EAGLE COUNTY — Colorado’s silly season is in full swing.
Half the Republicans running for governor stopped by Vail Valley neighborhoods last week, and all had Gov. John Hickenlooper in their crosshairs.
Bob Beauprez says he’s running against Hickenlooper.
Greg Brophy penned a video “Dear John” letter to Hickenlooper.
Scott Gessler, Colorado’s current secretary of state, beat Hickenlooper in a poll among state employees.
Both parties’ faithful will gather Saturday in Denver for their state assemblies, where the Republicans will whittle down their list of Hickenlooper’s opponents.
Democrats have a less complicated path. They can either vote for Hickenlooper, or not.
So far, Gessler leads other GOP candidates in head-to-head matchups with Hickenlooper, according to a Quinnipiac poll.
Gessler says it’s because, “We have communicated a clear vision and a common-sense conservative message.”
Gessler also got higher marks than Hickenlooper in a poll of state employees. He says it’s “ironic” because Hickenlooper started that poll.
“Now that’s sad,” Gessler said.
Gessler had a sore throat from nonstop campaigning, but he took a few minutes to talk anyway.
“I think Colorado is headed in the wrong direction and we can do far better,” he said. “I want my kids to get a good education. I want them to be confident that they’ve had a good education and that they have the kinds of opportunities that takes advantage of that education.”
“We have a governor who talks about these things but has not performed. He has made it more expensive to live here,” Gessler said.
Hickenlooper has worked for tax increases and against the Second Amendment and the death penalty, Gessler said.
“I sense that people are frustrated,” he said.
Colorado’s gun legislation, signed by Hickenlooper, drove 200 jobs and an $80 million business out of the state.
“I think even he knows it was a bad idea,” Gessler said.
Brophy’s latest campaign salvo is aimed at Hickenlooper. It’s a video breakup letter to the governor from the state of Colorado.
“Sometimes there comes a point in a relationship when you know it’s just not working out,” Brophy said. “Many Coloradans have reached that point with the governor, and we are now at a place where we can do something about it. It’s time for a breakup.”
Brophy is a fourth generation Coloradan. He grew up north of Wray, in the sandhills of eastern Colorado. He still farms the family land his grandmother staked as a homestead.
Most of the other candidates live in the Denver metro area, he says. He lives in Wray, “90 miles from the nearest McDonald’s.”
He’s an avid hunter, supports gun rights and has “proudly” driven a Toyota Prius 25,000 miles since launching his campaign in July.
He’s been to the Four Corners twice, and all four corners of the state with the goal of visiting all 64 Colorado counties. He has.
A couple Saturdays ago, he hit five county assemblies in one day, rocketing from Greeley to Colorado Springs.
“It’s important to show people you’re willing to go meet them where they are,” said Jeremy Weathers, one of Brophy’s campaign staffers.
Last November, several northern Colorado counties were so upset with the state government that they forced a vote over secession.
“Many of my friends got so angry that they wanted to leave the state. I got so angry that I wanted to run for governor,” Brophy said.
He was through Avon a week ago. Tuesday he went from Glenwood to Grand Junction, Montrose and Delta.
In 2002, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, and later the state Senate.
He says his favorite battles are for individual liberties and against government overreach.
Beauprez has both a shine and some dirt on his boots, a man taking care of business both ways.
“We’re five years into this recovery and we’re still wondering when it will get better. I’m more than tired of this,” he said.
Colorado is even with pre-recession job levels, but there are 300,000-400,000 more people in the state, he said.
“We’re told this is the new normal. I reject that notion of this new normal.”
The cure, he said, is reviving the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled the state and nation to thrive.
“Instead of the government telling you what you cannot do, or telling you how you must do it, government should be about empowering entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas, create jobs and help drive our economy,” Beauprez said.
Beauprez and his wife, Claudia, run a buffalo ranch near Craig and split their time between that and Lafayette, where they kept a home after selling a farm just east of the University of Colorado.
His most valuable experience came from buying a failing bank, he said. It taught him how well, or badly, businesses can work, and how government interference can crush the entrepreneurial spirit.
He just handed in a petition with 23,000 signatures to get his name on the ballot. One of his Republican opponents, Secretary of State Gessler, is expected to approve it. Beauprez made an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006.
Renewable energy is the future, he says. He has a wind turbine on his ranch generating electricity every time it spins.
“I love renewable energy,” he said.
Natural gas, though, is the blue bridge to that green future. The energy industry creates jobs faster than anything else in Colorado, spinning off 4.3 ancillary jobs for every energy industry job, he said.
To help ease some congestion on Interstate 70, he’s suggesting adding a four-laned southern route, possibly along U.S. Highway 50.
“Every option ought to be on the table,” he said.
Among those options is replacing Colorado’s gas tax with a statewide sales tax. It would be revenue neutral — the sales tax would not total any more than the gas tax, at least not at first.
Gas taxes pay for road repairs, but they’re shrinking because fewer people are driving, and they’re driving more fuel efficient vehicles, Beauprez said.
As Colorado’s economy grows and people purchase more products, the sales tax will grow, creating a stable and sustainable highway funding source, Beauprez said.
“If you gotta have taxes, don’t tax production. Tax consumption,” Beauprez said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.