DENVER — Former Congressman Bob Beauprez rallied Republican supporters after winning the party’s nomination in a four-way race tonight, emphasizing party unity and signaling his plan to win over voters in the general election by painting Democratic incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper as a soft captain of big government who has stifled business growth, individual liberty and opportunities.
“Thank you all. This was a team effort,” he told the crowd, waving his arms in the air, and name-checking his primary race opponents. “I have received calls from a lot of people tonight, including my friends Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler and Mike Kopp. Ladies and gentleman, we are a team. For all of us, it was always about John Hickenlooper and his failure to lead.”
As in states around the country, the Republican party in Colorado has been fractured along a widening fault-line running between the far-right tea party or “liberty voters” and the establishment party — a fault line that has tilted recent primary elections to the far-right activist-voter camp.
Beauprez’s victory tonight was a great win after a string of losses for the establishment. Tom Tancredo, the firebrand former congressman whom many expected to win the nomination, commands his own loyal following on the far right. He lost by 4 points with 26 percent of the vote. Gessler and Kopp trailing with respectively 23 percent and 20 percent of the vote.
Four years ago, Hickenlooper sailed into office after tea party political newcomer Dan Maes defeated former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis to win the party’s nomination. Energized tea partiers cheered, but GOP establishment figures groaned and shook their heads at the writing on the wall they could see as plain as day.
The crowd at the Beauprez victory party tonight — peppered with broadly smiling office holders past and present — heaved a great sigh of relief.
“The main question on the ballot for voters this November is simple,” said Beauprez. “Do you trust government or do you trust people?
“I pledge to you, we’ll push back on the federal government. We’ll protect state sovereignty. We’ll embrace parents and school choice and expanded educational opportunity.” –JT
The main action today in Colorado is happening on the Republican side. There’s a four-way race for governor pitting anti-illegal immigration warrior and former Congressman Tom Tancredo, against former state Senator Mike Kopp, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former Congressman Bob Beauprez. Most analysts see it as a race between Tancredo and Beauprez.
Other races of note:
The congressional race in the state’s Fourth District. Republican Cory Gardner gave up the seat to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall. CD4, the large rural district that runs up and down the state’s eastern plain, was always conservative, but it was made even more so after redistricting in 2011. It was the heart of the failed secession movement launched in 2013. The frontrunners in the race are Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and state Senator Scott Renfroe of Greeley.
Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn has never been a popular officeholder. He’s running in another tough primary race in the hardcore conservative district that turns around Colorado Springs. Lamborn is running against Air Force General Bentley Rayburn.
The close statehouse races to watch are being fought in Front Range suburban Jefferson County among Republicans and in Denver between Democrats. In two races for the Senate, in which Democrats now hold a one-seat majority, far-right Tea Party “gunnie” candidates Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez are running against popular establishment Republican figures Lang Sias and Mario Nicolais. All four are looking to win their first-ever elective office. In Denver, a race for the 2nd district House seat vacated by term-limited Speaker Mark Ferrandino, pits fresh-faced ten-feet tall (seriously, 6’5″ or something) Alec Garnett, former executive director of the state Democratic Party, against jolly bearded Owen Perkins, a journalist and teacher.
Last: residents of Loveland are voting on a proposed moratorium on fracking within city limits. Money has poured into the contest from oil and gas interests looking to head off what would be the sixth city in the northern Front Range gas patch to vote for a halt to drilling. Local control may be one of the pivotal issues of this year’s November general election.
Live blog starts now!
10:45 — Lamborn narrowly holds nomination for CD 5
In Congressional District 5, the election was so close that it wasn’t until 10:45 p.m. that retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn finally congratulated incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn, who led by 3,762 votes, or slightly more than 5 percentage points, out of about 72,000 votes cast.
Speaking from his campaign gathering at a Colorado Springs charter school, Rayburn praised his team for their work, acknowledging “we jumped into this thing at the absolute last minute.”
Rayburn, who ran against Lamborn twice before, had criticized Lamborn for being out of touch with voters.
“If there’s such a thing as a moral victory, Bentley Rayburn just scored it,” said Bob Loevy, retired Colorado College political science professor. “He took on a race that experts, including me, said would be unwinnable and really gave Lamborn a scare.”
The district includes El Paso, Fremont, Chaffee, Teller and Park counties.
