Ken Buck would be easier to beat than Jane Norton, says Colorado Dem's Pat Waak

Proof that Ken Buck, once thought to be an also-ran in the U.S. Senate race, is now perceived as a serious threat: He's the target of attacks from fellow Republican senate hopeful Jane Norton as well as Pat Waak, head of the Colorado Democratic Party.

Waak believes current frontrunner Buck would be easier for a Dem to defeat than Norton due to what she sees as his past sins.

The latest assaults were prompted by a Denver Post article that looked back a decade or more, to the period of time when Buck was part of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Post focuses on a gun case involving a pawn shop owned by Gregory and Leonid Golyansky. Buck, who says he knew Gregory Golyansky from Republican Party events, didn't push for charges against the brothers circa the late '90s under U.S. Attorney Henry Solano. Moreover, when Tom Strickland, Solano's successor, tried to revive the case, Buck reportedly recommended several attorneys who might be able to represent the Golyanskys to a third party, state senator Shawn Mitchell. He also told the one of the lawyers chosen, Stephen Peters, about a memo he'd written to a colleague, future controversy magnet Stephanie Villafuerte, suggesting that the evidence in the matter was weak.

For these actions, Buck got a reprimand from yet another prominent figure, current Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, that included an order to attend ethics classes. And the kicker? Gregory Golyansky has contributed at least $700 to Buck's current campaign.

This last bit of information was news to Waak.

"I'd heard a reference to the rest of it some time ago, but I didn't know that one of the people involved had actually given him a campaign contribution," she says. "And that's when we decided to do something."

Specifically, Waak issued a statement saying that Buck isn't fit to hold any public office, be it assistant U.S. Attorney, Weld County District Attorney (his current gig) or U.S. Senator. She added that Buck should immediately resign from his Weld County position because he's "violated the trust of those who elected him."

Norton, too, has censured Buck, declaring that she "didn't need an ethics class to know what's right." The line amuses Waak. "I never thought this morning that I'd be saying the same thing as Jane Norton," she admits, laughing.

Which doesn't mean Waak is in Norton's corner. "I personally think the race is over for her," she says. "The current polling shows him 10 points ahead of her. I know that can change, but at this point in time, he's certainly under a lot more scrutiny."

She's been paying attention to him for years, however.

"I live in Weld County, so I get calls all the time from people saying, 'Did you know he did this? Did you know he did that?' And one of the calls I got yesterday was from the party in Washington, and they said, 'Have you heard his positions on social security and student loans? Do you know how extreme they are?' They were really surprised. But I said, 'We know. We know.'"

Not that she feels Norton is any less conservative.

"These are two extreme candidates who are trying to out-extreme each other," she allows. "And this is a state of moderates and centrists. So I couldn't be happier with what's happening in the campaign at this point."

Still, she emphasizes that the Golyansky-related reprimand isn't "the only piece of ammo" she's heard about in regard to Buck -- and because of that, "I actually think he is a better candidate to run against than Jane Norton is. I'm very aware of things he's done in Weld County, and anytime you have a candidate that's so extreme, it basically makes our candidates look better."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts