Beauprez nabs GOP nomination for Guv

The Colorado Statesman

Colorado Republicans Tuesday picked buffalo rancher and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez from a crowded field to run against Gov. John Hickenlooper in the Democrat’s bid for a second term this fall.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo ran a close second in the primary, ahead of Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp. With 94 percent of the vote reported at press time, Beauprez had 30.23 percent, leading Tancredo’s 26.71 percent, Gessler with 23.21 percent and Kopp at 19.85.

“Here’s the question that is on the ballot this fall,” a beaming Beauprez posed to a packed ballroom of supporters at the Denver Athletic Club after the other candidates had called to concede. “Do you trust in people, or do you trust in government?”

Bob Beauprez, surrounded by his family, raises his arms in victory Tuesday night.

“People!” a crowd member responded.

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call takes a “selfie” along with gubernatorial hopeful Tom Tancredo and and Judith Phillips after arriving at Tancredo’s primary night party.

“Say it again,” Beauprez urged the crowd, which obliged with full-throated roars.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler, left, and his campaign director Rory McShane look at their computer as the election results begin to come in shortly after 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.

“You’re not the problem,” said Beauprez, who was surrounded by family members. “Government thinks you are — that’s why they want to regulate you. Everything we think, do, say, manufacture, buy, sell, they want to regulate it. If they could tax and regulate your imagination, they’d do that too. Not me. Not me.”

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mike Kopp and his wife, Shannon, pass through the pro shop on the way into his primary night party at the Fox Hollow Golf Course in Lakewood.

Beauprez entered the race late, joining seven other declared candidates, in early March, the day before precinct caucuses. Like Tancredo, he petitioned onto the ballot and decided against asking state assembly delegates for an endorsement. Kopp took top-line at the assembly, edging out Gessler, who had the most support in a precinct-night straw poll that was conducted in some counties.

Mary Estill Buchanan, a Boulder Republican who won the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate in 1980, celebrates with Beauprez on Tuesday night.

“Nobody’s really laid a hand on Gov. Hickenlooper or exposed his record,” Beauprez told reporters minutes after accepting the nomination.

“On day one,” Beauprez told the crowd, “I’ll freeze all non-essential regulations. We’ll go through every agency, every function of government, every rule, every regulation with a singular focus, a singular question: Is it pro-freedom, is it pro-individual opportunity, does it build up, does it trust in individuals, or does it deny individuals?”

As he has during the primary campaign, Beauprez ripped the Democrat for what he has termed an indecisive, wishy-washy leadership style, typified by his administration’s civic engagement initiative, dubbed “To Be Determined,” or TBD.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo reads initial vote results on a borrowed cell phone right after polls closed at his primary night party in Lakewood. The first totals showed Tancredo ahead in the four-way race for the gubernatorial nomination but subsequent updates vaulted former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez into the lead.

“TBD is not leadership,” Beauprez said. “TBD is punting. This governor’s decided to punt too many times, and I think Colorado deserves better.”

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo throws up his hands and smiles after telling supporters that it looks like primary rival Bob Beauprez will win the Republican gubernatorial nod on June 24 in Lakewood. “It’s in God’s hands,” Tancredo said throughout his year-long campaign and at least a few times on primary night.

Even though a number of Republican business leaders backed Hickenlooper’s first run, Beauprez said that the governor’s record will be enough to pull many of them back toward the GOP nominee.

Scott Gessler hugs his 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, at his campaign watch party at Brooklyn’s on Tuesday night.

He called last year’s legislative session the most “anti-business, most extreme” in the state’s history and blasted Hickenlooper for signing every bill the General Assembly passed.

Mike Kopp’s pick for lieutenant governor, former Pueblo City Councilwoman Vera Ortegon, stands in the middle of Kopp family members on primary night at the Fox Hollow Golf Course in Lakewood. From left, Kopp’s daughter Meghan, his sister Kelly Loftis, his father, Don Kopp, and his wife’s uncle Oliver Harper.
Photos by Ernest Luning and Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“You can’t both be pro-business, ‘party-doesn’t-matter,’ and sign everything that they put on your desk, and he did,” Beauprez said.

“On day one,” Beauprez told the crowd, “I’ll freeze all non-essential regulations. We’ll go through every agency, every function of government, every rule, every regulation with a singular focus, a singular question: Is it pro-freedom, is it pro-individual opportunity, does it build up, does it trust in individuals, or does it deny individuals?”

Observers counted Beauprez’ victory as a win for establishment Republicans, who came out in force to deny the nomination to the fiercely conservative Tancredo, who, like Beauprez, has run for governor before and also lost by double-digit margins.

“This is the only guy who could beat Hickenlooper, and he’s going to do it,” said former state Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, at the Beauprez victory party. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who dropped her bid for the U.S. Senate seat when U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in four months ago, agreed.

“It’s a great night for Republicans because I think all seats are in play,” Stephens said over the noise of the celebratory crowd. “Bob helps Cory, Cory helps Bob, Bob helps down-ticket. It’s a great thing.”

Beauprez was the GOP nominee for governor eight years ago but lost to Democrat Bill Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, in a 16-point blow-out. Beauprez, who was in his second term in Congress when he ran against Ritter, told The Colorado Statesman earlier this year that he learned the lessons of the 2006 loss, attributing his campaign’s missteps in large part on the difficulty of running statewide mostly on weekends while working in Washington. (Tancredo ran against Hickenlooper in 2010 on the American Constitution Party ticket, bolting the GOP after political novice and tea party favorite Dan Maes won the Republican nomination. Tancredo, who came in second, lagged the Democrat by 14 points.)

In the waning days of this year’s all-mail primary — voters began casting ballots three weeks before they were counted on Tuesday night — Tancredo was hit from all sides and boosted by national Democrats, who ran ads calling him “too conservative” for Colorado.

“They were trying to manipulate our nomination process, our primary process,” Beauprez said on Tuesday afternoon in an interview, discussing a heavy round of advertising from a group funded largely by the Democratic Governors Association. “I think most people around the state think that’s repulsive,” he said, noting that his campaign had hit back hard to “educate” voters that the opposition preferred Tancredo be the nominee. “We’re hoping it backfired on them.”

Although the first results posted just after 7 p.m. on the official state returns site showed Tancredo ahead, Beauprez took the lead and maintained it with each subsequent update. Soon after 7:30 p.m., after huddling with campaign staff, a sanguine Tancredo — the election, he said throughout the campaign, was “in God’s hands” — thanked supporters gathered at the clubhouse in his Lakewood neighborhood and called Beauprez to congratulate him.

“I will do everything I can — everything I can,” said Tancredo, clad in a personalized barbecue apron, to his former rival. “We have one goal, only one goal, and that’s to get rid of Hickenlooper.” Tancredo pledged to do “whatever it takes,” including “going door-to-door on my knees” or even keeping a low profile, if that’s what Beauprez wants.

He also thanked Beauprez for his early endorsement of Tancredo’s third-party bid against Hickenlooper four years ago, saying he would “never forget” the move.

“You were the very first person, the very first Republican, ever to come out and support me, and that took guts,” Tancredo said.

Tancredo supporter Jan Heron, who lives in Evergreen — she’s voted for Tancredo every time he’s been on the ballot since moving from California two decades ago — begrudgingly acknowledged that she’ll vote for Beauprez in November, but she isn’t happy about it.

“I’ll have to,” she said. “Being a friend of Tom’s, and what they pulled, I think the voters are sick and tired of it. It’s just dirty politics.” Conservatives, she added, are justifiably “annoyed” at the campaign run by Beauprez and his backers, who attacked Tancredo in ads that asked if he was really as conservative as he claimed.

“We saw what happened to California as a result of illegal immigration,” Heron said. “Tom’s been the only one in Colorado who’s really been at the forefront of it. That’s my issue — you may think it’s a single issue, but it really affects every fabric of society. Now is the time to get tough,” she added, “because Colorado’s going to be the next dumping ground.”

A few miles away, the Kopp campaign gathered supporters — including former Pueblo City Councilwoman Vera Ortegon, the Colombia-born microbiologist he named as his pick for lieutenant governor a couple weeks earlier — in the clubhouse at Lakewood’s Fox Hollow Golf Course and smiled through his swollen left eye, the result of a bee sting suffered the day before.

Saying he’d heard from his wife’s cousin that a bee sting is good luck — an online search verified the folk wisdom, saying, “If a bee lands on your head, good fortune is headed your way,” Kopp noted — he said shortly before the polls closed that he hoped he would prevail but was ready to back the nominee.

“I’ve had to do this work in the past,” said Kopp, who won his state Senate seat following a divisive primary, “and I’ll absolutely do everything I can to pull our party together and make sure we unite and win the governor’s seat this fall. What happens tonight ends this leg of the journey.”

At his primary-night party at Brooklyn’s on the edge of Lower Downtown, Gessler called Beauprez a “good man” and a “gentleman,” pledging to help party’s ticket and urging his supporters to do the same.

“At the end of the day, the cause is bigger than ourselves — it’s bigger than any one of us,” Gessler told the crowd. “The cause is what type of society we’re going to live in, what type of future we’re going to have.” He continued: “Hickenlooper is wrong for the state of Colorado. He is wrong. He is a big government guy.”

The head of the national organization dedicated to electing Republican governors toasted the Beauprez win.

“There is no doubt Bob Beauprez is ready and willing to step up and make Colorado strong again,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who heads the Republican Governors Association. “An experienced leader with Colorado roots that run deep, Beauprez has what it takes to revitalize the state’s economy, create good jobs and ensure opportunities for everyone eager to live, work and raise a family in the state. It’s time for Colorado to join the ranks of red states leading the country, and the Republican Governors Association is proud to support Bob Beauprez for governor.”

While Democrats might have hoped Tancredo was the nominee — his harsh, anti-illegal immigration rhetoric was like catnip for a party hoping to boost turnout among the state’s growing Hispanic population in a difficult mid-term election — they sounded as though they believe Beauprez will also be a fruitful target Asserting that Beauprez has taken plenty of positions “to the far right of the Republican Party and way out of Colorado’s mainstream,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio previewed what could be aggressive lines of attack against the GOP nominee in a statement blasted out on primary night.

“While all of the Republican primary opponents had fuel for fodder, Bob Beauprez takes the cake,” Palacio said. “Not only is Congressman Beauprez a willing participant, but he’s an active antagonist, instigator and spreader of misinformation and Tea Party ideas.”

Palacio went on to lash Beauprez for saying he would sign a bill “that would ban abortion without exceptions for victims of rape and incest and continue the extreme Republican agenda of limiting access to birth control.” In addition, the Democrat slammed Beauprez on immigration, noting the Republican once said he preferred a “cleansing process,” that would “force 11 million undocumented immigrants, including women and children, to ‘go home.’”

For his part, Hickenlooper had kind words for his rival while boasting about his own record.

“I congratulate Congressman Beauprez and look forward to a positive conversation about the future of our state,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Over the past four years we’ve seen Colorado go from 40th to fourth in job creation, and we’ve seen unemployment drop from 9 percent to 5.8 percent. We’re committed to keeping that positive momentum going until Colorado is number one in the country for job creation.”

See the June 27, 2014 print edition for full photo coverage.