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Congressman Ken Buck Announces Plan to Depart Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, Triggering Special Election

By Raina Lucero

March 17, 2024

U.S. Representative Ken Buck, a five-term Republican representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, who earlier this year announced he would not be running for a sixth term, announced his resignation effective March 22, 2024. Buck expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve the district for nine years and cited a desire to spend more time with his family and contribute to political reform initiatives.

The longtime lawmaker, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, has emerged as a critic of the MAGA wing of the Republican party. He was one of three Republicans to vote against the impeachment of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas and criticized the GOP push to impeach President Joe Biden, as well as refusing to question the validity of the 2020 election.

This move by Buck will shrink the Republican majority to 218 seats to the Democrats’ 213 seats — meaning the GOP can’t afford more than two defections on any party-line vote. Democrats are expected to pick up a seat next month in the special election to replace Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who resigned last month, but Republicans are in line to add seats in special elections in May and June to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and former Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, according to Axios.

In response to Buck’s announcement, Colorado Governor Jared Polis swiftly announced a special election to fill Buck’s remaining term, scheduled for June 25, coinciding with the Republican and Democratic primaries. This move aims to ensure uninterrupted representation for Colorado’s 4th District while minimizing taxpayer costs, adhering to state law mandates.

It has not been decided as of press time March 14, 2024, whether the special election will be held on the same ballot as the Colorado Primary or if there will be two separate ballots used. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, the cost of the special election will fall 100% upon the counties within CD4. Kiowa County Clerk Delisa Weeks verified that the counties are on the hook for the special election.

Buck’s resignation sets off a race among a crowded field of candidates. Nine Republicans were vying for the Republican nomination in the district before Buck’s early retirement announcement: current 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, former state lawmaker Jerry Sonnenberg, state Reps. Mike Lynch and Richard Holtorf, conservative radio host Deborah Flora, former state lawmaker Ted Harvey, businessman Chris Phelen, businessman Peter Yu, and Justin Schreiber.

Those candidates can all put themselves forward to be considered for the special election nomination. Sonnenberg, Flora, and Harvey have all indicated they will pursue the nomination.

“This new vacancy doesn’t change my race, nor my commitment to proving to Republicans voters why I am the strongest conservative voice to serve them in Washington. I look forward to earning this nomination and getting to D.C. as soon as possible,” Sonnenberg wrote in a statement.

Flora wrote in her own statement that the district can’t afford a “placeholder” between Buck’s retirement and the new term next year. Holtorf has not indicated if he will seek the special nomination, but he called Buck’s decision a “selfish move” that will “potentially create bias during the election cycle” in a statement Tuesday.

Boebert, however, will not seek the special nomination. If she wins the special election, she would have to resign her current position representing the 3rd District, setting off a vacancy process in that district. “I will not further imperil the already very slim House Republican majority by resigning my current seat and will continue to deliver on my constituents’ priorities while also working hard to earn the votes of the people of Colorado’s 4th District who have made clear they are hungry for a real conservative,” she said in a statement.

Boebert called Buck’s announcement a “swampy backroom deal to try to rig an election.” With Buck’s resignation, the GOP’s majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will shrink to 218-213.

Twenty-three Republican lawmakers nationwide have already announced they will not run for re-election but Buck’s abrupt departure “blindsided” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and House GOP Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., according to Politico’s Jonathan Martin. “I was surprised by Ken’s announcement. I’m looking forward to talking to him about that,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday, admitting he “did not know” it was coming. The shrinking majority has alarmed some Republican lawmakers. “It lowers the margin and that creates an obvious challenge for leadership,” Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told Axios. “Obviously, it makes the numbers much tougher,” agreed House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole, R-Okla. “I am concerned about the majority,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told the outlet, adding, “I just wish the rest of our party was.”

The 4th District includes most of Douglas County and the Eastern Plains.

The state Republican Party has not yet made its special convention plans public and leaders did not reply to requests for comment Wednesday. That gathering will involve officers of the congressional district and the county chairmen in the district, according to party bylaws. The state party’s assembly, where delegates will pick candidates to appear on the primary ballot, is already set for April 5 in Pueblo.

The CD4 committee of Colorado Republicans must pick a nominee for a special election to serve out the rest of Buck’s term that will be held on the same day as the party primary for the district, according to the AP.

That nominee is unlikely to be Boebert, who has no prior ties to the district and has drawn backlash for moving out of her tight district and into a more conservative district 4. That means there will only be one nominee on the special election ballot and that person could also be a candidate alongside Boebert on the primary ballot. “By resigning early, Ken Buck is giving an advantage to anyone but Lauren Boebert,” tweeted former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “She cannot run in the special election since she already occupies a seat, so another person will be elected to serve out the term, and it won’t be Lauren.”

Colorado’s GOP Chairman Dave Williams expressed optimism about quickly filling the vacancy to maintain effective Republican representation in Congress. However, Buck’s departure narrows the House GOP’s majority to a fragile 218-213, emphasizing the significance of the upcoming elections for both parties.

In an interview, Buck criticized the dysfunction in Washington and expressed a commitment to reforming the electoral process. His departure highlights the challenges facing Congress and underscores the urgency for effective governance.

The announcement has drawn reactions from various political figures, with concerns about the impact on House Republican leadership and the potential for confusion among voters.

Overall, Congressman Buck’s resignation marks a significant shift in Colorado’s political landscape, setting the stage for a closely watched special election that could influence the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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