In recent history, serving as Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party has come with a heaping helping of downside and just a smidge of upside. The current State GOP Chair, who also moonlights as Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), has largely managed to stub his toe on every available rock in a little more than a year on the job.
Once upon a time, the GOP Chairman was considered a prestigious position among Colorado Republicans that could be used as a springboard for higher office; in the early ‘oughts, Bob Beauprez transitioned from Party Chair to Congress in CO-7, then became the GOP nominee for governor in 2006 (and 2014). But after Initiative 27 passed in 2002, the power of being party chairperson for any political party diminished significantly.
After an historic drubbing at the polls in 2018, Colorado Republicans were looking for a new leader to point the way out of their electoral abyss in 2020. Instead, they got Buck.
We wrote at the time that picking a chairman like Ken Buck, who openly ran without offering a forward vision of the party, and pledging to be a figurehead while working two jobs, would probably cause more problems than it solved:
This is really the Colorado Republican Party in a nutshell: One of the top contenders to be the next GOP Party Chair is proposing a return to an era in which the Colorado Republican Party was objectively not very successful, and then lashing out at anyone who questions his ideas.
Today, with Buck facing two separate allegations of tampering in a local caucus process, we thought we’d take a look back at Buck’s year of double-duty.
The GOP is Dead; Put Me in Charge of the GOP
Word leaks that Buck will seek the position of State Republican Party Chairman in the March GOP elections. This is a good time to point back to an Op-Ed that Buck wrote for The Denver Post on July 31, 2017, in which he unequivocally declared, “The Republican Party is dead.”
Among those who have also expressed interest in taking the reins of the State GOP are former Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Don Ytterberg; former State Senator Tom Wiens; current Republican Party Vice-Chairman Sherrie Gibson; El Paso County Republican Chair Joshua Hosler; and State Rep. Susan Beckman of Littleton. Beckman promises to resign from the state legislature if elected GOP Chair, but Buck insists that he has no intention of giving up his seat in Congress.
EARLY MARCH 2019
I Can Do Two Jobs As Bad As I Can Do One Job
There is much consternation among Colorado Republicans after Buck confirms rumors that — if elected — he would install former GOP Party Chair Steve House as “CEO” so that he could focus on his job in Congress. This is weird for a number of reasons. House was a hot mess from day one when he became GOP Chair in early 2015; his tenure as head of the Colorado GOP began with an “are you seeing this shit?” kind of scandal and ended with persistent questions about whether House actually oversaw a #NeverTrump operation at the state party.
By now, the race for Chair is essentially between Buck and Beckman, the latter of whom is not amused by Buck’s proposal. “This is not a part-time job, this is not the time for an absentee chair, this is a leadership position, for an organization that has been failing,” says Beckman in an interview with Ernest Luning.
Former State Party Chair Dick Wadhams is equally perplexed. As Luning reports:
Veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, who served two terms as state chairman last decade, said he was stunned after reviewing Buck’s proposal, calling it “unworkable” and “absolutely nonsensical.”
“If Steve House wants to be state chairman, he ought to run for it, and if Ken Buck doesn’t want to be state chairman, he ought to get out of the race,” Wadhams said… [Pols emphasis]
…He also slammed Buck’s plans to run the party from Washington, D.C., saying he was “baffled” by the proposition.
Buck fired back at his critics, naturally:
“When you get your butts kicked in every corner of the state, people should shut their mouths and come together and do their very best to help the party and make sure we do our best to get Cory Gardner and Donald Trump elected,” Buck said.
“It’s a little surprising people feel emboldened to be so critical in the open when we have not been very successful.”
To recap…in order to prevent the Republican Party from getting pummeled like it was in 2018, Buck is proposing returning to a leadership structure from 2016 (which also did not end well for Colorado Republicans).
MARCH 30, 2019
Buck Spells “R-E-C-A-L-L”
Flanked by an applauding Sen. Cory Gardner, CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Buck tells the gathered Republican masses that he will teach the Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.”
At the time, right-wing activists are pushing the idea that they could regain some political power in Colorado through recall elections — targeting Democrats from the governor’s office to the state legislature. One of the efforts targeting Gov. Jared Polis is literally being organized by a white supremacist group.
Buck defeats Beckman by less than 10 votes in a controversial election that Beckman would later challenge as a “flagrant abuse” of State Party rules (Beckman’s promise to “shine a light on the backpack [Republican] consultants” who she believed were “getting millions and millions of dollars on the backs of Republican losses” probably didn’t help her cause). Beckman’s detailed allegations of fraud are laid out over the next couple of weeks; they are largely ignored.
So it is that Republicans march forth with a leader who is only halfway paying attention to the job. As we wrote at the time:
This is the point where we would normally say, “You can’t make this stuff up,” but we don’t want to infringe on what may be the official slogan of the 2020 Republican Party.
APRIL 2, 2019
The Newly-Minted GOP Chair Returns to Congress for Major Gaffe
Just days after winning the election for State Republican Party Chair, Rep. Buck questions a witness during a Congressional hearing on the Equality Act and compares the LGBTQ community to Nazis. Days later, Buck tries (and fails) to explain why he made this offensive comparison.
That same week, Sen. Gardner says this of supporting Buck for State GOP Chair: “We need him. I need him. This country needs him.”
Buck Starts Dodging Recall Questions
Multiple Republican-aligned groups are now “fundraising” for various vague recall campaigns. Buck is asked in a television interview about the ethics of House Minority Leader Patrick Neville benefiting financially from recall attempts: “I think that is something that Patrick and the elected Republicans in the state House will have to decide. It’s not something the state party will intervene in in any way.”
MAY 8, 2019
Is Buck In or Out in 2020?
Buck’s office refutes reports that he is considering not running for re-election in 2020.
MAY 9, 2019
Steve House Says GOP Supports Recalls for List Building
Colorado Republican Party “CEO” Steve House says the quiet part out loud in response to a question about Republican Party support for recalls:
“We are going to support the recalls. We have to support the recalls, because, people…people are justifiably angry about what’s going on. And we need to, first of all, give a voice to that anger. And secondly, the process of identifying more voters for Trump, and for Cory Gardner, and for getting the State Senate back, starts as well with those recalls.”
Republican Recall Grumbling Grows
A growing number of Republicans — including former State GOP Chair Ryan Call — begin voicing their opposition to recall attempts.
JUNE 11, 2019
Tom Sullivan Recall Implodes Spectacularly
Attempts to recall Democratic State Rep. Tom Sullivan are abandoned. As Colorado Public Radio reports:
One GOP operative called the decision to pull the plug a devastating blow to Republicans that could hurt efforts to get money behind other potential recall efforts. He said there were internal disagreements on messaging and strategy.
Buck, meanwhile, ducks responsibility for the Sullivan recall despite the fact that Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown is the person who launched the effort.
JUNE 25, 2019
Buck Again Gets Dodgy on Recall Support
Shane Donnelly, one of the leaders of an effort to recall Gov. Polis, says that Buck told him privately that the State Republican Party does not support the Polis recall. Buck does not confirm or deny this claim.
Buck Makes National Headlines for Own Goal
In a botched attempt to defend President Trump against allegations related to the Mueller Report, Buck inexplicably forces special prosecutor Robert Mueller to explain that Trump can be criminally charged after leaving the White House. Buck later tries to defend his error by claiming that Mueller “misunderstood my question.”
As Rolling Stone summarizes in a headline: “Republican Ken Buck scores massive own goal in Mueller questioning.”
The Recall Grift Plows Ahead
Recall campaigns in Colorado are proving to be little more than grifting opportunities for unscrupulous Republican advisers. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville publicly joins the fundraising chorus for the no-hope effort to recall Gov. Polis after saying that “establishment Republicans” oppose the recalls because they aren’t profiting from them.
LATE AUGUST, 2019
Steve House Bails Out
State Party “CEO” Steve House abandons the State Party ship in order to focus on his campaign for Congress in CO-6. Former Jefferson County GOP Chair and CO-7 candidate Don Ytterberg replaces House.
Three Up, Three Down
Three more high-profile recall attempts, including a challenge of Gov. Jared Polis, are officially deemed failures.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2019
“R-E-C-A-L-L” Becomes Buck’s “Dean Scream”
Buck’s March 30 speech to Republicans has not aged well. From The Denver Post:
“I think the recall process has done what it was supposed to do,” said former GOP chair Dick Wadhams.
“It provided an outlet for Republicans. … Were they politically smart? I think it’s a resounding no.”
