State Sen. Scott Renfroe might have hurt his chances with a recent campaign mailer that attacks his three opponents in the GOP 4th Congressional District primary race, according to some Weld County Republican voters.
In the mailer sent out to Republican voters, Renfroe, R-Greeley, calls Weld District Attorney Ken Buck an “office shopper and flip-flopper,” Fort Collins businessman Steve Laffey a “four-time taxer” and questions the ethics of Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer.
“I can’t help but think that Renfroe just shot himself in the foot,” said Stan Cass, a Weld County native and longtime Republican who grew up in Briggsdale and lives in Eaton. “It depends on how many people got that and how many people are exposed to it. We don’t need somebody with that kind of approach representing us in Congress. I’ve known Scott Renfroe for a long time and he professes to be a wonderful Christian man and all of a sudden he goes berserk and now everybody’s wrong.”
Other recent letter writers to The Tribune who have seen the mailers have expressed a similar sentiment. But Renfroe defends his actions and says he is simply telling the truth.
“I think the voters of the 4th District deserve to know the facts of what each candidate says and stands for and has done,” Renfroe said. “I spoke the truth, and I know the truth is hard to take but times are short for our country and we can’t keep sending people that campaign one way and then do something different when they get there.”
Cass said he received one of the mailers and couldn’t believe it.
“Even his close friends never thought that he’d resort to something like that,” said Cass, who said he is leaning toward voting for Laffey in the primary election.
The mailer says that Buck, who is shown in an unflattering photo, shops for offices such as the Colorado Attorney General, the U.S. Senate and now the 4th CD seat. It also points out that Buck abandoned the pro-life personhood amendment after winning the 2010 U.S. Senate primary, and he signed an immigration reform compact with U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
In a television ad paid for by Renfroe which also appears on YouTube, Buck’s head is transposed on a body wearing orange flip flops and he’s flipping and flopping throughout the 29-second ad.
Buck said Renfroe has attacked him the last three weeks on TV, radio and through the mail, and has spent all of his TV and radio money attacking him.
“In some ways it’s gratifying because he must consider me the frontrunner in the race to spend all the resources attacking me,” said Buck, who added that he has not sent out anything negative on his opponents. “If you’re an honorable candidate, you raise issues in the debates and give your opponents a chance to respond. You don’t just send out a mailer in the way that other people can’t respond. I’m very disappointed in the tactics that Scott and his campaign have adopted.”
He added, “Scott knows that I am very strong on the life issue and very strong on the immigration issue. There’s been nobody in Weld County who has been as strong as I have been on immigration. For him to attack me on those two issues is sad. It shows that he is desperate to get into office and will do anything to try to get into office, and that’s just sad.”
The mailer, which includes newspaper and other sources at the bottom, points out that Laffey raised taxes four times as mayor of Cranston, R.I., that included a 12.8 percent property tax. He also points out that he doesn’t live in CD4 and that he bragged to MSNBC host Chris Matthews that he wasn’t conservative and would take on big oil.
Laffey said he doesn’t believe in negative campaigning.
“I’m running a positive campaign. If I have a problem with you, I will call you,” Laffey said. “Ken Buck’s a good guy. I don’t have any problems with him at all, and Barbara Kirkmeyer is a wonderful person. We’ve become pretty good friends in this campaign. I don’t know why Scott chose to do this, but he answers to somebody else about it — not me. I don’t want to win that badly to make fun of people. The stuff that came out in that mailer was sort of bizarre to me. It’s ludicrous.”
He added, “I think it’s really bad to do stuff like this, especially late in the campaign. It’s a textbook, desperate thing. What would cause a guy to always be talking about being a Christian and then do something like this behind people’s backs?”
As for Kirkmeyer, who worked for the state Department of Local Affairs between her stints as county commissioner, the mailer said that state auditors uncovered spending problems, $2 million in other questionable expenditures, highlights poor accounting controls and that she admitted on the record to using her elected office to advance her private interests.
“I think he should get his facts straight because his comments are incorrect,” Kirkmeyer said. “Obviously, the comments that he quoted were out of the paper. But their basis is incorrect. I think he’s spreading some false inaccuracies, and I think it’s reprehensible. I thought we were having a pretty good race and everybody was keeping it positive for the most part, and then Scott decides he has to go out and attack people.”
She added, “I don’t agree with negative campaigning. I didn’t do any negative campaigning. I think people should talk about themselves and what they can accomplish. Typically, when people have to do negative campaigning they feel like they’re losing or they don’t have anything good to say about themselves. I think it’s probably hurt him because I don’t think that people who vote like it, either.”
Laffey said he couldn’t figure out why Renfroe decided to wait until the end of the campaign and not confront his opponents face-to-face when he had the chance to at a number of Republican events, debates, forums and other appearances.
“I didn’t know I had to consult my opponents on my campaign decisions. That’s what I told Steve,” Renfroe said. “I’d say 90 percent of all things done in a campaign are done at the end. I stand by all of the decisions that I’ve made through the campaign. They were planned out well in advance. We had a business plan that we put together of how to run this campaign back before we won the assembly, and we’ve stuck to it.”
Kyle Saunders, political analyst and political science professor at Colorado State University, said the negative mailer can mean that Renfroe perceives this race as close, at least between he and Buck, and he needs to raise Buck’s negatives among this electorate.
“That’s not how a person who is leading the race would behave,” Saunders said.
Saunders doesn’t necessarily see it as dirty politics, though.
“Politics is a contact sport,” Saunders said. “This is the election. They’re behaving like general election candidates. I wouldn’t call it dirty. I’d call it politics.”