Despite Trump’s Alarmism, Colorado GOP Chair Rep. Ken Buck Has ‘No Problem With Mail-In Ballots’

August 26, 2020
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the oversight of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington.

Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck Tuesday backed mail-in voting, despite claims from President Donald Trump that it could lead to election fraud in November.

“I have no problem with mail-in ballots. I don’t have a problem with the Colorado system. I don't see widespread fraud, and I think it's appropriate to have mail-in ballots, but I think it’s really a state-by-state, county-by-county issue,” said Buck, who also chairs the Colorado Republican Party.

In an interview with Colorado Matters, the three-term congressman spoke against the federal government stepping in to “start running elections. It's inappropriate, inefficient, and I think it could very well lead to bad practices down the road.”

Trump repeated his long standing complaints about mail balloting at the Republican National Convention this week, arguing it will lead to a “rigged”election.

Buck was at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Monday to announce the Colorado delegation’s unanimous vote for Trump’s nomination. He said Trump’s concern about vote fraud stems from the  FBI’s 2016 investigation into Russian interference in the race between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I think that the president has been hurt by the investigation, the wrongful investigation, the fraudulent investigation run by the upper echelon of the FBI. And I think that makes this president somewhat paranoid about a free and fair election.”

Buck rejected arguments that Trump will fight to stay in office even if he loses to Democrat Joe Biden in November.

“I had a woman ask me (Monday) on the airplane, on my way back from Charlotte, ‘if the president loses, do I think there will be a coup, do I think the president will hold on to power?’ And I don't know where this nonsense comes from. It's unbelievable to me that people are that afraid of our system breaking down, that there are that many people in our system that would allow fraudulent elections or a coup or other conduct.”

Trump currently trails Biden in major national polls. The 4th Congressional District Republican predicted the economy will be top-of-mind with voters and they’ll choose Trump.

“I think the question that will be on most voters’ minds when it comes time to cast their ballot in October, early November, is who is best prepared to bring the economy back from this pandemic,” he said. Trump’s record “shows that he is well-suited to managing the economy and to creating a robust economy.”


Interview Highlights

On Trump’s management of the coronavirus

“I think the president's done a great job and I think the governors have done the very best that they can. It's very difficult to point the finger any one place on a worldwide pandemic. I think the Chinese didn't provide good information at a time when it could have saved a lot of lives throughout the world. But I do think we have an excellent health care system and I think the president did his very best to make sure that Americans were protected during that time.”

On why the U.S. ranks high internationally in cases and deaths

“There’s clearly a difference in America in terms of our freedoms … if you're living in China and the government tells you to do something, you're going to do it. There is a different culture in a lot of countries and a different, really knowledge of disease and protection from disease. I think a lot of Americans object strongly to wearing a mask. And that is clearly one way that we can reduce the spread of this disease.”

On whether Trump, who lost Colorado in 2016, can win the state in 2020

“John McCain lost Colorado by around nine points, Mitt Romney lost by about seven points. Donald Trump lost by about four-and-a-half points, and I think that four-and-a-half points can be made up in the four years that we have passed. I don't think it's easy, but if you look at the resources that the Republicans are spending here in Colorado, there are tremendous resources that the Trump campaign is putting to good use in Colorado. And I think frankly, the Democrats take Colorado for granted to a certain extent.”

On the message he hears from the Black Lives Matter movement

“I think there are messages that are really important for us to hear and to take to heart and to act on. There is clearly racism in this country in various forms. There are some, and I consider this a small percentage of the population, but you have some white supremacists who are just knuckleheads and we absolutely condemn white supremacy. And we condemn any form of racial hatred in this country. But then there is also an institutional racism that exists that we need to address.”

On the police

“I have been in law enforcement for 25 years. I love the police. They are doing their very best to protect us. Are there some bad police officers? Yes. Are there an overwhelming percentage of the police officers who risked their lives on a daily basis to make sure that citizens are protected? Absolutely.”


Read The Transcript

Ryan Warner: Congressman, welcome back to the program.

Rep. Ken Buck: Thank you very much, Ryan. Appreciate it.

RW: In your roll call speech, you praised the president for the economy, the tax cuts, judicial picks. You also mentioned COVID-19. (Saying) quote, "They've protected us from a worldwide pandemic." 

Right now, the U.S. ranks among the highest in the world in cases and death per capita, so how do you square that?

KB: Well, I think the president's done a great job, and I think the governors have done the very best that they can. It's very difficult to point the finger any one place on a worldwide pandemic. I think the Chinese didn't provide good information at a time when they could have saved a lot of lives throughout the world. But I do think we have an excellent healthcare system, and I think the president did his very best to make sure that Americans were protected during that time period.

RW: Johns Hopkins puts the U.S. fourth worldwide when it comes to deaths per 100,000 people. So you look at that and you compare the U.S. to other nations and there's clearly a difference.

