While Norton Smears Buck, We Call Him a Hero

The following article originally was published July 9 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

While Norton smears Buck, we call him a hero*

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

You expected a boring primary season? We did, but then several candidates surprised us, and issues such as gun rights unexpectedly entered the debate.

Earlier we figured Jane Norton would skate through the primaries [as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate]. We thought other challengers would drown out Ken Buck, but those others left the field and Buck overtook Norton in most primary polls.

Why did Buck advance? He comes across as thoughtful, down to earth, and experienced, while Jane Norton often comes across as a lightweight managed by her advisors. Buck also took full advantage of Norton’s endorsement of the Referendum C tax hike when she served under former Governor Bill Owens. Buck built a reputation as a man of the people and the Tea Parties, while many saw Norton as a McCain Establishment Republican.

Norton responded to Buck’s success by smearing him in a nasty, below-the-belt attack ad. Buck’s “crime” while working at the U.S. Attorney’s office was standing up for the little guy and bucking prosecutorial abuse in a politically-motivated gun case. In our book, that makes Buck a hero, not a villain, and we are profoundly disappointed with Norton’s malicious tactics.

To be sure, Buck made a minor technical error by discussing a case with a defense attorney, and he was reprimanded. However, the context of that case matters profoundly.

In a June 25 appearance on Colorado Public Television, Dave Kopel addressed the issue — see http://tinyurl.com/kopel625 [or the transcript]. Kopel, among the most intelligent and respected intellectuals in Colorado, serves as lead researcher at the Independence Institute. He has earned a world-wide reputation as a top Second Amendment scholar noted for his work on the recent Supreme Court cases decided in favor of gun rights. He also knows a defendant in the case in question (as does your younger author), so he knows the case intimately.

Kopel suggests that Democrat Tom Strickland, in between his two failed runs for U.S. Senate, came into the U.S. Attorney’s office looking to turn gun cases into political clout.

The problem, Kopel notes, is that he took “a case that not one single career attorney in the United States Attorney’s office in Colorado was willing to prosecute.” Strickland’s prosecution of the case represented “an outrageous abuse of power,” Kopel said.

Kopel said that “for somebody who cares about Second Amendment issues, you’ve got on one hand, a guy [Buck] who said something out of the office he shouldn’t have, in defense of a gun dealer who was being inappropriately prosecuted, and on the other side, you’ve got somebody [Norton] who’s basically saying how swell the prosecution was, and criticizing the guy who properly stood up for the innocent victim of persecution.”

To Ken Buck, we say: Thank you for taking a righteous and courageous stand, and we realize you’ve learned from the mistake you made at the time. To Jane Norton, we say simply: Shame on you.

It remains an open question whether Norton’s vicious attack will hurt Buck or backfire. Republican primary voters who research the issues and care about gun rights will flock to Buck. Those swayed only by deceptive radio attack ads may lean away from Buck.

Another big issue in that race is foreign policy. Norton came out with a hard-hitting video in which she closes, “Let’s win the war on terror.” In a related policy paper, Norton argues America should “finish the job in Iraq,” give the Taliban no “place to hide” in Afghanistan, and “prevent a nuclear Iran.” Buck has echoed similar themes, and we’re glad to see the candidates’ tougher-on-terror approach.

On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton entered the picture by endorsing Democratic Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff. Hillary Clinton, of course, works for President Obama, who endorsed incumbent Senator Michael Bennet. As the Denver Post noted, in 2008 Romanoff endorsed Hillary for president, while Bennet endorsed Obama.

However, it looks like Romanoff is sunk, ironically in part because the Obama administration tried to help Bennet by offering to buy off Romanoff with a job. We’ll see if the Clinton endorsement can help turn the tide.

In the governor’s race, Republican Dan Maes has fought a much stronger and more effective campaign than we anticipated. Rasmussen polling even welcomed him to the race with a June 15 release showing Maes tied with Democrat John Hickenlooper, 41-41 percent. But Scott McInnis performed better against Hick with 46 percent, and McInnis has dominated Maes in the primary polls.

Even though Maes has worked hard and turned heads, the fact remains that he has zero political experience. Despite what voters might say, experience matters to most voters, who figure that at least somebody who has served in lower office has survived major scandals. Moreover, Maes seemed to flip-flop on immigration and the misguided “personhood” measure, and he could never match McInnis in fundraising.

If you’ve enjoyed the primary, we expect the general election will get even more interesting.

* In his July 4 column, Vincent Carroll argues that Strickland decided “to make his mark with a high-profile firearms prosecution — and never mind if the evidence was second- rate and that career prosecutors had already declined to proceed with the case.” Buck’s behavior, grants Carroll, was unintentional, and it did not sabotage the case. However, Carroll, argues, “Buck is no hero, either.” On that point, we disagree. While he was wrong to break the rules, he did act heroically in challenging the politicized and unwarranted prosecution.