As Republican columnist Mario Nicolais writes for The Colorado Sun:
Heading into a critical 2020 election year, the Colorado Republicans spent the past six months demonstrating an ineffectual ground game and undermining their own credibility.
That doesn’t bode well for President Trump’s reelection efforts or Sen. Cory Gardner’s slim hope of hanging onto the seat he narrowly won in 2014.
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019
A Tale of Two Bucks
Buck makes a feeble attempt at criticizing impending impeachment proceedings against President Trump as an attempt to overturn the election right as he is taking blame for stoking recalls back home. Buck’s attempt at ignoring his own rhetoric gets him roundly smacked by Colorado journalists.
Life comes at you fast, @RepKenBuck 2019 edition
March: “We need to teach (Democrats) how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Sept: “Democrats spent 3 years trying to overturn an election that didn’t go their way…. It’s time to move on.” https://t.co/ZJfVF1MhLw — Ernest Lee Luning (@eluning) September 25, 2019
SEPTEMBER 27, 2019
The GOP Natives Grow Restless
Rumors begin swirling that unhappy Republicans are looking to get rid of Buck as GOP Chairman after less than 6 months on the job. Peg Cage, the immediate past chairwoman of the Boulder County Republican Party, tells The Colorado Sun that the State Party needs new leadership because Buck is too preoccupied with his job in Congress.
At about this same time, Buck argues during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that the real purpose of owning an AR-15 assault rifle is to shoot raccoons.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2019
Ken Buck’s Crystal Ball Clouds Up
“Vice President Biden is not going to be the Democratic nominee [for President].”
OCTOBER 8, 2019
Palace Intrigue Involving Sen. Cory Gardner
Saying, “Cory Gardner played Ken Buck,” a prominent Republican in Adams County claims that Sen. Cory Gardner convinced Buck to run for State Party Chair because Gardner was worried that Buck would try to run against him in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.
OCTOBER 18, 2019
The Recall Disaster Comes to an End
The “Summer of Recalls” ends with barely a whimper after a couple of Republican enthusiasts deliver all of FOUR petition signatures in an effort to oust Senate President Leroy Garcia. Even the reliably-right wing newspaper The Colorado Springs Gazette can’t help but label the failed recall efforts “embarrassing” for Colorado Republicans. Republican activists attempted a half-dozen official recall efforts but had threatened several more.
OCTOBER 27, 2019
Buck Absolves Himself of Blame Over Failed Recalls
On March 30, Buck promised Republicans that he would teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Today, Buck is downright Trumpian in an interview with The Denver Post:
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the Colorado GOP chair, told The Denver Post on Friday that the recall failures don’t fall on him in any way. [Pols emphasis]
“I didn’t cast any net,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the grassroots … who went after legislators. I didn’t direct any recall effort.”
When he was elected to lead the state party on the fourth ballot in March, Buck promised to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Now, though, he claims he did not endorse the concept of mass recalls in Colorado.
You must be mistaken; I didn’t do that thing that you all watched me do!
Ken Buck, Cartoon Lawyer
Buck endorses the “Sideshow Bob Defense” of President Trump, which essentially holds that Trump shouldn’t be impeached because his extortion efforts ended up failing anyway. Buck had previously opined that there could be no “quid pro quo” in Trump’s dealings with Ukraine because the Ukrainian President didn’t know he was being extorted.
Buck Stops Showing Up for Work
For reasons that he never really bothers to explain, Buck is largely absent for impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member. When he does manage to show up, Buck tries arguing that everybody does impeachable things.
DECEMBER 19, 2020
Obligatory “Deep State” Reference
Buck tells a Greeley radio station that impeachment efforts against President Trump are proof of the existence of a “deep state” in the United States.
JANUARY 17, 2020
The Road Not Taken Works Out for Beckman
Susan Beckman resigns from the legislature in order to take a job…in the Trump administration.
FEBRUARY 4, 2020
Do You Hear the Words Coming Out of Your Mouth?
On the eve of a Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, Buck announces (for no apparent reason) that former Vice President Joe Biden “could be impeached now.”
FEBRUARY 10, 2020
A Champion…for Democrats
A Republican vacancy committee selects Richard Champion to succeed Beckman in HD-38. Beckman was re-elected in 2018 by about 400 votes, but she would have been a much tougher incumbent opponent for Democrats than a guy who is basically the “mayor” of a country club.
