The Washington Times - October 18, 2010, 05:55PM

Democrats were quick to blast Republican Ken Buck after he said he believed homosexuality was a choice in a Meet the Press debate Sunday, but those with longer memories may recall that Mr. Buck has been something of a pioneer on gay rights in Colorado.

Last year, Mr. Buck won the first hate-crimes murder conviction in the nation involving a transgender victim. At the time, national gay-rights groups hailed Mr. Buck’s decision as Weld County district attorney to prosecute the killer under the state’s hate-crimes statute.

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Democrats have tried to move the focus of the Senate race to social issues, where they believe Mr. Buck is vulnerable, and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory was quick to oblige by asking the Republican candidate whether he thought being gay was a choice.

“I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice,” said Mr. Buck.

Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet later called his opponent’s views “outside the mainstream,” while the Human Rights Campaign called them “ill-informed” and “extremely dangerous.” The Denver Post ran a story Monday with the headline, “Debate’s spotlight shines on gay issue,” at the top of its front page.

The Rasmussen Reports has Mr. Buck hanging onto a slim lead in the race, but last week moved the contest from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.”

Meanwhile, the Buck campaign is continuing to focus its efforts on economic issues like the national debt, unemployment and taxes.

“Those are the issues people are concerned about, and Michael Bennet is trying to make this about social issues,” said Buck campaign manager John Swartout.