Bennet, Buck Debate Issues in Fight Over Colo. Senate Seat

Posted October 17, 2010 at 11:17am

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and his challenger, Republican Ken Buck, faced off Sunday in a debate focusing largely on their differences over gay rights, the tea party and Afghanistan.

Buck, who supports the military ban on gay service members, said in the debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes being gay is a lifestyle choice. “You can choose who your partner is,” Buck said. “I think that birth has an influence over, like, alcoholism and some other things, but I think that, basically, you have a choice.”

Bennet said he believes Buck is “outside the mainstream of views on this.”

Speaking with reporters after the show, Buck walked back his comments on whether homosexuality is a choice. He said he was nervous about being on “Meet the Press” for the first time, which fits his campaign strategy of running as a Washington outsider, and explained that while he is no biologist, his “feeling” is that being gay is mostly a choice.

“I’ve never been asked that question before,” Buck said. “Colorado voters are not focused on whether it’s a choice or not.”

On the relevancy of the question, Buck asked, “What gay issues are in front of the United States Senate?” Senate Republicans, with the help of two Democrats, blocked consideration last month of the defense authorization bill, which contained language that would repeal the military ban known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Buck and Bennet also disagreed over how to move forward on Afghanistan.

Bennet said he wanted to begin bringing home troops in July 2011. “I believe the president needs to honor the commitment that he made to begin bringing our troops home,” he said.

Buck said he opposes “artificial deadlines.”

“I don’t think we should be staying there over the long term,” he said. “I don’t believe in deadlines. I don’t believe in telling an enemy when we’re going to withdraw. I need to know what [Gen. David Petraeus] thinks the goals are. And if I agree with those goals, then evaluate at that point.” Petraeus is the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Buck also defended his ties to the tea party movement, saying that it is a “legitimate political movement.”

“And they’re every bit as frustrated with Republicans as they are with Democrats, because the Republicans are every bit as much to blame for the mess that we’re in as the Democrats,” he added. “Folks are not going to try to send the same type of Republican in Washington, D.C., that they’ve sent in the past.”

Buck also fought charges that he changed his political positions to be more centrist after the primary election.

Bennet described Buck as a political opportunist. “I think it’s very clear that he ran a primary election saying that he would privatize Social Security, that he would demolish the Department of Education, that the American people need to wean themselves off of student loans,” Bennet said.
Speaking with reporters after the show, Bennet said the candidates’ differences were evident.

“I think you saw a pretty clear contrast,” Bennet said. “There’s also been a clear contrast between his primary campaign and his general election campaign. And I think you saw that today.”

Early voting begins Monday in Colorado, and Bennet said he believes he is in good shape.

“I think we’re slightly ahead,” he said. “Every single poll is within the margin of error now, and I think that’s right.”

With just more than two weeks to go until the election, both parties believe they have a chance to win. Bennet said this was expected in a swing state like Colorado, with its two well-funded and organized candidates, during a challenging election cycle for Democrats.

“The fact that this race is as close as it is shouldn’t come as a surprise in these tough times,” he said.