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Rep. Ken Buck will leave office early

Updated at 4:43 p.m. on Tuesday March 12, 2024

Republican Congressman Ken Buck is leaving office earlier than expected. He made the announcement by email on Tuesday.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Colorado’s 4th District in Congress for the past 9 years,” Buck said in a statement. “I want to thank them for their support and encouragement throughout the years. Today, I announce that I will be leaving Congress at the end of next week. I look forward to remaining involved in our political process , as well as spending more time in Colorado and with my family.

Speaking to reporters, Buck expressed frustration with how this Congress has operated. “This place keeps getting worse. And I don't need to spend my time here.

Last November, Buck said he would not seek re-election but at the time he indicated he planned to finish his remaining term. In his email, Buck said his last day in Congress would be March 22. The House is scheduled to recess for two weeks the following day.

Buck told CPR News his message to his constituents is that he will do his best in his final week. And he said thought had been given to his timing – to minimize the disruption that an election into a vacancy would cause.

“I leave before one of the breaks to minimize this delay. They will have a chance to fill my seat and I think whoever fills that seat for the next Congress and the rest of this Congress will do a great job,” Buck said.

The announcement didn't include any details about what Buck plans to do next, but he did give a hint. He said it's time to talk about how we elect leaders. “This is close to my heart. I don't have an organization to join, I just know in my heart that I want to get involved in this election cycle and work on this issue.

Federal law requires an election to fill Buck's seat, with candidates chosen by each political party's vacancy committees. The authority to schedule an election for a vacancy rests with the governor. On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said he was scheduling elections for the vacancies on June 25, to coincide with the state's primaries.

That means voters in the Fourth Congressional District will receive ballots for two congressional elections in June: an election to fill Buck's seat until the end of the year and a primary race for someone who will replace at the next congress.

A slew of Republicans are trying to replace Buck, including current 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, former radio host Deborah Flora and state Reps. Richard Holtorf and Mike Lynch.

Winning the election for a vacancy could give a candidate a boost in the November general election, in which he or she would be the incumbent.

Meanwhile, Buck's departure threatens to further shrink the Republican majority in the House. The tally currently stands at 219 Republicans to 213 Democrats, with three seats vacant. California holds election for vacancy for former Rep. Kevin McCarthy on March 19. If no candidate obtains a majority of votes in this election, the vote will take place at the end of May.

In a video courtesy of CNN, House Speaker Mike Johnson said he was surprised by Buck's announcement and looked forward to talking with him about it. Buck said he gave Johnson 30 minutes' notice and would likely speak to him in person later in the day.

Buck leaves Congress after a decade

A former prosecutor, Buck was first elected to the House in 2014, after narrowly losing the 2010 Senate race to Michael Bennet. He was part of the Tea Party wave and later joined the House Freedom Caucus. He is known for his strict fiscal conservatism, constantly raising concerns about the country's increasing debt.

But the constitutional conservative, once described as too conservative for Colorado, also adopted positions at odds with most members of his party.

He voted to certify the 2020 presidential election, arguing that Congress had a limited role in approving the vote. He was one of the eight legislators vote to impeach former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He helped block down attempt by GOP Rep. Jim Jordan to become President. And Buck cast doubt on the House Republican effort to impeach President Joe Biden, saying the evidence simply wasn't there.

His legislative achievements include the No TikTok on government devices law and get Camp Amache included in the national park system. Buck also forged alliances across the aisle, which he used to craft a package of Antitrust legislation for Big Tech which cleared the House in the last Congress. He also worked on a bipartisan effort to try to prevent lawmakers from buying and selling stocks.

Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse has worked frequently with Buck over the years, including antitrust effortsthe Amache legislation and Dearfield Education Act. On Tuesday, Neguse said, “I enjoyed serving with him. He is a friend and colleague with whom we have collaborated on many important issues for Colorado and Larimer County, Northern Colorado in particular.

Republican Representative Doug Lamborn, who retires at the end of this termsaid he was very surprised that Buck was leaving at that time, but wished him the best.

He noted that this would result in a smaller Republican majority in the House, which “could complicate things.” Republicans will now only be able to lose a maximum of two votes to pass measures without any Democratic support.

The delegation's oldest member, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, summed up Buck's service this way: “He's a maverick and he calls it like he sees it.” I don’t always agree with him on issues, but I appreciate his confidence in the system and his confidence in the institution of Congress.”

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