State Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Akron) appeared on several local conservative radio shows over the weekend, discussing the launch of his committee to explore challenging U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) in the 2024 Republican primary.
In a series of interviews, Holtorf echoed complaints against Buck, such as his lack of support for impeaching President Biden, Buck’s rejection of Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, and his criticisms of former President Donald Trump.
In one appearance on KNUS Saturday, Holtorf blasted Buck’s recent actions.
“It sounds treasonous,” Holtorf said on air. “It sounds like you’ve sold your soul to the Democrat Party. It sounds like you have given up on Colorado Republicans, on the nationwide Republican Party, and you’re just looking for a golden parachute to sell out and get your six or seven-figure salary so you can go and aid and abet the enemy.”
Randy Corporon, the host of the show, interrupted Hotorf to suggest a clarification. “I would just caution the use of the word ‘treason’ because specifically treason is, you know, taking up arms against your own government, something like that,” Corporon told Holtorf. “That’s not changing your political perspective or moving away from the people who had supported you or whatever.”
Holtorf quickly clarified that he was not using the legal definition of the term to mean insurrection or conspiracy against the United States. “No, he hasn’t committed a treason, in fact. And I’m not saying that,” said Holtorf. “I’m saying to me it feels like it’s treasonous. It has this feeling that you have just turned away from your party, what you’re supposed to be standing with and why, if you’re a member of the Freedom Caucus, are you standing and fighting with the Freedom Caucus in the House?”
On The Dan Caplis Show Monday, Holtorf briefly described his exploratory committee. “I’ve got a former gubernatorial candidate,” he said. “I’ve got former members of the House Republican staff. I’ve got members of my campaign staff for my state House races, and I’ve got some also what I would call influencers in the Republican Party.”
The Federal Election Commission defines an exploratory committee as a period of “testing the waters” for candidates who are looking to gather more information about running a campaign. The exploratory committee immediately ends as soon as the subject of the committee refers to themselves as a candidate, uses public political advertising to promote a campaign, or raises an unspecified amount of money that signals intent to run for office.
In the radio appearances, Holtorf offered few new criticisms of Buck, but his flirtation with running in the primary puts a face to Buck’s local opponents.
“I’m really trying to help, you know, rebrand and rebuild the Republican Party,” Holtorf said. “And it’s unfortunate because not too long ago, Ken Buck was the chair of the Colorado GOP. And what did he do during that tenure and what has he done post tenure to help Colorado Republicans? And I’m really not seeing it. I’m really not seeing it with the things he’s doing here in recent time.”
Holtorf, a veteran and rancher who won reelection twice after being appointed to the Colorado General Assembly in 2019, has triggered his own share of controversy. In 2021, he referred to a Latino colleague as “Buckwheat,” prompting a reprimand by the Colorado General Assembly, and has made headlines for other incidents including denying climate change, making anti-LGBTQ+ comments, and dropping a handgun as he entered the state Capitol.
Holtorf also told another state representative that he “needed to let go” of his son’s death in the Aurora theater shooting.
Holtorf is not the first primary challenger whom Buck has seen in recent years. In 2022, Bob Lewis ran against the Buck who would go on to be reelected to his fifth term in the House. Against Lewis, Buck won the Republican nomination by a margin of nearly 50 percentage points.
It is yet to be seen what will become of the rift between Buck and others in the Colorado Republican Party in the coming months, especially amidst The New York Post’s rumors of him seeking to join CNN or another cable network as a broadcaster.
Speaking in hypotheticals and careful not to announce his candidacy, Holtorf ended his segment on The Dan Caplis Show by underscoring the funds it would take to challenge Buck.
“And if it looks like it’s favorable and I can raise the money, I’ll I will certainly stand up and put on the armor for the Conservative Party,” he said. “I gotta have the resources to go to battle.”
A leading member of the U.S. House Freedom Caucus, Buck has criticized several far-right initiatives and has emerged as a surprising critic of Trump. Amidst a slew of comments from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over a letter he released that rebutted Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, Buck appeared to have briefly changed his mind on his stance against impeachment inquiries for President Biden, yet affirmed his opposition to the motion in an op-ed published in the Washington Post days later. Despite U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) decision to conduct the impeachment inquiry against Biden, Buck has largely maintained that the inquiry is a distraction from the looming government shutdown.