Four Republicans are vying to be the lone candidate to run against Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall. But with the primary election coming up June 24, only two of the candidates participated in a taped debate hosted by CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television.
Debate organizers knew ahead of time that former congressman Tom Tancredo never planned to be a part of the hourlong program. But Secretary of State Scott Gessler didn’t show up – even though his campaign confirmed that he would.
That left plenty of time for former congressman Bob Beauprez and one time Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp to debate and discuss their fellow candidates and Governor John Hickenlooper.
“I fault him for not really leading. I challenge anyone to tell me what the Hickenlooper vision is,” Beauprez said. “In the legislature instead of the Governor’s agenda it seems that he looks at anything they send him and he tries to deal with it then, maybe it’s a lead from behind strategy.”
Candidate Mike Kopp said the Governor should have issued vetoes on the slate of gun control bills passed in 2013.
“The Governor should have made a decision, not punted when it came to the murderer Nathan Dunlap and also the Governor tried to push a billion dollar tax increase on a down economy and if he’s reelected he’ll do it again,” Kopp said.
There’s not much daylight between the two candidates on policy but there are some differences. For instance Kopp supports the personhood amendment, Beauprez does not. And Kopp doesn’t back civil unions while Beauprez does.
Of all the candidates, Beauprez said he’s the most qualified to be Colorado’s next Governor.
“Lifetime of experience I’ve had in rural Colorado, urban Colorado, the business experience, running a bank, real estate development, Congress. All of those have prepared me well,” he said.
But it’s not his first go around. Beauprez lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Bill Ritter back in 2006. He entered this race late – having to petition his way onto the ballot and narrowly making it.
“John Elway lost a Super Bowl and thankfully we didn’t get rid of him, or Peyton Manning. Politics is little bit that way,” Beauprez said. “Ronald Reagan ran twice before he was the nominee for President. It’s not the first set back I’ve had to learn from and I have learned.”
Meanwhile Mike Kopp is the only Republican Party candidate in the field who hasn’t run for statewide office. Kopp got on the ballot through the state assembly where he won top billing. He said the race is wide-open and he believes bringing a fresh voice to the party will help the GOP.
“We’ve been doing things that haven’t been working so well as a party, as a result we haven’t had the influence in the state that we should be having,” Kopp said. “I understand I’m the underdog in the race. I’ve had the longest row to hoe.”
Even though he hasn’t participated in any candidate debates, a Democratic group is running a TV ad praising former congressman Tom Tancredo and blasting Bob Beauprez, indicating that Democrats would prefer that Tancredo be the one to face off against Governor John Hickenlooper. Kopp said that would be a mistake because Tancredo may not appeal to a broad section of voters.
“The perception around Tom is that he’s not just hawkish on immigration but he’s something more than that. And he has to figure out a way to cope with that if he gets into the general election. Clearly there have been shifts in the state and Republicans have to be responsive,” Kopp said.
Whoever wins the primary June 24 will face a tough match up against Governor Hickenlooper. While the Governor has gotten backlash for supporting stricter gun laws and tougher renewable energy standards, he’s personally popular. In 2010, he easily beat the Republican candidate Dan Maes and the American Constitution party candidate Tom Tancredo.
The candidates debate appears below courtesy of Colorado Public Television