Buck leads in money, endorsements and name identification

Weld County DA poised to win in CD 4
The Colorado Statesman

The four Republicans running in the primary for the open 4th Congressional District seat are barreling toward the finish line in a race that only began this spring, when U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner jumped from his reelection bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck — who had been in the Senate race until Gardner trained his sights on Udall and then endorsed Buck — is in the running with term-limited state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Larimer County cattle rancher Steve Laffey, who was once the mayor of a Rhode Island town.

The winner of the June 24 primary will face Democrat Vic Meyers, a Trinidad rancher, and Libertarian nominee Jess Loban. (Dan Chapin is an official write-in candidate in the Democratic primary.)

But it’s likely that whoever wins the GOP primary can count on a win in November, as Republicans dominate the sprawling district, which covers eastern Colorado. According to the most recent state totals, Republicans account for 42.6 percent of active registered voters, followed by 33 percent who are unaffiliated and just 23.2 percent Democrats.

The district is anchored by conservative Weld and Douglas counties and also includes the counties of Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Elbert, Kit Carson, Kiowa, Las Animas, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Otero, Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma and rural parts of Arapahoe County.

“I believe our government is inefficient, unjust and often immoral,” says Buck, who narrowly lost against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010 and was considered the leading candidate to take on Udall before Gardner got in the race. He vows to “focus on helping the vulnerable among us by limiting government and growing our economy.”

Renfroe, who surprised Buck by narrowly besting him at the district nominating assembly in April, sounds similarly conservative notes, pledging to “fight for lower taxes, less government, your Second Amendment rights and protecting the unborn.”

Kirkmeyer touts her background as a dairy farmer — she’s the only one in the race — and experience in local government, brandishing the endorsements of numerous fellow county commissioners.

“In Weld County, we walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk,” she says. “We balance the budget. We have no debt. We take our responsibilities to the taxpayers very seriously.” She says she plans to “take the Weld County model to Washington.”

Laffey, an author and filmmaker — his 2012 documentary “Fixing America” asks regular folks about the country’s fiscal condition and whether they feel disconnected from the “political elite” — boasts the endorsement of former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who joined the candidate in a telephone town hall that reached thousands of telephones in the district earlier this month.

“I’m supporting Steve because he’s a person of character,” said Cain, the one-time pizza executive who was briefly the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in the last election. Cain said not to worry about Laffey turning into a career politician. “He wants to be a problem solver when he gets there, and the reason that he wants to be a problem solver when he gets there is because that’s what he’s done all his life,” Cain said on the call.

Like the other candidates, Renfroe vows that he’s committed to fighting Obamacare and, like Kirkmeyer, he backs the proposed state “personhood” amendment, which designates that life begins at conception.

Renfroe has taken some swings at Buck in a TV ad that blasts his rival for pulling his support for personhood and for joining Udall and Bennet backing what the Renfroe ad calls “so-called” immigration reform. For his part, Buck isn’t on the attack and is stressing his trustworthiness and experience as a prosecutor. People “love Ken Buck. They trust him,” says Betty Grauberger, a senior activist, in a television ad talking to the camera about her experience working with Buck to combat fraud against seniors.

Buck posted the strongest fundraising numbers through the pre-primary reporting period that ended on June 4, raising $740,296 this cycle, including roughly $154,000 he raised for the Senate race. He had $144,031 on hand at the end of the period. Renfroe reported raising $67,337 but loaned himself $270,000, leaving $33,008 on hand. Laffey raised $106,465 and had $80,925 on hand after loaning himself $350,000. Kirkmeyer brought in $89,460 and had $26,932 in the bank.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com