Kopp taps Ortegon as running mate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Kopp named former Pueblo City Councilwoman Vera Ortegon as his running mate on Friday, saying the Colombia-born microbiologist embodied what he called the “three C’s” — character, conservatism and competence.

“I like to call her the Colombian Hurricane,” Kopp said at a hotel in Denver as the candidates stood alongside Shannon and Anthony, their smiling spouses, and a room full of cheering supporters.

“This is unbelievable, really unbelievable, a smiling Ortegon said. “It is a great honor for me. I stand here tall and proud,” she said at the announcement. “In my wildest, wildest dreams,” she added, “I would never have thought that this immigrant would be standing here hoping to be the next lieutenant governor.”

Mike Kopp and and Vera Ortegon greet one another before the official announcement in Denver naming her the lieutenant governor candidate.

If Kopp wins the June 24 primary — mail ballots went out this week and are already being cast — the pair will face Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and his lieutenant governor, Joe Garcia, who also hails from Pueblo.

Shannon and Mike Kopp listen as Vera Ortegon talks about herself. Her husband Anthony stands proudly next to her.

Kopp is the first of the four GOP candidates for governor to announce his pick for the No. 2 spot on the ticket. The other three running are Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former U.S. Reps. Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo.

The team of Mike Kopp and Vera Ortegon at the official announcement in Denver. They then embarked for Pueblo and Colorado Springs to make their announcements.
Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

The Kopp campaign made the initial introduction of Ortegon in Denver and planned additional announcements in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Ortegon said she was holding a fundraiser for the campaign on Friday evening, an event she said had been planned before she made the decision to join the ticket last week.

“Vera can help us win this race,” Kopp said, contending that every poll shows the primary contest “wide open.” (Recent publicly released polls show Tancredo and Beauprez ahead of the pack with Kopp running fourth, though polls also show there is a large bloc of undecided voters.)

“She came to the U.S. to pursue her dream and with hard work, faith and determination,” Kopp said, adding, “she exemplifies the best of America and our future.”

Ortegon, who was born in Colombia and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1976, said, “When I held that certificate in my hand, I felt so empowered and I saw so much opportunity… That’s why, for me, I want to be sure that we secure our borders. I want every immigrant who comes to the United States to feel the passion, to feel the opportunity and empowerment that a naturalized citizen can do.”

Kopp referred to Ortegon as the “Colombian Hurricane” two weeks ago at a gubernatorial debate devoted to women’s issues, naming her when asked to talk about a woman the candidates respected. Ortegon nominated Kopp at the Republican State Assembly in Boulder in April, where the former state senator took top line on the primary ballot.

Ortegon ran for a state Senate seat in 2010 but lost to Democrat Angela Giron, who was recalled by voters last year over her support for strict gun laws. She served two terms on the Pueblo City Council after winning election in 2007.

— Ernest@coloradostatesman.com

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