[dropcap]I[/dropcap]N addition to jokes, a softish voice and eyebrows that naturally tilt down at the outside edges, making his face look kind, dark horse Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidate Mike Kopp has a mind that likes structure. He’s also raised just $200,000 this year and spent all but $30,000 of it mostly on strategists, Internet ads and driving nearly 10,000 miles around Colorado.
At 45 years old, Kopp’s not only the youngest man duking it out in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary, he’s also the most plugged-in digitally. He’s the only candidate with an Instagram account, for example.
Kopp’s spent just more than $5,000 this year on advertising, exclusively on the Internet through Google and Facebook. That’s less than half what’s been spent on advertising by anyone else in the race, particularly Beauprez and Tancredo who’ve invested tens of thousands in printing advertisements and paying canvassers.
It seems like Kopp’s getting a decent bang for his buck — his Facebook, with 20,000-plus likes, touts him as “the most liked Republican candidate in Colorado!” And if you read virtually any political news online, you’ve probably seen him looking like your friend’s nicest, fist-bumping dad via Google AdWords. Google, by the way, has gotten wise to this national shift to online political advertising and now offers services which can not only target viewers by zip code but also by congressional district.
So Kopp knows about the Internet. The bulk of Kopp’s meager funds have gone to Web-savvy strategists like RedRight out of Dallas and The Wickers Group out of San Francisco, firms that have worked on campaigns like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s.
Even so, Denver-based independent analyst Eric Sondermann says that while online advertising and social media campaigning are certainly trends in politics, they’re hardly the end-all-be-all.
“Candidates with resources do all of the above, they advertise on broadcast television, cable networks and online,” said Sondermann.
“If you don’t have those resources, and Kopp seemingly does not, you go with an all-online strategy not as a first but as a last resort.”
Despite growing up a bull-rider in rugged South Dakota, serving in the military as an Army Ranger, working as a hotshot firefighter across the Rocky Mountain West, training as a Pentecostal minister and being elected state senate minority leader, Kopp’s had trouble raising money. Between campaign finance reports at the beginning and middle of May, he raised less than $10,000. Kopp did manage to pull Republican Assembly no-shows Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo’s votes and win the nomination there. But is that enough to win him a line on the November ballot much less the seat behind the governor’s desk?
Sondermann’s not sure. He points out that none of the current GOP gubernatorial candidates has raised even a fraction of the cash incumbent Governor Hickenlooper has amassed. Partially, donors are keeping their checkbooks closed until the primary is settled, but Sondermann also noted that most of the GOP cash and energy is flowing to the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and upstart Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. Last of all, Sondermann noted, there are more than a few Republican donors on board with Hickenlooper.
“Mike Kopp has a very nice 30- to 60-second biography ad. There’s some sense that he’s the guy with the upside, the guy who could grow into the role of giving Hickenlooper a run for his money,” Sondermann said. “But whether that’s enough to get him over the hump [the GOP primary] is becoming increasingly doubtful.”
President of Colorado Christian University and former U.S. Senator William Armstrong thinks Kopp could make it and has endorsed his bid.
“I think if Mike Kopp is nominated, he’s the most likely to win. People who meet Mike like him,” Armstrong said. “They look at his legislative record, his record of public service and how he responded to a very serious personal crisis and they say, ‘This is the kind of guy we want to lead our state.’”
In 2011, Kopp resigned after serving five years in the state senate when Kimberly, his wife of nearly 18 years, died of cancer. He said the move was on behalf of his four kids, aged 4 to 16 at the time. Kopp then returned to his corporate job at the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, one of the largest energy companies in the state.
Kopp has since remarried to Shannon, a bike-rides-and-camping enthusiast who Kopp talks about a lot, including in YouTube videos.
“Shannon saved my life,” says Kopp in his introductory campaign reel.
“I still think she was an angel sent on a mission to rescue me, to rescue my family.”
Speaking to Colorado Springs Republicans at the home of his former colleague in the state senate, David Schultheis, Kopp also gave his wife credit for his being in the gubernatorial race at all.
The Kopp campaign denied The Independent access to an event and did not return several emails requesting interviews or information, so when it comes to the candidate’s personality, let’s take Schultheis’s word on Kopp. The two shared an office during their stint in the state legislature, a time when Kopp likes to mention he got a $10 million tax cut passed and Schultheis likes to note the pair’s private prayer sessions each morning before hitting the Senate floor.
“He’s principled, honorable, moral, ethical and well organized,” said Schultheis, introducing Kopp at a Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Patriots Meeting in February.
Praising someone’s principles and/or honorable moral ethics is hardly unusual for an endorser, but “well organized” stands out as one of those compliments so idiosyncratic, at least in this context, it might just be true.
Across stump speeches one thing is clear, Kopp is a guy who likes a crisp, consistent structure. His campaign slogan, “Defend Freedom. Fight Washington. Empower You.” is also the structure underpinning his introductory campaign video and the basic outline for his acceptance speech at the Republican Assembly.
Kopp sounds like a guy who’s given a sermon or two — he knows how to keep listeners on track. He tells his audience his numbered points upfront and then back references as he speaks. He uses specific examples, many from his time in the military, to illustrate his values or connect with specific listeners.
In the spirit of the well-organized candidate, we’ve made a multimedia outline of what Mike Kopp is telling Colorado voters, which you can explore next week. It offers more detail as to what a Kopp administration would look like heading our state.
Until then, we can tell you that Kopp means to cut taxes and carve TABOR into stone. He plans to slice and dice regulations and government programs, promising to reduce the cost of being a regulated business by 25 percent across sectors and the cost of running the state government by 10 percent. He would push a repeal of the gun control laws passed in 2013 and set a date for the execution of Nathan Dunlap, who murdered four employees at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s. Kopp doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act and still has plenty of energy to fight it. He would invest in a helicopter-carried wildfire fighting crew that could reach any fire in the state within an hour. And lastly, he wants to be Governor of Colorado.
Note: This is the first in a series of four campaign profiles on the current candidates in the Colorado Republican gubernatorial primary, which will be held on June 24: Mike Kopp, Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler and Bob Beauprez.
[Photo from Colorado Senate GOP]