GOP Primary Should Bring Clarity to Gov Race

June 24 2014, 10:50 AM

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After months of speeches and ads and political parrying, Colorado Republicans will finally get to weigh in today as the state's primary election gets underway.

In the marquee event—Congressional districts 4 and 5 are also on the docket—we'll likely know by tonight who the GOP's candidate to potentially unseat Governor John Hickenlooper will be. Because polling in this race has been virtually non-existent, we're left to guess at the results. Based on the so-called "buzz," and a reading of various local and state political news media, the contest seems to be between Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo, with Scott Gessler and Mike Kopp the apparent also-rans.

The key word here is "apparent," because closed primaries are tricky things to predict, especially in Colorado. This phase of the election is open only to registered Republicans, so a strong conservative turnout could benefit Tancredo or Kopp. But because Beauprez and Gessler are viewed as the more mainstream GOP candidates with the best chance to oust Hickenlooper, the establishment wing of the party is probably hoping one of them pulls ahead.

All the candidates have their drawbacks: Kopp is relatively unknown, Tancredo is widely known but also highly polarizing, Gessler has had a spotty and occasionally controversial record as Colorado's Secretary of State, and Beauprez is a recycled candidate whose last foray into a statewide race resulted in a 17-point thumping to Governor Bill Ritter in 2006.

Even so, Governor Hickenlooper has given the opposition a slight opening with some recent self-made befuddlement on the campaign trail. Although most observers still see the general election as his race to lose, whoever wins the primary will spend the next four months hammering the incumbent on a perceived lack of leadership as well as on a host of conservative issues such as the Second Amendment and gun control, and fracking and economic development.

Given Colorado's "color" status—we're still purple and leaning blue, but lately it's more precarious—this year's campaigns will get the type of national attention that's becoming commonplace for our perennial swing state. Between the governor's race and the senatorial tilt between Cory Gardner and Mark Udall, you can expect to see even more money spent here, which guarantees more ads, misleading and otherwise. The moral: Make sure your Tivo still works.

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.