Endorsement: Jane Norton for the US Senate

[UPDATE: Please see my correction note regarding the email to me from Jane Norton quoted below.]

Before I go further, let me say that unlike prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson I don't intend to use what modest media voice I have to bash a conservative Republican.  From the time I've spent talking with Ken Buck, I think he's intelligent and has generally solid conservative principles. Given what I know at this time, if Ken Buck is the Republican nominee, I will gladly work to help him win even though we have some relatively minor policy disagreements.  (For example, as I've written in my two-part write-up of my interview of Mr. Buck, I don't agree with his support of "hate crimes" laws.)

Today, however, I enthusiastically endorse Jane Norton for the U.S. Senate.

Having also interviewed Mrs. Norton (writeup HERE) I find her to be at least as philosophically strong as Mr. Buck. I find her to be thoughtful, well-read, and intelligent. I find her to be principled and to have a good grasp of basic economic principles, not least the damage that regulations and taxes tend to do to free markets and by extension Americans' standards of living and our fundamental liberty.  And while some people denigrate Mrs. Norton as "too polished" or words to that effect, I find her to simply be a pleasant and good person, perhaps less inclined to bombast and insult than the red-meat-eating base wants to see at a gut level.  I can live with that personality style as long as she votes the right way and works to get others to vote the right way, particularly when we're talking about the Senate.

I had, and understand why some people have, qualms about whether Norton's establishment connections make her a "squish" or likely to behave like John McCain, Olympia Snowe, or other RINOs who most Republicans believe are destroying the Republican brand and the nation along with it. But having pressed Norton on that question multiple times, I am convinced these fears are unfounded.

I reiterated the question directly to Mrs. Norton a few days ago, asking her (by e-mail) what she would say to those who argue that "she was recruited by McCain" and by extension that she would be heavily influenced by McCain's political views if she were win a Senate seat.  Norton's answer contained not just the facts but also the passion which I believe she needs to show daily on the campaign trail to motivate and convince the activist and Tea Party base of the GOP, many of whom remain skeptical despite endorsements by well-respected Colorado conservatives such as Bill Armstrong, Mark Hillman, and Josh Penry. She also addresses the question of her having worked to try to help John McCain get elected.

[UPDATE:  The questions about Ken Buck raised by Mrs. Norton in this first paragraph have become the source of controversy in the sense that Mr. Buck was County Chair for Mitt Romney in 2008.  I have written a rather lengthy correction note which you can and should read HERE after reading the rest of this note.  I have left the e-mail from Mrs. Norton here so that people know what this issue is about.  I would note that this issue should not cause those who are wondering about Mrs. Norton and John McCain to ignore Norton's strong and repeated emphasis on how different her views are from McCain's.  That, and not any question about Ken Buck's prior political activities, are what caused me to endorse Mrs. Norton. I regret having been caught up in this other part of the discussion.]

I was NOT recruited by McCain. Mike and I decided to run BEFORE McCain called to encourage me. McCain DID call and encourage me, as did many others. I know why and when I decided to run. Where was Buck in 2008? Was he slugging away for a Rep candidate - or did he sit on his hands and effectively help Obama get elected? There is no public evidence that Buck was involved that I've seen. Was he for Rudy? Romney? Thompson? Or he voted for Obama? No - he didn't lift a finger to help anyone on the right and now we have Obama. And he wants to criticize me for being in the ring fighting the fight - with a less than perfect candidate - as I've said before. Just like Buck to be a Monday morning QB.

(As for policy issues), McCain was flat wrong on campaign finance, the Bush tax cuts, cap-and-trade, enhanced interrogation techniques, the bank bailout and a whole host of other issues. But then again, Jim DeMint was wrong to increase the debt ceiling. And Tom Tancredo was wrong to vote for the bank bailout. None of these guys are perfect, and if I get elected I will vote my conscience and what's right for America. What John McCain or Tom Tancredo or Jim DeMint believes or thinks is nowhere near the top of what I'm concerned about.

It was this answer which pushed me off the fence regarding whether to endorse Jane Norton or stay neutral in the race.

Many activist Republicans complain bitterly and with good reason about "electability" being used as a factor in choosing a candidate.  Electability, for example, is what allowed Arlen Specter to beat Pat Toomey by less than 2% in Pennsylvania's 2004 GOP Senate primary.  Perhaps electability is what gave us John McCain as the GOP candidate for president two years ago.

But Jane Norton is no John McCain nor is she an Arlen Specter.  So, since I think that Jane Norton is at least Ken Buck's equal in terms of understanding the value of liberty, especially political and economic liberty (since no conservative is where I want him to be on liberty in our private lives, such as regarding marijuana legalization), it seems to me that electability then becomes a legitimate concern. And I think Jane Norton is somewhat more likely to beat a Democrat than Ken Buck is.

