Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez formally entered the governor’s race this week, making it eight Republicans hoping to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“I’ve been watching this race and thinking that this was an opportunity to maybe take some turf back for the GOP side, especially given the governor’s record of late,” Beauprez told The Colorado Statesman.
Beauprez said he was stunned that Hickenlooper didn’t veto any legislation last year, despite the Democratic-controlled chambers sending him numerous controversial bills. “Zero, zero vetoes, in what everybody panned as the most extreme session in Colorado history, so I guess that would make him an extreme governor,” he said.
In addition, the former banker said the moribund recovery and what he called Hickenlooper’s abysmal record as a manager prodded him to make another run for governor — he lost to Democrat Bill Ritter by 17 points in 2006 in what was nearly universally derided as a disastrous campaign — but it was the lackluster performance of those already in the race that sealed it for him.
“If you open the paper anymore, day after day, it’s almost like the state auditor’s decided to waterboard the governor’s office. It’s got to be torture there to see what he’s uncovered,” Beauprez said, ticking off problems with the state’s benefits management system and a jobs training program among what he called persistent failures of the Hickenlooper administration.
“It begs the question,” Beauprez said, “if anybody’s really paying attention. Is there an adult in charge? I think there’s a huge vacuum of leadership.”
The other candidates in the primary are former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, state Sen. Greg Brophy, Adams County Republican Party Chairman Steve House and rancher Roni Bell Sylvester. Republicans pick a candidate in a June 24 primary, and the ballot for that election should be in place by the April 12 state assembly. Hickenlooper is unopposed for his party’s nomination to run for a second term.
“I like all of these guys, they’ve been friends of mine, I’ve supported them in the past, they’ve supported me, and I hope we’re friends when we’re done,” Beauprez said. “But it appeared especially with the January finance numbers — the poll that really counts, the fundraising — that nobody was moving to the front of the line. And my phone started ringing a little bit more, and it went from, ‘Would you?’ to ‘Gee, I hope you will,’ to Run, Bob, run,’ so we took inventory at our house and decided the window was open and we’re going to walk through it again.”
While two of the leading GOP Senate candidates withdrew from the race last week when U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in, none of the serious candidates in the even more crowded gubernatorial primary field stepped aside when Beauprez threw in his hat. (Itinerant candidate Jason Clark halted his campaign last weekend and urged the others to “Quit Today and Back Beauprez!” in a Facebook post.)
“Bob Beauprez is welcome to join the race, but we’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well,” Kopp said.
Tancredo, who lost a third-party run against Hickenlooper in 2010, said it was folly to expect candidates who had been campaigning for months to abandon their supporters.
Brophy, who has won a reputation for taking swings at the other candidates this year, termed it the “(definition) of insanity, running Bob again,” in a Twitter posting. He faulted Bauprez for filing paperwork for the race while he was in Washington and unveiling a logo — which disappeared as soon as a TV news station raised questions — that depicted a Wyoming mountain range rather than Colorado peaks.
Democrats hammered Beauprez on similar points.
“It’s appropriate that Bob Beauprez, the consummate Washington insider, and 17-point loser from a bygone era, entered the GOP primary race for Governor of Colorado, while he’s in DC,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman, Rick Palacio in a statement. “His late entry into this race is a sad commentary on an already incredibly weak field.”
Beauprez said he had to wrap up the state GOP’s initial bid presentation for Denver to host the 2016 Republican National Convention before making his race official, which happened on Monday. Beauprez and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a Democrat, were in Washington when the candidate’s campaign filed paperwork to launch his run. He returned to Colorado and started campaigning on Tuesday, hours before Republicans met in precinct caucuses across the state.
Straw polls conducted at Republican caucuses in several counties showed Beauprez running a close second to Gessler — boding well for the late entrant’s chances at making the primary ballot at state assembly — but the candidate said the day after caucuses that his campaign is still determining what route to take to the ballot.
“We’re going to get on the ballot, we’ll either petition or go through caucus or, I guess, technically you can do both. We’re trying to figure that out right now,” he said.
In order to petition on, his campaign would need to gather 1,500 signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts in a little over three weeks, a process already under way. Noting that he jumped in the race for the 7th Congressional District at the same time in March 2002 — he won the closest race in the country that year and served another term before stepping down to run for governor — Beauprez said that getting enough signatures wouldn’t be a problem.
“You’ve just got to scale up. It’s just a matter of enough people knocking on enough doors to get enough signatures. You just do it,” he said.
Asked about the 2006 campaign, Beauprez said there were plenty of lessons learned.
“We did make mistakes,” he said. “Our team wasn’t very cohesive, and I wasn’t very good, apparently, at articulating a message. I didn’t give close to adequate consideration to how difficult it was going to be to be a member of Congress and do my job there and campaign on weekends. Very, very difficult to pull off. You add to that, the environment was very difficult for Republicans, and it was just compounding.”
But this election is a very different situation, he said, and he won’t make the same mistakes.
“We have a new team, I’ve had eight years to reflect and grow, I can get better,” he said. “That’s one notable, very public mistake in my life, but there’s been other times when you stub your toe and something doesn’t go so well, so, the way the old song goes, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and start all over again. I’m ready to go.”
After spending months campaigning throughout Colorado two years ago — Beauprez was a nearly constant presence at Mitt Romney rallies and served as a chief surrogate for the Republican ticket in the state — the candidate said he has also learned how to reach crucial swing voters, including blocs the Democrats have successfully wooed in recent years.
“We have to communicate better. I do think our principles are absolutely correct — more government has proved to be a big failure. It’s never worked anywhere else on the planet, and it’s not working so well here,” he said, pointing to persistently high state food stamp rolls as proof the economy has “flat-lined.”
“What we have to do — what I intend to do — is talk about that. It isn’t about the guys at the top of the ladder, they seem to get along well whatever circumstances exist. People taking it on the chin right now are the very people Democrats — Hickenlooper, Obama and the rest — said that they were going to help and were on the side of — the young, the women, the Hispanics, the blacks, the poor, they’re still waiting. Where’s that hope you’re talking about? They haven’t delivered. That’s who I’m going to be talking to,” he said.
Beauprez brushed back a barrage of attacks from left-leaning blogs and liberal organizations that appeared this week. The website Colorado Pols posted a video and commentary poking Beauprez for warning that the country could be headed toward a civil war. Later in the week, the site claimed Beauprez was trying to have it “both ways” — “Both Ways Bob,” a popular derisive nickname for the Republican, was coined by his 2006 gubernatorial primary opponent but has since become a nearly constant appellation used by Democrats — on his support for “personhood,” the notion that life begins at conception. (Beauprez said that his adamant pro-life stance doesn’t equate to support for the so-called Personhood Amendment to the state constitution, versions of which have been shot down by wide margins by Colorado voters in recent elections.)
“Beauprez is a shining example of everything Republicans in Colorado have gotten wrong in recent years, and to see him run again is more evidence that conservatives have learned nothing from their defeats,” wrote ProgressNow Colorado director Amy Runyon-Harms in a fundraising letter for the liberal attack group.
“I’m glad they noticed,” Beauprez chuckled. “You know the drill. If they didn’t see me as consequential, they wouldn’t bother. That’s the way this game works.”