Rep. Ken Buck’s (R-Colo.) vocal criticism over a House GOP-led impeachment of President Biden is risking backlash from members of his own party.
Earlier this month, Buck voiced hesitation over an impeachment inquiry, saying in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wouldn’t support the effort because he wasn’t “convinced that that evidence exists.” But the Colorado Republican appeared to soften his stance Tuesday after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced he was launching an inquiry without a vote, telling reporters that “having a vote on the floor would have been a distraction. Not having a vote is taking this and … staying focused on spending.”
Still, Buck has already faced some blowback over his past comments, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) attacking him publicly over his position Tuesday. And CNN reported this week that an effort is underway to find a potential primary challenger against him.
Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf (R) confirmed to The Hill that he has formed an exploratory committee regarding his “political future” after CNN reported that he was among those being floated as a potential primary challenger. It’s not clear when Holtorf might make a decision, but the GOP state legislator said constituents had approached him and asked him to run based on his brand of politics.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, another Republican cited in the CNN report as a potential primary challenger, said he has no such intentions.
“I had no desire to primary Congressman Buck in 2022 and will not primary him in 2024. I have had zero contacts regarding primarying the congressman in 2024,” Sonnenberg wrote in an email to The Hill. “I support Congressman Buck as he represents the 4th District in Colorado.”
Buck represents a reliably red House seat in the Centennial State, which he won by 24 points last cycle, after defeating a primary challenger by 48 points.
Buck confirmed to The Hill that he’s running for another term and has said he’s not concerned about a primary challenge, telling reporters Tuesday, “What I do here isn’t affected by a primary challenge. They came up with a primary challenge last time, it was — it was fine.”
The Colorado Republican is no stranger to splitting with his party. Earlier this year, he voted against House Republicans’ Parental Bill of Rights, which was ultimately passed by the GOP, arguing in an op-ed at the time that “while seemingly reinforcing parents’ rights, it undermines the critical principle for conservatives: federalism, the bedrock of our liberty.”
Buck has been unafraid to criticize former President Trump as well. He told CNN in June that “I certainly won’t support a convicted felon for the White House” and during an appearance on MSNBC before Trump’s arraignment in Fulton County, Ga., said, “I think he absolutely needs to tell all Americans to stand down and allow the judicial system to take its course.”
Last session, he also defended former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) after she was ousted from her role in House GOP leadership.
Buck, for his part, didn’t see his comments Tuesday as a reversal of his stance on an impeachment inquiry.
“No, my comments before were, I wanted to see the evidence before I supported it. I still want to see the evidence,” he told reporters Tuesday. “But the impeachment inquiry to me was a distraction from the spending, the appropriations processes … and I think that now we are focused on what we should be focused on.”
Not all Colorado Republicans see his efforts to buck the party as a negative.
“I don’t think he ever bucks the real principles of our party,” explained Kristi Burton Brown, a former Colorado GOP chairwoman who lives in Buck’s district.
“I think a lot of times, the noise surrounding a particular bill may center in on, like, the top lines of the bill, but Congressman Buck is one of those people who actually reads all the details of the bills,” she continued. “And that’s something his district respects, is that he takes the time to actually understand [the] details, and he’s gonna come down on the side of the principles of our party.”
Weld County GOP Chairman Tom Van Lone said he hadn’t heard about any efforts to primary Buck, noting that that didn’t necessarily mean an effort might not be underway. But the chairman called Buck “a solid congressman” while pointing out that that the Republican Party is full of diverse thinkers.
“He has his reasons for, quote, bucking the party, but you know, it’s a big tent party too,” Van Lone said. “And we all — Republicans … will go all different directions. We’re not just [following] a leader. We all have our independent views. So that’s a good thing, too.”
Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams told The Hill that he had heard “a number of potential candidates who might explore a possible run,” including the names mentioned in the CNN report and several others.
But he said the party remained neutral in the event that a primary challenge took place.
“We’re Switzerland on this one,” Williams said.
“Our job isn’t necessarily [to] push primaries against sitting incumbent Republican officials, whether they be congressmen or, you know, state legislators. But again, you know, Congressman Buck has decided to take certain stances that very well could invite these challenges. And, you know, we acknowledge that that could be problematic for him. But we’re not going to tip the scales one way or the other,” he added.
But even Williams acknowledged that while Buck’s positions at times differ with those within his party, “I think the totality of his work in Congress has been positive, and most people within his district are satisfied with that.”
Emily Brooks contributed.