Colorado GOP Senate candidates taking a conservative stand |

Colorado GOP Senate candidates taking a conservative stand

Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post
030910_GOP_CFW - United States Senate candidates Jane Norton and Ken Buck greet one another before a forum sponsored by the Cherry Creek Republican Women at the Glenmoor Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, CO. (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post.)
ALL | The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS – El Paso County native Rich Brenner knew there would be a huge crowd, but to see more than 1,000 people at a GOP candidate forum last week was almost too much for the political veteran.

“I remember the days when we were excited to see 100 people show up, so I’m blown away,” he said.

“Sure, there are some raving maniacs in the whole process, but a lot of these people are everyday people who feel betrayed by the government.”

While Republicans didn’t storm their caucuses Tuesday, the party’s most faithful embraced the underfunded outsiders who have appealed to the emerging Tea Party set.

Last summer, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck considered ending his Senate bid after former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton got in. When he raised only $44,676 in the fourth quarter last year, political junkies said he was done.

On Tuesday, Buck got 37.86 percent of the vote to Norton’s 37.74 percent.

“I think that’s earth-shattering,” said Steve Welchert, a Democratic political consultant.

Only two years ago, Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer – who didn’t have a primary – shunned the conservative label he had so long worn as a badge of honor, claiming he was mainstream and centrist.

These days, it’s pedal to the metal for the leading GOP Senate contenders, driving as far to the right as possible in hopes of rallying the base and appealing to Tea Partyers.

While the strategy may be tested in November when candidates typically battle for unaffiliated voters who’ve swung three straight elections for Democrats, it’s the path most traveled this primary season.

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