10:10 — No fracking moratorium for Loveland
In a primary where Republicans had a lot more reason to go to polls, a special election calling for a moratorium on fracking in Lovelend lost by 904 votes. That, with a campaign financial discrepancy of $370,000.
8:05 — Tancredo makes the call
Though there were mumbles of “1-800-RINO” in the background, Tancredo was adamant in his support for Bob Beauprez,when it was clear his fellow former Representative had won the primary.
“If I can’t do it, he’s the guy,” he said, emphasizing that Beauprez has been one of his few establishment supporters over the years — a bond, Tancredo noted, he won’t forget.
“If it’s going door to door on my knees, I’ll do whatever it takes,” he told Beauprez moments later on the phone, pledging his support in the upcoming campaign.
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7:59 — Rallying around the nominee
A lot of happy establishment figures at the Denver Athletic Club and not hiding their relief that Tancredo seems to have managed not to win while barely trying to win.
7:55 — Littwin waits for Tom
If you have any question about Tom Tancredo being a bad loser, you should have been with me tonight. I went to Tancredo’s, uh, victory party, and as soon as I walked in –as if they were waiting for me, as if they didn’t have anything better to do — the Tancredo people tossed me out. Saying it was a staff decision. The guy — it wasn’t his fault – shook my hand said, “Not my decision.” I just laughed and said – point me to the winning party. I got to the Beauprez party just to hear from Amy Stephens, “Gessler called. I think Kopp called. We’re waiting for Tom.” Yep, me, too.
7:52 — Gessler concedes
Gessler sat in a dark corner of his party phoning Beauprez to congratulate him. Now that a quarter of a million votes were in, it was clear that Gessler was in third place.
He ended his phone call with Beauprez, embraced his wife, Kristi and five-month-old son, Eric Nathanial, and started his speech by asking the crowd about the whereabouts of his daughter. “Did anybody see a little 6-year-old? Sophia, come on over here.”
She ran toward her father with a blue balloon bearing his name.
The often pugnacious politician kept unusually quiet during his eight-month gubernatorial bid, pulling his punches for most of his primary campaign until he aired a TV ad earlier this month calling Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez both “losers.”
Gessler had far kinder words about Beauprez, the apparentent GOP nominee, during his concession speech tonight.
“He is a good man. He is a gentleman and he is a hard worker,” he said.
“And I want to say this: I’ll be helping him out to win this race and I hope you all will do the same as well. Becuase at the end of the day the cause is bigger than ourselves, it’s bigger than any one of us. The cause is what type of society we’re going to live in, what type of future we’re gonna have. And although I wanteed to be the standard bearer and to fight for that cause as the leader of it, I’m not. I’m going to be in a supporting role and I would like us to, I’d like to see all of us rally around to retake the governor’s mansion, retake the legislature and turn the state around and make a better future for all of us.”
Gessler described the race as having had “lots of twist and turns, with candidates getting out of the race, candidates getting in the race. So it’s been a heck of a ride, that’s for sure.”
He took a last opportunity, at the end of his speech, to jab the Governor, “At the end of the day, Hickenlooper is wrong for the state of Colorado. He is wrong. He is a big government guy,” he said, decrying what he described as the Governor’s ideological agenda” of “increasing government,” “increasing taxes” and “increasing utility rates.”
7:50 — Meanwhile, in CD 4
The birds are a-twitter! Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck is the Party’s choice candidate for the Republican strong-seat currently belonging to Senate candidate Congressman Cory Gardner.
7:48 — Team Gessler checks in
There are about 70 campaign workers, supporters, friends and family members at Brooklyn’s at The Pepsi Center. Gessler has spent the past half hour dividing his time between the gathering and his smart phone, checking returns. Gessler had said “we’ll know” — the whole election — by 7:30, predicting that’s when 70 or 80 percent of returns would be reported. As of 7:47, he sat alone in a dark corner slumped over this phone, the light from it illuminating his face.
