U.S. Rep. Ken Buck announced Wednesday that he won’t run for reelection to a sixth term in 2024, citing the GOP’s embrace of election conspiracies and Congress’ inability to get work done.
The Windsor Republican’s decision, first announced on MSNBC, is certain to set off a fierce race to replace him in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, a highly conservative part of the state that spans across the Eastern Plains into Castle Rock.
“I have decided that it is time for me to do some other things,” Buck, 64, told reporter Andrea Mitchell on her show Wednesday. “I have always been disappointed with our inability in Congress to deal with major issues and I’m also disappointed that the Republican Party continues to rely on this lie that the 2020 election was stolen.”
He added: “If we’re going to solve some difficult problems we’ve got to deal with some very unpleasant lies.”
In a video posted to his YouTube page, Buck, who was first elected to the House in 2014, thanked his constituents for their support “as we have fought against the left’s policies that have had real world consequences.”
“Our nation is on a collision course with reality,” Buck said. “A steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward. Too many Republican leaders are lying to America claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, describing Jan. 6 as an unguided tour of the Capitol, and asserting that the ensuing prosecutions are a weaponization of our justice system. These insidious narratives read widespread cynicism and erode Americans confidence in the rule of law.”
Buck said “it is impossible for the Republican Party to confront our problems and offer a course correction for the future while being obsessively fixated on retribution and vengeance for contrived injustices of the past.”
The congressman’s announcement wasn’t exactly shocking news. He has been raising eyebrows and drawing conservatives’ ire for months for making the rounds on TV news shows to criticize fellow Republicans, including over the House GOP’s pursuit of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
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Buck, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, was among eight Republicans who voted to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership post in October. He said McCarthy hadn’t carried out his promises on federal spending.
Buck also voted against U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid to become speaker, citing the Ohio Republican’s participation in efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. But Buck then backed current Speaker Mike Johnson’s bid to lead the House, despite the Louisiana Republican’s leading role in objecting to the 2020 results.
The difference between Jordan and Johnson, Buck told CNN, is that Jordan “did a number of things that were election denialism in their highest degree,” including texting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows a legal theory on how Congress could block Biden’s win and talking to President Donald Trump during the Jan. 6 riot.
“Jim Jordan was involved in much of the post-election activity,” Buck said. “Mike Johnson was not. (Johnson) voted to decertify (the election results), absolutely. That wasn’t my vote, but we need to move forward. We have some important business.”
Buck added that it wasn’t OK for Johnson to vote to decertify the 2020 presidential election results, but “we’re at a point now where we need to move forward and make sure the government stays open — that we fund Israel, we fund Ukraine, we fund the border efforts. And that’s going to take a human being in that speaker position. Not a perfect human being, but a Mike Johnson, who has done his very best to move issues forward and is a really good person.”
Buck has been a staple in Colorado’s Republican politics for decades.
Buck was elected Weld County’s district attorney in 2004. He went on to be the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010, running unsuccessfully against Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the seat in 2009.
He lost by nearly 30,000 votes in a year when Republicans took over both the U.S. House and Senate. Some attributed Buck’s narrow loss to his handling of a rape case as district attorney.
In 2013, Buck initiated another run for U.S. Senate but dropped out of the contest when Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner entered the contest, running instead for Gardner’s seat. Buck was then elected to the House in 2014 and served as Colorado Republican Party chairman in 2019 and 2020.
But Buck’s long tenure in the upper echelons of the state’s Republican ranks have not made him immune from criticism as of late. The Colorado GOP, now under the leadership of Dave Williams, a 2020 election denier, has blasted Buck for his opposition to Jordan’s speakership bid and unwillingness to go along with he impeachment inquiry.
The congressman also said he received death threats and was being evicted from his office, owned by a major GOP donor, for refusing to back Jordan.
Buck is leaving Congress at a time when other Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, are opting against reelection, too, because of election conspiracies.
Buck said his departure from the House, however, won’t be his departure from politics.
“I’m not going to be leaving the party and I’m not going to be leaving my role in trying to talk truth to the public,” Buck told Andrea Mitchell.
Among the Republicans rumored to be interested in running for Buck’s seat are
- State Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron
- Heidi Ganahl, a former University of Colorado regent who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2022
- Deb Flora, a conservative talk radio host and failed 2022 U.S. senate candidate
- Former Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown
- Former 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler
- Former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who is now a Logan County commissioner
- Former Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock
Buck beat Democrat Ike McCorkle by 24 percentage points in 2022.
Colorado Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.