Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who is making his second bid for Colorado’s governor seat, was campaigning across the state Wednesday, with a stop in Aspen and a meet-and-greet at Rustique restaurant.
When he announced his intention to enter the GOP primary race less than a month ago, many said he wouldn’t be able to collect enough petition signatures. By Monday’s deadline, he had submitted about 22,300 signatures, and although he needs 1,500 valid signatures from voters in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, he’s confident he’ll be on the ballot, estimating that he has at least 2,000 in each district.
Seven Republicans are vying to unseat Democrat John Hickenlooper in November, including former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, state Sen. Greg Brophy, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, businessman Steve House and rancher Roni Bell Sylvester.
Beauprez, who lost to Democrat Bill Ritter by 17 percentage points in 2006, said his business and political experience set him apart from the other candidates. A highlight from his 60-plus years in the private sector, he said, was the purchase of a small bank in his hometown of Lafayette, where he expanded the bank’s assets from $4 million to $400 million. Before that, he turned his family’s farm into one of the largest embryo marketers in the world.
On Wednesday, he discussed a lack of leadership in state government, jobs, the economy, gun control and education.
On the economy, he cited Utah — which has reduced regulation and its tax code — as a model for job generation. On education, he said New Mexico, Oklahoma and Mississippi, all led by GOP governors, have established successful mentorship programs. According to Beauprez, about 30 percent of Colorado’s third-graders are not reading at grade level. With minorities, he said, that number is closer to 40 percent.
On gun control, he said Hickenlooper has created a paradox, pushing legislation that infringes on Second Amendment rights while also pushing for the early release of Colorado’s most violent criminals. He said the release of Evan Ebel, who killed Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, was a result of the 2011 legislation that Hicklooper pushed for.
Aspen Times: What made you decide to run?
Bob Beauprez: I think Colorado is looking for a change. I think our party was still searching for another choice that maybe becomes the choice. We’ve obviously got a crowded field. It didn’t appear to me that our party had coalesced around that candidate yet, so we jumped in just four weeks ago yesterday. And the momentum has been fabulous.
AT: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
BB: I’ve had enough political experience and enough political desire to try to make this state work a little bit better. I don’t see the economy working well, generating near the jobs we should or could. I don’t see that opportunity that I’ve always managed to see in front of me. I don’t see that being embraced by the current administration or current governor. I don’t see him leading like I think a leader should, and I think I’ve got the experience, the background, the skill set to do just exactly that, and I look forward to making that happen.
AT: What did you learn from 2006?
BB: I made some mistakes in ’06, and chief among them was that it was extremely difficult to be both a member of Congress and run a statewide campaign at the same time. Both are all-consuming jobs. It was a very different environment then, too. To state the obvious, 2006 was a pretty tough year to be running with an “R” behind your name. ... In 2006, it was an open seat, so I wasn’t running against an incumbent. This time, I’m running against an incumbent with a record.
AT: What was your stance on the school tax (Amendment 66) that failed in November?
BB: I think Colorado did the right thing in defeating that. Look, I’ve got an education plan, but it’s not about just throwing more money at the same system that keeps failing. Here’s one of the things that gnaws at me: For years and years and years, we have been stuck with 30 percent of our third-grade students not being grade-level proficient in reading. That’s absolutely shameful to me. All of our kids ought to have a fair shot, and it really starts with reading.
AT: What about gun control?
BB: (Hickenlooper) overreached. The obvious question from folks is, “Would you sign a repeal?” And the answer is, “Yes.” I don’t want people with mental illnesses, who have already demonstrated a propensity to do violent crime — I don’t want them to have easy access to guns, but I do want to respect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
AT: What’s the biggest issue facing Colorado’s ski towns?
BB: I would think it’s jobs and economy because without them, people are going to be coming to the ski towns to recreate. Most of Colorado’s ski towns are dependent on I-70, and I see state infrastructure as very much part of that jobs-and-economy issue. Somebody’s got to address I-70. And part of it is an obvious short-term fix. We’ve got to dedicate enough resources, whether that’s snowplows, state patrols, whatever it takes to keep I-70 plowed, sanded, moving. Otherwise, people that want to come up here and enjoy Colorado — when you ski four or five hours and you’re parked for 10 on I-70, it kind of takes the fun out of it.