7:45 — Kopp says thank you
Just before the election results were finalized, Mike Kopp spoke to his supporters from his election watch party in Jefferson County. He expressed gratitude for his family and supporters, and said that the fight wasn’t over until it was over. Now that the fight is over, check out the ending of Mike Kopp’s speech:
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7:40 Feeling good in Beauprezland
The polls are closed and Politico, at least has Beauprez ahead 31 percent to 26 percent, Gessler running at 23 percent. Beauprez came out and mingled here at the Denver Athletic Club. A sample of the questions the 15 reporters were throwing at him: “If the numbers stay they way they look now, what do you do tomorrow?” Beauprez: “This campaign has always been about looking ahead to the general election. We’re gonna hit the ground running…”
Karen Fisher, who met Beauprez 12 years ago and made calls for his primary campaign this year, said she used to be a Tancredo supporter but that Tancredo has moved too far right. “He can’t win… and I think Bob is just a nicer man.” –JT
7:35 — Honey Badger’s campaigner weighs in
Gil Farin has been following politics all of his 85 years. Never, he said, has he seen an election this unpredictable.
“I gotta tell you it’s hard to read the signs,” Farin, a co-chair of Scott Gessler’s Adams County campaign committee said from Brooklyn’s at The Pepsi Center, where the campaign is awaiting results.
“We would get feedback one day saying things are really in our favor. Then the next day it goes the other way.”
Asked if tonight’s Gessler gather felt like it was shaping up to be a victory party, Farin shrugged his shoulders.
“I can’t get my hands on the situation. I guess it all depends on what people believed when they voted.”
7:25 — Tancredistas sitting pretty
Win or lose tonight, Tom Tancredo is very much in the lead for having the most mojo at his party. He’s grilling on a slate patio overlooking Morrison.
The crowd here is full of reporters and long-time Tancredo supporters like Bob Wasko, who says he has been with Tanc from the beginning. This is his second round volunteering for one of his campaigns.
“I think he’s a great man, an honest man,” Wasko said.
Early returns had Tancredo in the lead, particularly in crucial areas such as Jefferson County and Arvada. It now appears that Tancredo has lost that lead, however, with Beauprez some 5,000 votes ahead.
7:20 — Kopp shows grace under pressure
Despite looming defeat, spirits were high at Mike Kopp’s election watch party near Morrison tonight. Kopp graciously entertained the crowd, ranging from young political assistants to family members.
“He’s definitely confident,” says Pete Kopp, Mike’s father, “but pretty well laid back at the same time.”
Kopp has refused to concede defeat all day, describing himself as the underdog in a race that’s anybody’s victory this morning on the Dan Caplis show.
The congressman arrived close to 7 p.m., engaging with guests while keeping one eye on the TV screen in the corner of the clubhouse.
He stepped aside to be with his family when the first round of election results came in.
Kopp will make a speech on the race later tonight. Stay tuned for the video.
6:43 — Turnout speculation
It’s a strange election day, for political reporters anyway. Colorado is increasingly a mail-in election state. There are 3,561,339 registered voters in Colorado. A primary election in a non-presidential election year can’t be expected to turn out… a whole lot of those voters! Yet already, 517,211 ballots have been received by county clerks. Republicans have cast 311,558 of those ballots. By comparison, Republican primary voters in 2010 cast 387,190 total votes in the gubernatorial contest between Dan Maes and Scott McInnis. The fact that so many ballots have already been cast suggests to journalists and campaign staffers that the contests today will be decided soon after the polls close at 7 p.m.
The last mail-in ballots had to be received by the clerks today, before 7 p.m. The secretary of state’s office will begin reporting unofficial results soon after the polls close. Voters are also returning their ballots today, up until 7 p.m., at drop-off centers. Gubernatorial candidate Scott Gessler, who is also secretary of state, may already have the best idea about who is winning the race he is running in…
Here below is a dispatch from Colorado Independent’s Nate Koch from Wadsworth Blvd, which runs through state Senate district 19 in Jefferson County. Republican candidates Laura Wood and Lang Sias have been running in one of those Tea Party versus establishment races that has bloodied both of their chins. — JT
Drop off center election report
At 6:30 cars come at a slow but regular intervals to the drive-through ballot drop off outside the Wheat Ridge municipal offices.
Most voters barely had to wait (or, for that matter, exit their cars) in order to cast their votes.
“Being a primary, it’s pretty quiet,” says Deputy city clerk of wheat Ridge Bruce Roome. “The box is doing pretty good, it’s been steady all day.”
Republican voters in Lakewood tell me they’re feeling uneasy about the upcoming general election.
“If the Republican [Party] would find some candidates that haven’t been running for the past 10 years maybe we have a shot at taking out this governor,” says local voter Ark, who declined to supply his last name, as he exited the Lakewood polling station.