FEBRUARY 26, 2020
Buck Actively Works AGAINST Colorado Interests
Buck makes headlines for sponsoring a bill in Congress that would have the effect of cutting federal funding for Colorado.
MARCH 5, 2020
Chairman Buck Heads Up the COV-Idiot Caucus in Congress
Buck is one of only two Members of Congress to vote against the first COVID-19 relief bill, which passed by a vote of 415-2.
MARCH 6, 2020
Ready, Aim, Fire!
Holding a red, white, and blue AR-15 rifle, Buck threatens Democrats Joe Biden and Beto O-Rourke to come to his office and try to take his (inoperable) gun.
MARCH 27, 2020
A Very Strange Hill to Die Upon
Buck completes a legislative trifecta, becoming one of the only Members of Congress to vote “NO” on all three coronavirus relief packages.
APRIL 9, 2020
I Mean, Um, Yay Trump!
Just weeks after declaring that “we have no leader” in the fight against COVID-19, Buck heaps praise upon the Trump administration for its handling of the pandemic.
APRIL 13, 2020
Weld County is Number One!
Buck’s home county of Weld is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado.
APRIL 24, 2020
Ken Buck, Coronavirus Role Model
Buck announces that he will defy Colorado’s stay-at-home orders and attend religious services at his church on May 3.
MAY 7, 2020
I May Have Committed Some Light Perjury
The Denver Post reports that Buck instructed a Republican volunteer in Colorado Springs to submit a false claim to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office regarding the outcome of a caucus/assembly election for candidates seeking office in SD-10.
MAY 8, 2020
A Little Light Perjury for Everyone!
The Denver Post reports on a second accusation that Buck attempted to manipulate election results in a Republican Primary, this time in Weld County (in which Buck’s ex-wife, Perry Buck, is a candidate). As The Post reports:
Kris Cook, chair of the Denver Republican Party, found out about it Wednesday only to hear hours later that Buck canceled a committee meeting that had been scheduled for Friday.
“We’re touching on something here that’s not quite clean, and it’s not quite the image I have of what the party ought to be,” Cook said, later adding: “I think it’s worth questioning whether him in that role is going to have a negative effect on the rest of this cycle.”
Well, there you have it. Consider yourself caught up.
Or in a single word:
I hate to burst your anti-Colorado Politics bubble, but Colorado Politics reported the Buck allegations regarding El Paso County on April 18.
"I Can Do Two Jobs As Bad As I Can Do One Job"
Badly. Adverb modifying the verb 'can'.
I can remember when the Colorado Republican Party actually had competent leadership, like Dick Wadhams and Ryan Call.
That past is always greener graded on the curve.
Sure, it sounds kinda bad when you say it like that.
Good news … Buck DID help Democrats to learn to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.
Had to spell it several times in order to describe the inept efforts of the various committees attempting to develop recall petitions, get them approved, get them into the public for signatures, and fail with EVERY single one.
I wonder if the University of Wyoming Law School is calling and wants to R-E-C-A-L-L the J.D they awarded Buck. Seems like he has always had a complicated career…
Dick Cheney taught Buck everything he knows about ethics, while Buck was his assistant counsel in covering up Iran-Contra scandal.
Motto: “If you bury the truth deep enough, you can make all the corruption disappear”.
Yes, the U of Wyoming connection explains how a diffident Princeton grad wound up in Cheney's orbit.
Really nice job pulling together a tour of Buck’s Hall of Shame.
His political career will end with the disgrace of having more people per capita die in his congressional district than in any other in Colorado. Weld County, 40 deaths per 100K people. Morgan County, 78/100k . Morgan and Weld are two of the 18 eastern plains counties within Buck’s CD4 district. Together, their CV deaths add to 118 per 100,000 population, higher than any other congressional district in Colorado. Four other counties are partly within CD4.
It’s the meat packing plants, mostly, and prisons and nursing home outbreaks (Like Eben-Ezer in Brush, where we cleaned up the grounds every Spring, the residents threw a party for us, many of my students worked their first jobs), contributing to the high per-capita Coronavirus death rate. But Buck demonstrably does not care about meat workers, nursing home residents, or prison inmates.
For comparison, Denver County rate is 31/100k. Colorado as a whole is 18/100k.
The United States per capita Coronavirus deaths are 24.66 /100,000 people.