By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Gov. Bill Ritter yesterday agreed that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck’s hard-line stance on abortion helped cost him the election.
Ritter was appearing on 850 KOA’s Mike Rosen Show yesterday morning when the radio host argued that Buck’s opposition to abortion — even in cases of rape and incest — was a main reason Democrat Michael Bennet won last week’s highly contested U.S. Senate election. Bennet defeated Buck by less than 15,000 votes.
More unaffiliated voters, who represent approximately a third of Coloradans, voted for Republicans last week than in other recent Colorado elections. However, Buck did worse with women and moderate swing voters than most of his fellow GOP candidates.
Ritter said social issues become important in a close election where unaffiliated voters are split down the middle. Buck drew heat for saying that being gay is partially a choice, like alcoholism, and opposing abortion in all cases. Bennet’s campaign and outside groups hammered Buck for his comments.
“Those kinds of issues are loser issues for Republicans in a sense among that group of people who are the real undecided (voters),” said Ritter.
But Ritter believes that social issues were not the only reason Buck, a longtime friend of his, lost the election. He said that Buck’s perceived backpedalling on stances he took during the primary also cost him votes.
“Over a couple month period (he) built a case against himself for being a little difficult to contain and to predict,” said Ritter.
However, Rosen argued that Bennet won in part because he has “politics in his DNA” and was more guarded and intentionally vague than his Republican opponent. Ritter refuted the claim and called Bennet, who he appointed to his first Senate term, a “man who is very sincere.”
After discussing the Senate race, Ritter went on to express his frustration with campaign financing. He said it’s becoming more difficult for politicians to prove their merit with the huge influx of money being spent in campaigns by independent parties. Politicians are not allowed to communicate with the independent groups by law and the groups typically run the most vicious campaign ads.
Rosen pointed out that Ritter and many of his fellow Democrat lawmakers have benefited from independent financing in the past. And while he didn’t deny the claim, Ritter still said something must be done.
“Negative campaigning at the level we experience here I think erodes public trust in public officials and I think that’s a bad thing,” he said.
Ritter also had some words for Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper on the radio show. He pointed out that Hickenlooper would likely have a more difficult time with the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) because it’s now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Ritter enjoyed a Democrat majority on the JBC while governor.
Ritter hopes Hickenlooper will do a good job of reaching across party lines, but added that “it’s a difficult time, no matter how you slice it.”
Hickenlooper should be careful about the transition in selecting a new cabinet, according to Ritter. One of Ritter’s main regrets is how he handled a bill when he first came into office that would have made it easier for unions to organize. Ritter ended up vetoing the bill, but not before he had angered both the business community and labor groups.
“I should have managed that process better,” he said.
Rosen said on-air that he noticed Ritter had a “lighter step.” Ritter acknowledged that he likely has a “lighter step” knowing he will be out of office in two months, but vowed to work hard until his final day as governor.
“This is a fascinating job,” Ritter said. “Every day can be different and there can still be pressures (and) you can’t really relax until you’re done.”