4:46 — Beauprez is pouring in the cash (via Lynn Bartels)
One of the reasons former Congressman Bob Beauprez has enjoyed an edge among analysts watching the GOP governor’s primary is because he’s the only one of the four candidates who is personally wealthy. (It’s another of the million reminders that this is how we’re choosing to do democracy in the United States.) Beauprez sold his family farm outside Boulder to a company that made a golf course and suburban homes. Then he rescued a bank and made a fortune on top of his fortune. He’s the rich guy in the race, which has come in handy. No one with money has been interested in backing any of the four Republican candidates for governor. Their fundraising numbers have been relatively anemic. That’s why there is no frenzied ad war this time around. Ads cost money. So do yard signs. So the four men have mainly stuck to free talk radio interviews as a way to reach Republican activist primary voters. Why not?
Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels just tweeted that Beuaprez has donated/loaned (?) himself another $138,000. That makes $527,000 he’s doled out to win this race. At this point, as Mike Littwin writes below, no one knows who will win this thing.
4:33 — Littwin prediction update
There is no news, of course, so we are stuck with predictions. This is how close the race might be: I talked to a bunch of tied-in people today and got this: Beauprez wins, with Gessler tight second. Tancredo wins. Beauprez wins. Beauprez wins and Tancredo could finish fourth. Tancredo squeaks by. Beauprez. Beauprez first, Gessler close second.
I can’t remember a major race that people, including me, were having so much trouble picking. Could Gessler pull a huge surprise? Could Tancredo finish the way his campaign deserves (that would be, uh, last). To remind you, I picked Tancredo in what is now an upset, with Gessler coming up to steal just enough votes from Beauprez. And that could be all wrong. All I know is that my favorite person in the race is Greg Brophy. And he finished fifth.
3:56 — The social primary
2:55 — Littwin’s last weekly GOP primary guv-race rankings
Election Day (or whatever we call the mail-in final day) is, at last, here. The Republican four-way will be reduced to one. No one has a good idea who will win. The office pools …. OK, there aren’t any office pools. This isn’t the World Cup and no one goes by just one name. If a guy named Honey Badger tried to make it into Brazil, he’d be subject to deportation.
My favorite moment of the campaign came in the final days when ace reporter Lynn Bartels asked Bob Beauprez about his infamous ad standing on the wrong end of the horse for his 2006 campaign, which he lost, you’ll recall, by 17 points. He didn’t have a funny answer. But the question — it was the question of the campaign. How could the Republican frontrunners be two guys whose combined gubernatorial candidate score is -32?
On to the Final Littwin Weekly GOP Governor’s Primary Rankings (and what fun we’ve had)!!! These are also our predictions:
1. Tom Tancredo. I’m going against the grain here. Beauprez is a slight favorite. But Tancredo has his Tancredistas who will vote for him no matter what. Unless Beauprez has convinced people he’s a winner this time around, Scott Gessler might just get more votes than people think. The more votes Gessler gets, the more likely it is that Tancredo sneaks in. Which would be remarkable, because he’s run the most lackluster, off-point, impeach-Obama campaign I can remember.
2. Bob Beauprez. He tells you the problem Republicans have in this election. During his wilderness years since the disaster of 2006, he spent much of that time saying mildly radical things on talk radio. It would be everyday fodder for the guys who make the outside-money attack ads. And he’s the supposed savior. He could win tonight. And, presumably, he could go on to beat Hickenlooper. It would be a Nixonian comeback, not that I’m comparing him to Nixon, who never said, as far as I know, that Shariah law was “creeping in” to Colorado.
3. Scott Gessler. To me, he has been the disappointment of the campaign. He’s smart, feisty, combative and was the one guy who had the chance to separate himself from everyone else in the field. He didn’t. He talked about the fact that Tancredo and Beauprez were losers, sure. But winning the SOS seat is not exactly the basis for why you should be the governor. I think he had a real chance here. He never found a way to make it happen.
4. Mike Kopp didn’t have a real chance. His big moment came when unaffiliated Kopp backers accused Tancredo of wanting to legalize heroin and PCP, which is kind of funny. There are so many things that you can attack Tancredo for, and yet, they have to make one up. Kopp started in the Littwin cellar. I’m afraid he never gets out.