Ken Buck, backed by Tea Party activists, won the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Colorado, defeating a candidate backed by the national party leadership.
Buck, 51, beat former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, 55, in today’s primary, according to the Associated Press. Norton had been supported by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
With more than 70 percent of the vote counted, Buck had 52 percent while Norton had 48 percent.
The primary encapsulated the tumult marking a campaign season in which two senators and four U.S. House members have lost re-nomination bids elsewhere. Both Colorado candidates sought to run as outsiders, though each has won elective office.
Buck, a county prosecutor backed by Tea Party supporters promoting significantly limited government, drew attention last month when he said one reason he deserved support was that he wears cowboy boots, rather than high heels. The Norton campaign spotlighted that comment, believing it would help her win votes from women.
Today’s Democratic primary was won by incumbent Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the seat last year after Obama named then-Senator Ken Salazar as Interior secretary. Bennet defeated Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado House, according to AP.
In an interview last month, Norton said Buck couldn’t win the general election because his views are too extreme. “We have to have a message that reaches into our unaffiliated voters and some disenfranchised Democrats,” she said.
Buck dismissed Norton’s contention. “The folks in D.C. are the extremists,” he said at an event last month. “They’re out of their minds, and we’re going to teach them in November just how much they are out of their minds.”
Buck won attention from some voters when, in his job, he targeted illegal immigrants for prosecution. While the issue may have helped him in the primary, Democrats believe it could hurt him as a Senate nominee in a state where Hispanics in 2008 accounted for 20.2 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau.