Buck, Norton shrug off extremist labels at Estes Park tea-party event

ESTES PARK – During a tea party rally held here Tuesday, candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate – Ken Buck and Jane Norton – used their podium time to deflect extremism labels, with Buck arguing it’s D.C. insiders who are the real extremists.

Ken Buck at Estes Park tea party event Tuesday. Photo by Joseph Boven/Colorado Independent
While both candidates offered some small hint of differentiation, the call for limited government, stronger borders and repeal of health-care legislation was served up again as the main dish for the close to 200 tea partiers gathered at the event.

“Today [Sen. Michael Bennet’s] campaign manager says that I am an extremist. I’m an extremist? I’m sorry I am not in Washington D.C. with $100 trillion of unfunded liability or a $13 trillion national debt. The folks in D.C. are the extremists if they think that is normal,” Buck said.

Buck appeared to be responding to a statement by Bennet campaign manager Craig Hughes, who told the Denver Post, “Rest assured, http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2010/07/05/hot-off-the-presses-michael-bennet-yard-signs/ it will soon be easier to see a Bennet yard sign than it will be to find any sign of moderation from extreme candidates Ken Buck and Jane Norton.”

The Colorado Democratic Party has recently unleashed a campaign noting, among other things, both Buck and Norton’s call to eliminate the Department of Education, their backing of Arizona’s illegal immigration law, statements indicating a general dislike of social security , and support of the Personhood Amendment, which would give full legal protections to zygotes.

In addition, Democratic Party officials have raised concerns over Buck’s adherence to Tim DeMint as a mentor and fundraiser. And Democrats further launched an attack on a recent advertisement by Norton, who was also criticized by Republican Ali Hasan, for a campaign commercial in which she appears to challenge President Barack Obama for saying, “We are not at war with Islam.” The commercial uses the sound of jet engines to take the viewer back to the 9/11 attacks.

“We have to keep America free, safe and sovereign,” Norton said, not commenting on extremist accusations. “I assert you don’t keep us safe by reading terrorists their Miranda rights, you don’t keep us safe by shutting down Gitmo, and you certainly don’t keep us safe by calling the War on Terror the overseas contingency operation. Call it what it is.”

Buck proclaimed that if elected he would introduce constitutional amendments to force a balanced federal budget and create term limits for legislators. “It is time Republicans started acting like Republicans when they go to Washington,” he said.

“Nancy Pelosi thought it would be OK for [Congress] to buy a fleet of Gulf Stream jets so that they didn’t have to fly commercial with the rest of us. There is only one kind answer to that kind of arrogance folks. That is a constitutional term limit,” Buck said.

According to the Wall Street Journal , the jets referred to by Buck reportedly are used primarily by the executive branch, though senators and military officials use them for flights. Eight planes were purchased in total, with four being requested by the Defense Department to replace an aging fleet. Legislative staff said the cost savings would amount to one extra plane.

Norton commented that jobs and government cuts would be a major feature of her agenda, and added Colorado had suffered huge job losses because of oil and gas regulations.

Oil and gas companies in the state have said regulations have been only part of the reason for their drilling slowdown in Colorado. A larger component has been the decrease in oil and gas prices globally and the opening up of more accessible markets elsewhere in the country.

“We have to repeal Obama-care, cut discretionary spending by 20 percent, balance the budget without raising taxes, no earmarks, no to bailouts, no to cap and trade. We need to drill in ANWR and we need to drill on the Roan Plateau,” Norton said.

Despite a relative state of calm between the two candidates, Buck said the Republican Party is flawed and needs to be changed through grass-roots groups. He asked tea partiers to stand by him in fighting lobbyist interests that he says are taking part in the race. The statement appeared to be a backhanded slap at Norton, whose campaign has been well served by lobbyist dollars and who Buck’s campaign has called a “Washington insider.”

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