DENVER– U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck rallied thousands of Tea Party grassroots conservatives at the Denver capitol today, coming at the height of a long roster of speakers and receiving a warm reception from the crowd. Picking up on the patriot theme and no doubt delighting members of the crowd dressed in 18th-century patriot and minutemen outfits, Buck likened conservative activists and candidates this year to Paul Revere, the colonial figure who signaled the arrival of the British and the start of the Revolutionary War.
“Folks we are here today to say the federal government is coming and we are not going to stand for it. We are not going to stand for the tax increases. We are not going to stand for the regulation. And we are certainly not going to stand for a foreign policy where we bow before any country.”
In conversation with the Colorado Independent after the speech, Buck drew sharp contrasts between himself and his GOP Senate primary campaign opponent Jane Norton, underlining the fact without saying it, that Norton chose not to attend the huge rally– more evidence, in effect, that her well-publicized efforts to woo the Tea Party and grassroots crowd were perhaps less than genuine.
“Speaking here today,” he said, “means connecting to a lot of important [grassroots] people who are going to put up yard signs and vote and talk to their neighbors. I think that this is the grassroots way to build a campaign… I am being accepted by the Tea Party,” he said. “I am who I am. We are doing very well and it is not because I am trying to identify with different groups. I am running as Ken Buck.”
A member of the crowd asked Buck directly about Norton. She had been the frontrunner for months and had lots of money. Could Buck really win the nomination?
Buck tallied up the grassroots losses Norton had racked up in the last month. “She hasn’t won the caucus. She jumped the [state GOP convention] assembly because she can’t win that. She won’t win the primary. And I will win the general election,” he said.
Although Buck has struggled with fundraising to this point, his numbers jumped this quarter after months spent stumping and the lift provided by key conservative endorsements. Months ago, he scored the backing of national grassroots conservative blog RedState and a strong endorsement from RedState founder Eric Erickson. This week Buck was endorsed by national “new Republican” Senator Jim DeMint, a favorite among Tea Partiers and the co-founder with Erickson of the Senate Conservative Fund, which will begin to funnel cash to the Buck campaign.
Buck Thursday announced he netted $219,000 in campaign donations and that he has some $416,000 cash on hand. Norton reported $643,000 cash on hand at the end of the first quarter.
The Tea Party tax day rally at the capitol began at roughly 9 a.m. and continued into the afternoon. It looked much the same as lat year’s rally but there was a shift in the messaging. Last year seemed to be directed mostly against the new president, a raw reaction to his election and his emergency recession Detroit automaker bailout and stimulus programs.
Thursday, although there was plenty of anti-Obama rhentoric and signage, there was also more general anti-Washington and anti-Republican Party rhetoric.
“This isn’t about partisanship. This is about liberty,” said Broomfield state Republican Senator Shawn Mitchell. “I don’t want my liberties infringed by Democrats and I don’t want them infringed by Republicans either.”
Throughout the event , the crowd chanted slogans against government intrusions. “Socialism is slavery” said one sign. “I should be at work so the government can redistribute my wealth” said another.
Mac Stringer, libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, told the crowd what many of them had come to hear.
“The Republicans and Democrats have become one party, the Republidems…” Voting for an independent candidate such as himself, he said, was the only way to “save this country from going to a socialist state.”
The Colorado Policy Institute also attended the rally and made the case to those who would listen that most of the tea partiers in attendance had benefited from tax policy under Obama. A spokesperson explained that Coloradand paid some of the lowest taxes in the nation and that more than 98 percent of Americans benefited from the federal stimulus act. Coloradans each received the equivalent of $1,096 to keep the economy moving in the face of job loss and low sales taxes.
In March conservative Forbes columnist Bruce Bartlett, who helped formulate tax and economic policy under Republican administrations for years wrote that federal taxes are “very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president…. and last year’s stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year.”
No one was interested really in hearing what Policy Institute people were saying, though.
Colorado University Regent and Congressional candidate for the Fourth District Tom Lucero, who owns pizza restaurants, said it was time to end the governmental reign of lawyers and career politicians.
“I am not a career politician. I am not a lawyer. I have actually created jobs… We need small business owners who understand the unintended consequences of legislation. We need someone who has willingness to stand up to congress and his own party. We don’t have that,” he said.
“As a small business owner I have created 15 jobs, which is more than Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have done while spending billions.”