DENVER — Republicans competing for their party's nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Udall bashed the Democratic senator at a debate Tuesday night but offered few disagreements among themselves.
All of the candidates called for repealing the Affordable Care Act, opposed same-sex marriage, argued against raising the minimum wage and don't believe in human-caused global warming. They also agreed that Udall, a longtime Colorado congressman elected to the Senate in 2008, should go.
"Mark Udall has done this country a great disservice during his service in Washington, D.C.," said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who is considered the front-runner in the race. "He needs to leave."
Buck narrowly lost a 2010 challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and some Republicans argue that his gaffes in that race disqualify him this year. Asked about that, Buck said, "I'm a better candidate than I was four years ago."
State Rep. Amy Stephens said she was concerned about how Buck had been a drag to the Republican ticket in 2010. She then defended her vote the following year to set up Colorado's health exchange by calling it "the lesser of two evils." Without the state exchange, Coloradans would have to buy health care through the troubled federal site.
Conservative activists have attacked Stephens for her vote, but Buck defended her. Though he disagreed with it, he called Stephens "a person who's stood up for Republican values again and again and again."
State Sen. Owen Hill, who has support from former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, caught some flak for agreeing with the libertarian former presidential candidate's opposition to the country's recent wars.
"We've bought into, unfortunately, an old Cold War mentality that we need to be deployed all over the place," Hill said.
But, in general, the candidates saved their fire for Udall, lashing the incumbent for regularly voting to support President Barack Obama's agenda and helping pass his health care package.
Also at the debate were businessmen Mark Aspiri and Floyd Trujillo and perennial GOP candidate Tom Janich. State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the seventh candidate in the primary, did not attend the debate.