — ?
JN: Washington is broken right now. We have to balance the budget. We have to do away with the earmarks process, because I think that seniority and all really feeds into that process. I would not ever limit myself because it would limit Colorado if I said, “I’m here to tell you that I’m going to serve one term, and that’s it.” So I’m not prepared to do that because that would hurt Colorado.
CS: Are you still having fun?
JN: You know, I am. People are so engaged and if you listen to them, there are solutions out there, and they’re private-sector solutions, they’re not government solutions. But no, it’s a pleasure to travel around Colorado.
CS: How’s this young man doing (points to Penry)?
JN: Fabulous. He’s been a great addition and a huge blessing to have on board.
CS: (Directed to Penry) What are you going to do, come January? Will you be with Governor McInnis?
JP: I’m undecided. Hopefully there’s a Governor McInnis and a Senator Norton.
CS: And one assumes that you’re going to be the chief of staff?
JP: No, no, I haven’t made a decision.
CS: You haven’t discussed that, though?
JP: I haven’t. I talk to Scott about the campaign quite a bit but I don’t — we haven’t talked about —
CS: Something you’d like to do?
JP: Maybe, maybe not. Honestly, when I get out of the Legislature, I was going to exhale and decompress and think about the future. But there’s been no exhale and no decompressions, but we’ll think about it, I have plenty of options.
JN: I needed him too badly (laughs).