KB: There is, and there's clearly a difference in America in terms of our freedoms. If you're living in China and the government tells you to do something, you're going to do it. There is a different culture in a lot of countries and a different, really, knowledge of disease and protection from disease. I think a lot of Americans object strongly to wearing a mask, and that is clearly one way that we can reduce the spread of this disease.

RW: One American who was loathe to wear a mask for a long time was the president. Was he mistaken in that?

KB: No, I don't think he was. I think that in the settings where you saw him, he has been responsible. And I think if you look at the procedures in the White House, I have not been there since COVID but I have a number of colleagues who go there, and you have to be tested. There is a screening process in the White House that protects the president and other employees. And I think that the president clearly gave Dr. Fauci the podium and allowed him to explain the necessity for wearing masks and social distancing and other precautions.

RW: Let's talk about the convention and the fall election. National polls show Democrat Joe Biden ahead of the president right now. What's the single most important message that President Trump needs to get across to the public this week, the week of the convention?

KB: Yeah, I think the question that will be on most voters' minds when it comes time to cast their ballot in October or early November is, who is best prepared to bring the economy back from this pandemic? And I think the president has demonstrated in his first three years and two months in office that he is well suited to managing the economy and to creating a robust economy with great economic growth for all. And I think that voters will ultimately choose President Trump because of that ability.

RW: Will they do so in Colorado though? President Trump lost here four years ago. We know that the biggest blocs of voters now in this state are unaffiliateds and Democrats. Tell it to me straight. Do you think he can win Colorado, which would be a real reversal from four years ago?

KB: John McCain lost Colorado by around nine points. Mitt Romney lost by about seven points. Donald Trump lost by about four-and-a-half points, and I think that four-and-a-half points can be made up in the four years that we have passed. I don't think it's easy, but if you look at the resources that the Republicans are spending here in Colorado, there are tremendous resources that the Trump campaign is putting to good use in Colorado. And I think, frankly, the Democrats take Colorado for granted to a certain extent.

RW: Congressman, I got an email from the Trump campaign this week. I'm on both presidential campaigns' email lists.

KB: That's great.

RW: The headline of this particular email was Patriots Against Socialists. Do you agree that Democrats, or anyone who doesn't support Trump, is not a patriot? A lot of the headlines I've gotten from the Trump campaign seem to pit one America against another and do seem to show two Americas in his mind.

KB: Did you tune in at all to the Democrat National Convention? Did you not see two Americas being portrayed in that convention? The answer to the first part of your question, I don't believe that Democrats are less patriotic than Republicans. I do believe that some of the anarchists that are rioting now, that are to the left of center, are misguided and engaging in criminal conduct. But I don't attribute that to the Democrat party. And I believe that my friends in Congress who are Democrats are every bit as patriotic as I am. And so I don't see that, but I do think that socialism is a failed economic policy, and I believe that we should not be moving in that direction. We should not be moving in more centralized control of our economy. It is a mistake.

RW: I'd love to spend just a moment talking to you about that word socialism, because it's used a lot this election year, and wanting to see where on the spectrum you fall with socialism or social programs. I mean, if you look at the military, right? That's taxpayers paying into something and everyone's protected, and Medicare and, heck, the Hoover Dam. So, can you be more precise when you say socialist, what you hope to avoid?

KB: Sure. Well, first of all, when you look at the military and you read the Constitution, it is clear that the Constitution gives the federal government certain powers exclusively -- controlling immigration, defending our country from foreign aggression. So, the general welfare clause in the Constitution has been applied to many areas that I don't think it was originally intended to be applied to, but if you look at Medicare and Medicaid and you look at the federalization of our healthcare system, and if you look at other programs, it is clear that the economy is being run by a central government, as opposed to the private sector. The means of production are controlled by the government, and that is the definition of socialism.

RW: What message do you hear as a member of Congress from the Black Lives Matter movement?

KB: I hear a few messages, and I have to tell you, I think there are messages that are really important for us to hear and to take to heart and to act on. And there is clearly racism in this country in various forms. There are some, and I consider this a small percentage of the population, but you have some white supremacists who are just knuckleheads, and we absolutely condemn white supremacy. And we condemn any form of racial hatred in this country. But then there is also an institutional racism that exists that we need to address. And we need to make sure that we are providing equal opportunities, not equal outcomes, but equal opportunities for all Americans. That I hear loud and clear.

Some of the other issues I think are really misguided. I have been in law enforcement for 25 years. I love the police. They are doing their very best to protect us. Are there some bad police officers? Yes. Are there an overwhelming percentage of the police officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to make sure that citizens are protected? Absolutely. And whether it is an intended message or an unintended message, I think we've got to clarify and make sure that we understand the importance of police and that we don't fall prey to this defund police message that is out there.