Now some people will point to the most recent Rasmussen poll which shows Norton beating Michael "Who?" Bennet by 6 points with Ken Buck leading him by 5 points, but Buck having a much greater lead over Andrew Romanoff than Norton does.  My take on these polls is this: Surrogates of the Buck campaign have spent a lot of energy and money trying to tear down Jane Norton.  The ads have clearly raised her polling "negatives" while I haven't seen nearly the level of attack by anybody against Mr. Buck.    I believe that if Norton and her supporters had spent a fraction of the time and cash going after Buck which has been used by Buck's friends to attack Norton, then Buck wouldn't be polling nearly this well. And I believe that it will be much more difficult during the general election campaign for Democrats to demonize Jane Norton than to demonize Ken Buck.

Ken Buck will be painted as "racist" or at least anti-Hispanic; it will be entirely unfair -- Buck should be commended for his aggressive work against illegal immigration and particularly identity theft -- but it will damage him substantially.  Also, the essentially baseless tag of "moderate" which certain conservative activists or Buck supporters are trying to tag Norton with (particularly over the admittedly confusing issue of her involvement with Referendum C) would probably turn into a positive for her in the general election, especially given that elections these days are decided by independent voters, not least suburban women.

I would not support (and did not support) Arlen Specter; I supported Pat Toomey.  I supported Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist from Rubio's first days in the race.  In both cases, the person I supported was, at least at the time I got involved, less electable.  Principle must trump GOP head count, even in times when one extra seat could make such a big difference.

I feel confident that supporting Jane Norton is not giving up anything in terms of principle while allowing me to work toward the best chance that after November's election (or January's inauguration), Colorado will only have one Democrat senator.

-- -------

ADDENDUM:

I would like to preemptively counter those who will, as some already have, tried to paint me as some sort of "establishment" Republican. Perhaps some of my own words, publicly written, are the best evidence against that ridiculous charge:

I couldn't be more disgusted with President Bush. I couldn't be happier that he's leaving. After this sad turn of events, it's hard to imagine that even our incoming socialist president could be much worse. Well, it's not that hard to imagine, but the lesser of two evils is still evil, and I remain exceptionally proud that I never voted for George W. Bush. Like the doctor who abandons the Hippocratic Oath, Bush abandoned capitalism and the Constitution at the same time.

and

McCain’s decreased popularity comes from a widening realization that he is a political opportunist, basically a statist, and despite his “war hero” status he is no better than any other politician and in many ways worse.

and

Are Republicans united behind Charlie Crist? As a Republican I certainly hope not, and I’m certain that the voting base is less united than current Republican Senators seem to be. Indeed, although I do not live in Florida, I have contributed to Marco Rubio’s campaign.

and (in 2006)

(P)art of me is exceptionally glad that a Republican party which spent the way they did, and didn't make a serious attempt at reforming taxes, entitlements, earmarks, etc., got kicked in the teeth.

In sum, my support of candidates is almost never based on party considerations.  Although I am a registered Republican, I spent quite a few years as a registered Libertarian and my politics are guided by small-l libertarian or even Objectivist principles far more than any other, or all other, considerations.  Any claim that I am an "establishment" guy is simply laughable.

  • Harry
    Comment from: Harry
    06/11/10 @ 07:04:42 am

    Ross: I am sorry you made this decision. While I am sure Jane Norton knows this and Josh Penry knows this, in 2008 Buck was the Weld County Chair for Mitt Romney's campaign. Josh Penry was the State Chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. Essentially, you were lied to by Norton and were not dilligent enough to check out the facts.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/11/10 @ 07:08:58 am

    Harry, I'll ask about this and notate my article as appropriate when I get a response. One thing: The stuff about Buck was a quote from Norton and presented as such. I did not vouch for it being anything other than that and therefore felt no need to research it. I would hope, however, that the content of the quote is true. And to the extent that it's wrong, I'd hope it was caused by Norton's simply not knowing what Buck did during that time (rather than someone lying to me.) I don't believe Norton would lie to me...and I'm pretty sure she didn't coordinate her answer to me with Josh or anyone else since I was conversing with her via her private e-mail, not through her campaign. RGK

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/11/10 @ 08:21:18 am

    Harry, Here is the response from Josh Penry: RGK ------------- Your commentor missed the whole point. Did Buck sit out the election for all those months and months and months when the Republican primary was over and settled? If Ken wants to burn Jane at the political stake for voting for McCain, I wonder what he says to the rest of the red-blooded conservatives who did the same because they were scared to death of Obama. As Jane so forcefully pointed out in the second part of her quote: who cares! McCain was wrong on cap-and-trade and Buck's political patron Jim DeMint was dead wrong to support George Bush's big spending tendencies by voting to increase the debt ceiling. McCain is highly imperfect, and DeMint has his share of warts too. All of which is completely and totally irrelevant to the primary here. Jane said it well: she could give two rips what the Good Ol' Boys in Washington think or want. They all have been wrong far too often, and she's running to shake things up and make it right.

