GOP Guv campaigns amp up as ballots drop

The Colorado Statesman

Secretary of State Scott Gessler took aim at two of his Republican gubernatorial primary rivals in a TV ad that began airing this week as Colorado voters began receiving ballots for the all-mail election.

And for the second reporting period in a row, Gessler raised more money than the other Republican candidates, although opposing campaigns point out that he only edged former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo by a nose and that former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez has nearly twice as much money in the bank after loaning himself $100,000.

Meanwhile, the fourth candidate, former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, completed a bicycle tour across the state’s mid-section.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez greets supporters at a lunchtime get-out-the-vote rally on June 3 at the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association headquarters in Denver.

Each of the four GOP candidates boasts that he’s the one with the momentum to emerge victorious when ballots are counted on June 24.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo asks for a vote in the June 24 primary from a voter in West Denver on June 1, the day before county clerks mailed ballots. Accompanying Tancredo is supporter Cheryl Sanchez.

According to a poll commissioned by the Beauprez campaign, it’s a two-man race between Beauprez and Tancredo, who have both run for governor previously and are in a virtual tie among Republicans. (Beauprez lost to Democrat Bill Ritter by nearly 17 points in 2006 and Tancredo, running on a third-party ticket, lagged incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper in the last gubernatorial election by 14 points, same year GOP nominee Dan Maes scored just above single digits.) But the Gessler campaign says its internal polling shows that the large group of undecided voters is moving toward its candidate.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Kopp bumps fists with Chris Schroeder at the top of Monarch Pass during the candidate’s six-day bicycle tour across Colorado.
Photo courtesy of Kopp campaign

The winner of the crowded primary will take on Hickenlooper, who continues to hold a commanding lead in fundraising.

“Bob Beauprez lost in 2006. Tom Tancredo lost in 2010,” says a narrator in an ad for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Gessler that began airing this week. “They’re both running again but we can’t risk losing again,” the ad continues. Gessler is in a four-way primary with Mike Kopp and the two past gubernatorial candidates.

Gessler, who has embraced the nickname “Honey Badger” — bestowed by political opponents for his enthusiasm for a fight — took his argument to the airwaves with an initial $90,000 ad buy on cable statewide and on broadcast stations in the Colorado Springs market.

Regina Thomson, past president of the Colorado Patriot Coalition and current field organizer for the National Rifle Association, greets former GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve House at a rally for former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, one of four Republicans who made the June 24 primary ballot, on June 3 at the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association building in Denver.

“Bob Beauprez lost in 2006. Tom Tancredo lost in 2010,” the narrator intones over scary graphics depicting the two former congressmen. “They’re both running again but we can’t risk losing again. We need Scott Gessler, a proven conservative who’s already defeated a Democrat incumbent. The choice is clear: Four more years of liberal John Hickenlooper or genuine, conservative change.”

Former state Sen. Nancy Spence greets Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, at the organization’s Denver headquarters at a rally on June 3 for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez the day after primary election ballots were mailed.

Tancredo also released a TV ad this week, featuring the former congressman riding his Harley — including a cameo appearance by campaign manager Brian Dotterer perched on a scooter, looking for all the world like Hickenlooper, who rode a similar vehicle in a Denver mayoral race ad.

Fruita City Councilor Stacey Mascarenas and former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland flank Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Kopp in Grand Junction on May 30 as the candidate prepares to embark on a 436-mile, six-day cycling tour across Colorado.
Photo courtesy of Kopp campaign

“This commercial drives home the three themes we’ve been pushing, that Tom is most likely to win because he has the most support from independents, that he is the proven conservative leader because he’s led by actions, and that he’s the outsider that will fight the liberals in both parties,” said Dotterer, who described the statewide cable buy as “modest.”

Former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp rides alongside cycling companion Chris Schroeder during the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s bicycle tour across the state last week.
Photo courtesy of Kopp campaign

Tancredo emerged ahead of the pack in an internal Beauprez poll released to the media this week, though his lead over Beauprez was within the poll’s margin of error.

“We need Scott Gessler, a proven conservative who’s already defeated a Democrat incumbent,” says the narrator of a TV ad for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Gessler. The ad points out that two of Gessler’s primary opponents have already run for governor and lost by wide margins.

