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The influential conservative group FreedomWorks endorsed Colorado prosecutor Ken Buck's campaign for Senate Tuesday, becoming the latest domino to fall in the Weld County district attorney's direction as he challenges former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the Republican primary.
Dick Armey, the former congressman who heads the Washington-based group, called Buck "the clear choice for true conservatives in this election."
"He has enough common sense to recognize that a nation cannot tax its way to growth or spend its way to prosperity. There is a shortage of that kind of thinking in Washington right now," Armey said.
A spokesman for FreedomWorks said its 11,000 Colorado members overwhelmingly favored Buck over Norton, whose support for a 2005 ballot initiative suspending state spending limits very likely sunk her with fiscal conservative activists.
"The mood of our members was not that she was horrible, but she seemed to have more of the establishment baggage," said Rob Jordon, the managing director of FreedomWorks PAC. "There wasn't a real big skeleton in the closet — with the exception of her support for Referendum C."
Buck is the sixth Republican Senate candidate to win the support of FreedomWorks; he joins Utah's Mike Lee, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, Florida's Marco Rubio, Kentucky's Rand Paul and Nevada's Sharron Angle among the insurgent candidates receiving the group's backing.
Jordan said the Colorado race had long been on the FreedomWorks radar, but the decision to get actively involved came as a result of strong member interest in Buck.
"Our members helped a lot with this one. They really weighed in heavily on his behalf, as being the true blue candidate on the Republican side," Jordan said.
While FreedomWorks does not plan to donate money or run ads on Buck's behalf, Jordan said the group would activate its state-based network to knock on doors, conduct phone banks and hand out yard signs.
"We want to fill the void in the ground game that we see," he said. "Most of the other groups are focused on the air war. Our niche is sort of the ground war."
The Virginia-based Americans for Job Security has already poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into television commercials promoting Buck — spending that has helped sustain the underfunded candidate as he runs against the better-financed Norton. Buck also boasts the backing of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives fund.
Norton's campaign responded to the FreedomWorks announcement by pointing to a list of 21 state lawmakers backing her bid, including state Sen. Josh Penry, who's running her campaign.
"As spending in Washington continues to run wild, we need Jane more than ever. Jane's record on spending is clear. She cuts budgets," said Sen. Keith King of Colorado Springs.
Norton is also backed by the Susan B. Anthony List, the Family Research Council Action PAC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.