  • Harry
    Comment from: Harry
    06/11/10 @ 09:36:32 am

    I read the spin from Josh: Did Josh know Buck was the county Chair, like he was, of the Romney campaign? Did Jane Norton, who was the State Chair for McCain know the Buck was the county Chair of the Romney campaign? Did she have a memory lapse? Or what is the explanation? All Josh did was avoid answering the question. You can endorse whoever you want to, but if the basis of it is a lie, that should be disclosed.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/11/10 @ 09:41:04 am

    Harry, Josh told me he didn't know that Buck was county Chair until he looked it up today. I presume that's true, but it's something Jane probably could/should have researched before sending me that comment. I have to say it didn't occur to me that something so basic would be wrong and I'm not very pleased. Still, it's not good that Jane was wrong on a basic fact like that and I don't like that it makes me look like I'm spreading misinformation. I have asked an associate of Ken's to get a response from Ken or his campaign, and I will run it on these pages and PPC if they do send me one. RGK

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/12/10 @ 07:36:06 am

    Harry, I have added an "update" in the original endorsement note and written the following correction article: http://rossputin.com/blog/index.php/norton-endorsement-update-correction Ross

  • Michael_Dugas
    Comment from: Michael_Dugas
    06/19/10 @ 04:01:06 am

    Rossputin, What's your take on Norton's support of that 2005 ballot initiative called Referendum C. Which is looked at as the biggest tax increase in your state’s history. Though I am not a one issue voter that bit of support on her side would be an issue for me. There is also a bit of fear, though I concede not proven yet, that she is going to go soft on immigration. She has stated that she feels she needs to pander to the latino vote to win and to many that's immigration reform. Do you think that's a possibility?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/19/10 @ 07:57:47 am

    Michael, That's also been one of my big questions. My sense, based on talking to her, but I wouldn't stake my life on it, is that Jane was against Ref C but as the Lt. Governor did not feel free to oppose it. Some people say that, if true, her action (or inaction) shows negatively on her leadership. Others, including me, have a hard time arguing that she should have resigned her job over the issue. I don't recall ever considering her a major (or even minor) force for Ref C and I was deeply involved in opposing it, including debating at least two state legislators who supported it. As for immigration, I'm not sure what to do with that question. She's clearly against amnesty, as am I. But she's not a nativist, close-the-borders-to-everyone opponent of immigration in a broader sense. When she and I spoke about the issue, she said she supported an essentially market-based approach to immigration combined with strong enforcement of the border. I agree with that approach. (Ken Buck's answer was, as I recall, nearly identical to Jane's on the question of immigration.) I doubt very much that she said she "needs to pander to the latino vote". Please clarify what you mean by that. On the other hand, it's reasonable for any politician to want to get as many votes as he/she can without going outside of one's principles to get them.

  • Michael_Dugas
    Comment from: Michael_Dugas
    06/19/10 @ 10:52:43 am

    Pander was a poor choice of words. She's going to campaign for Latino votes, common sense if you live in a district with a significant Latino population. But how do you garner those votes that you have stated you need to win, being a Republican, without addressing amnesty/immigration reform in a manner that those voters would consider positive and thus worth voting for her. Give and Take is a function of politics and it's hard not to worry about what will be offered for that consideration. I also wanted to say, on a side note, that I really enjoy the way you write and the manner in which you present your thoughts and ideas. Well put together work that lends to discussion and an exchange of thoughts and ideas is a rare find. Thanks.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    06/19/10 @ 11:04:09 am

    Michael, Thanks for the compliment. Your question raises the broader issue of the GOP and immigration. Republicans should not be, and should endeavor to keep themselves from being portrayed as, xenophobic and broadly anti-immigrant. There is nothing wrong with campaigning for Latino votes if you do it on the basis of policy suggestions you honestly believe, which for Jane (and I think for Ken) include a desire to increase our nation's level of legal immigration based on the supply and demand from our economy. I believe both Jane and Ken think it's ridiculous that we train foreign engineers and then don't give them work visas, so they go back to Asia or Europe and compete against us. I believe that many Hispanics who went through the system and became citizens or resident aliens (green card holders) legally do feel some resentment for the illegals who, to some degree, make all Hispanics look bad. So, wanting to enforce the borders while allowing, even increasing, legal immigration -- maybe with a migrant/temporary worker program -- is a system which Republicans should support and which should be explicable in a way which is attractive to Latino voters. The GOP doesn't need to go anywhere near "amnesty" to win at least enough Latino voters to win elections. The GOP should also emphasize the values of hard work and family which are very common among Hispanics -- and not so common among Democrats.