The automated survey conducted at the end of May showed Tancredo at 27 percent support, Beauprez at 25 percent, Gessler with 13 percent and Kopp at 10 percent. A full 25 percent of respondents were undecided, according to a memo on the poll from Beauprez campaign manager Dustin Olson. Beauprez was the only candidate whose support has increased since the same firm polled likely primary voters a month earlier, Olson wrote. The poll had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.32 percent.

“Today as Republicans start to receive their ballots, Bob is well positioned to win the primary, which gives Republicans their best opportunity to defeat Hickenlooper and return strong leadership to Colorado,” Olson said on Tuesday. He added: “The numbers are clear. Bob is the man to beat.”

Dotterer chuckled at the Beauprez campaign’s enthusiasm releasing the poll, joking that his rival’s campaign “took great pride in publicizing the fact he’s not winning.” What’s more, he said, the Tancredo campaign believes the undecided voters are breaking for Tancredo, although the Gessler campaign says it’s detecting the same movement.

The Gessler campaign also trumpeted its lead in the two most recent biweekly fundraising reports, in particular noting its candidate raised nearly twice what Beauprez — seen as the favorite of the moneyed establishment — managed to haul in.

“Thanks to tremendous grassroots support we’ve finished another fundraising report in first place, allowing us to run an aggressive ad campaign that highlights my record and conservative vision,” Gessler said in a statement.

Gessler reported raising $39,794 during the final two weeks of May, for a total of $490,039. He has $69,143 on hand after spending $90,000 on the TV ads. Tancredo was just behind, reporting $38,627 raised for a total of $751,722 and $63,412. Kopp, who won top line on the ballot at the GOP state assembly in April, came in third, raising $24,365, for a total of $244,008 with $30,034 in the bank. Beauprez, who only entered the race in early March, raised $21,860 for a total of $258,850 with $115,996 on hand. He loaned himself $100,000 for a total of $320,000.

“Gessler can say he came out ahead, but that’s not a substantive difference,” Dotterer said this week. “The difference between all four candidates is not enough to translate to anybody being able to move the needle through spending.”

Hickenlooper again led the pack in fundraising, reporting $113,300 raised during the two-week period for a total of $2,802,004. He has $832,319 on hand after spending $900,000 to reserve airtime in the fall. The Democrat even had a maxed-out contribution from a former Republican gubernatorial candidate. Marc Holtzman — he lost his bid for the GOP nomination to Beauprez in 2006 — donated $1,100 to Hickenlooper during the most recent reporting period, records show.

Kopp, who on Wednesday wrapped up a 10-city, six-day bicycle tour from Grand Junction to Holly — passing through some of the most scenic and steep precincts in the state — scored the endorsement this week of the hard-line Rocky Mountain Gun Owners PAC. (RMGO had earlier endorsed state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, before he failed to make the ballot.)

“During his two terms in the Colorado State Senate, I never had to worry about Mike Kopp voting wrong on our right to keep and bear arms — NOT ONCE!” said RMGO Executive Director Dudley Brown. “That’s why, in the upcoming Republican Primary, I believe former State Senator Mike Kopp is the clear choice to be Colorado’s next Governor.”

Beauprez and Tancredo both have top ratings from the National Rifle Association, their campaign spokesmen pointed out, though that organization is considered soft on Second Amendment Rights by Brown’s group.

Tancredo also won a coveted endorsement this week, gaining the backing of the El Paso County Tea Party.

“Our great state of Colorado yearns for a Governor who will put the citizens’ rights above the power-protecting politicians and big business who want to control our state,” wrote the conservative group’s Amy Miller in a statement. “Tom is THE Candidate for Colorado Governor who will stand in front of the encroaching Federal Government bureaucracy and enforce our State’s Rights; the 10th Amendment. The ‘Freedom to Live YOUR Life’ surpasses all political barriers.”

Republican state House candidate David Dobson answers the door as gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo walks a West Denver precinct on June 1. Dobson is running against state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and said he’s making up his mind between Tancredo and another of the four GOP candidates on the June 24 primary ballot.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo hugs supporter Frances Moore, who says she’s switching her affiliation from Democrat to Republican so she can vote for Tancredo in the four-way primary this month. “I appreciate his honesty,” she says on June 1 after Tancredo finished walking a precinct near her West Denver home.
Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman


Ernest@coloradostatesman.com

See the June 6 print edition for full photo coverage.