Weld District Attorney Ken Buck likes where the signs are pointing so far in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.
Only 3 percentage points separate Buck from Udall in a new Quinnipiac University poll released this week.
“I think anytime I’m close this early in the race with someone who has been in D.C. for 16 years, I think it’s a good sign,” said Buck in a telephone interview late Friday afternoon. “One of the interesting parts of the poll is I am 8 points (44-36 percent) ahead of Udall with Independents. The Independents are a pretty critical group in Colorado, and I was real pleased to see that.”
The Windsor resident announced in August 2013 that he was running for the U.S. Senate. The new poll has Buck trailing Udall 45 percent to 42 percent among Colorado voters for the U.S. Senate seat. The margin didn’t change from a Quinnipiac poll released in November with the same 45-42 percent numbers in favor of Udall. The recent poll surveyed about 1,100 voters in Colorado. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
Buck, who turns 55 on Feb. 16, isn’t the only Republican challenger who is close to Udall. State Sen. Randy Baumgardner trails Udall 43 percent to 41 percent in the poll. State Rep. Amy Stephens also trails Udall by 2 percentage points — 43-41 percent. State Sen. Owen Hill trails 44-39 percent.
Buck, who was the Republican candidate against Democrat Michael Bennet in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, lost to Bennet by less than 2 percentage points (48.1 percent to 46.4 percent).
Because of his fundraising advantage and name recognition, Buck is considered the GOP frontrunner. Buck said Udall still has many advantages, but the senator’s numbers aren’t showing it.
“He has all the advantages of incumbency, of name recognition, of access to newspapers and stories,” Buck said. “After the State of the Union Address, they’re interviewing Mark Udall. As a result of all those advantages, he’s going to have a lead. As the campaign progresses and people get to know my positions and campaign better, I think we overcome that lead. If you’re not over 50 percent at this point in the ball game as an incumbent, it’s not a good sign. I think everybody will tell you that.”
Adam Dunstone, Udall’s campaign manager, said Friday that the Udall camp understands how competitive the race will be.
“We always knew this would be a competitive race. Colorado is a swing state, and we are taking nothing for granted,” Dunstone said. “We believe voters will respond to Mark’s impressive record of accomplishment and his commitment to protecting Colorado’s special way of life.”
Dunstone said Udall isn’t focusing on one opponent from the Republican challengers.
“Mark takes all of his opponents seriously,” Dunstone said. “He is going to make his case for re-election, and it’s a good one; voters will respond to a broad range of issues. We always knew it would be a competitive race; that’s just the way it is in Colorado.”
Buck said there is no signature legislation that Udall is known for.
“He’s been in Congress 16 years, and his campaign and his staff can’t point to an accomplishment for Mark Udall,” Buck said. “He has voted with (Nevada Sen.) Harry Reid and President Obama 99 percent of the time in 2013. That’s an amazing number, and it is I think part of the problem that he has in terms of identifying what he’s accomplished for Colorado. He’s also associated with the renewable energy mandate. That’s the one thing that he has pushed, and frankly there are a lot of people in Colorado, especially outside of the metro area on the eastern plains and Western Slope who are being hurt by those renewable energy mandates. Their utility bills have gone up significantly, and they’re really feeling the crunch. They know that Mark Udall has worked on that.”
Buck said he is pleased with how his campaign is going so far, and said the June 24 primary isn’t a definite thing.
“I’m the only candidate that has been to all 64 counties and has county chairs in all 64 counties,” Buck said. “The primary isn’t a sure thing because we’ve been working very hard in building a statewide organization to beat Mark Udall in November. Time will tell whether other candidates have been doing that or not. It’s unclear at this point whether there will be a primary or not.”
Buck said his campaign has been different than in 2010.
“Night and day. People know me,” Buck said. “People trust me. Instead of being against a former lieutenant governor (Jane Norton) who had all the endorsements and all of the financial help, I am getting a lot of assistance from all sides of the Republican Party.
“I’ve maintained my support with the conservatives, but I’m getting a lot more help from other parts of the Party.”