Mesa County goes back to its ruby-red roots

While most of the rest of Colorado was riding a blue wave of Democratic dominance Tuesday, Mesa County returned to its ruby-red roots, backing a 100 percent GOP slate of candidates in a Western Slope conservative stronghold where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1.

Outgoing Democratic state Rep. Bernie Buescher, who represents District 55, sounded a philosophical note Tuesday, telling the Grand Junction Free Press that given those political leanings, he was just glad to have served two terms in the state House.

The powerful Dem known for reaching across the aisle and getting things done was ousted by Republican Laura Bradford by a scant 583-vote margin (17,632 to 17,049), throwing a wrench in the state Democratic Party plan to elevate the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to speaker of the House.

Buescher told The Colorado Independent in July that he was even being recruited by Republican House members for that position, largely because of his bipartisan style of leadership.

“I’m honored that folks are talking to me about being speaker, and a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle have said they would like for me to do that. My Republican friends are really saying, ‘You’ve just got to be speaker,’ and that’s because I think they know they can work with me,” Buescher said at the time. “They know I don’t come at issues from a doctrinaire, party-line perspective. I’m a little older than most of the legislators, so that’s perhaps a little more experience.”

Buescher’s opponent, according to some analysts, successfully linked him to Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and his failed attempt to freeze the state mill levy and increase education funding. Bradford told the Free Press she won on the tax issue, but Ritter, in a press conference Tuesday, reportedly denied that was the case and said Buescher was swept aside by an inexplicable red wave in Mesa County.

Mesa County voters also backed the unsuccessful campaigns of Sen. John McCain for president, Bob Schaffer for U.S. Senate and Wayne Wolf for the House of Representatives.

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