RW: I wonder if I might run a meme by you, Congressman Buck. This is in response to the bad apples arguments. No one would say about airline pilots that the vast majority are good and there are a few bad apples. We wouldn't accept that in a condition where our lives were at stake. Is that metaphor apt to law enforcement, do you think?

KB: No, I don't think it's apt. I think it's ridiculous. I think that when you look at — obviously airline pilots are trained and sometimes in stressful situations, but they are not risking their lives on a daily basis. They aren't having people pull guns, aim those guns at them and fire guns at them. They are in a much different situation. And I think that when I say we have bad apples, we have people who lose their temper, law enforcement who don't react appropriately under stress. And they need to be weeded out and they need to find another line of work. But the vast majority of police officers are great police officers, and I don't think it's an appropriate comparison.

RW: In speaking to the convention Monday, President Trump renewed his claims that mail-in ballots lead to fraud. He warned of a rigged election. You know, Ken Buck, Colorado has had vote-by-mail for years, with little evidence of fraud. You've been elected this way. Why shouldn't people be able to vote at home, especially during a pandemic?

KB: I have no problem with mail-in ballots. I don't have a problem with the Colorado system. I don't see widespread fraud, and I think it's appropriate to have mail-in ballots. But it's really a state-by-state, county-by-county issue. I think it's a mistake for the federal government to run elections. That has been my problem with the bills that have been passed by Congress, mandating mail-in ballots. If the state legislature decides to do that, let them put the procedures in place and protect the integrity of the election. But don't have the federal government step in and start running elections. It's inappropriate, inefficient, and I think it could very well lead to bad practices down the road.

RW: Why don't you think we hear that kind of even-handedness about mail-in ballots from the president? I mean, he's really demonized them.

KB: Yeah. I think that the president has been hurt by the investigation, the wrongful investigation, a fraudulent investigation run by the upper echelon of the FBI. I think that makes this president somewhat paranoid about a free and fair election. I understand the other side ... I sit on an airplane, and I had a woman ask me yesterday on the airplane, on my way back from Charlotte, if the president loses, do I think there will be a coup? Do I think the president will hold on to power? I don't know where this nonsense comes from. It's unbelievable to me that people are that afraid of our system breaking down, that there are that many people in our system that would allow fraudulent elections, or a coup, or other conduct that is just... things that haven't occurred in the past, and that won't occur.

RW: The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, at one point said, during a briefing, "we will see what happens before accepting the results of the election." So, I think there are some who would say that the administration has planted that seed.

KB: Well, I mean, you have to be a little bit off in your thinking if you think that. "We'll see what happens," means we'll engage in a lawsuit, or we will have people that are on the ground, making sure that an election is fair. If you think that the president is going to say, "I don't accept the results of this election, I'll be bearing myself president for life," that's a huge stretch from what the press secretary said. I think that one of the ways to motivate voters on both sides is to create this idea (that) the other side may cheat so it's even more important that we all get out to vote so that there is this cushion and that we win the election by such overwhelming numbers that even if they cheat, they can't steal this from us.

RW: Listen, fires are raging in Colorado, there is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is a culprit, and that humans have a role in that climate change. I'll note that the GOP is not adopting a new platform this year, but the 2016 platform really only mentions climate change in ways that dismiss its importance compared to other issues. Should the GOP have a different outlook on climate change given what we're seeing in Colorado's high country?

KB: Ryan, I got to tell you, I love you. I know when you say there is broad scientific consensus, that that means that you and I are going to disagree about something, because I also think there is broad scientific consensus that when you don't remove timber and you don't remove brush, and there is a lightning strike, you're going to have a big fire. We have seen a lot of beetle kill in this area and that there is broad scientific consensus that that beetle kill is related to the age of the trees that have not been logged. So, I question whether your science is related to drought, or your science is related to increased temperatures?

RW: I appreciate that you demand some precision from me. So, I'll be clear that in this respect, I'm talking about hotter temperatures, about drier conditions, and thus longer fire seasons related to climate change. Does any of that make you think that the GOP should be a leader when it comes to stemming human-caused climate change?

KB: I think the GOP should be and is a leader in producing safe, clean energy and reducing carbon emissions in this country. I think that the GOP — the EPA was formed under a Republican president. The Republicans have long held a very strong value in conservation dating back to Teddy Roosevelt. (Colorado U.S. Sen.) Cory Gardner has offered a bill to upgrade national parks and national monuments in this country, The Great American Outdoors Act. I believe that Republicans do care very much, very deeply about our environment. We disagree about the nature and extent of climate change, but I don't think that one side or the other can bump their chest and say, ‘the other team is a bunch of knuckle draggers because they don't agree with us.’ We all want clean air, clean water, clean land, and we all work in our ways to achieve that.