Colorado GOP Congressman Ken Buck not seeking re-election next year

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Ken Buck
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, stops for a reporter as he heads to the chamber for votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023.

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck will not seek reelection next year.

In a statement announcing his decision, Buck thanked the people of Colorado for the opportunity to serve. “Being your representative in Washington, DC, has been the greatest professional thrill, and highest honor, of my life.”

He said Americans are looking to Republicans to offer a viable alternative to Democratic policies, but that the party is unable to do that while its leaders continue to support false claims the 2020 election was stolen and minimize the violence of the Jan. 6 riot. 

“It is impossible for the Republican party to confront our problems and offer a course correction for the future, while being obsessively fixated on retribution and vengeance for contrived injustices of the past,” said Buck.

He went on to say, “I made the decision to leave Congress because tough votes are being replaced by social media status. It's time to stop feeding popular narratives and start addressing the long-term solutions.”

In an interview with MSNBC, Buck also cited the decline of civility in politics and Congress’ inability to deal with big problems facing the nation, including the long-term sustainability of Medicare and Social Security.

“I’m going to be leaving Congress, I’m not going to be leaving the party and I’m not going to be leaving my role in trying to talk truth to the public,” said Buck.

“I think this election is going to be a critical election, both at the presidential level and in the House,” said Buck in the interview. “And I think people in the House are going to have to make a decision on where they want to go with the values of the Republican Party.

In recent weeks, Buck has taken a number of stances that put him at odds with members of his own party, including joining Democrats to help oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy and then refusing to support Rep. Jim Jordan’s speaker bid. Buck has also been increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Republicans who continue to insist the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has served with Buck during his entire tenure, said they didn’t always agree, but “I’ve never doubted his commitment to the principles he believes in. He has worked hard for Colorado. He has been a staunch supporter of law enforcement and those first responders who are so critical to our safety and wellbeing. Rep. Ken Buck will be missed.”

Former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, the man whom Buck replaced in the House, thanked Buck on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I am grateful for your 45 years of public service. Enjoy the freedom ahead!”

In response to the announcement, Colorado state GOP chair Dave Williams said, “While we strongly disagree with his most recent actions like opposing the impeachment of Joe Biden or the election of Jim Jordan as Speaker, we wish him the best in his future endeavors and hope he will stop unfairly criticizing the Party he once helped lead.”

Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District, which Buck represents, is deep red politically and the seat will likely remain in Republican hands.

Two Republicans, Weld County council member Trent Leisy and political newcomer Justin Schreiber, had already filed paperwork to run for the Republican nomination. State Rep. Richard Holtorff is also exploring entering the race. The lack of an incumbent makes it likely that many others will jump into the now wide-open race.

A former prosecutor, Ken Buck first ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, losing to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet after being dubbed “too conservative” for Colorado. He then ran for the House in the 4th congressional district in 2014 during the Tea Party wave and later joined the hard right Freedom Caucus.

A staunch constitutional conservative, he has generally voted against government spending bills and continuing resolutions, but also found common ground with Democrats on issues like trying to limit the reach of Big Tech in the marketplace, tackling artificial intelligence and curbing the ability of lawmakers to trade stocks.

CPR’s Bente Birkeland contributed reporting to this story.

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