DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Former Republican state senator Mike Kopp kicked off his bid Tuesday to challenge Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper next year.
Kopp vowed to cut regulation and undo a tougher renewable energy standard for rural electricity providers.
“I want to put the government in the back seat – the back seat of the taxpayers,” said Kopp, the fourth Republican to join the field.
Kopp made appearances Tuesday at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, along with stops in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
Kopp served in the state Senate from 2007 to 2011. He resigned his office after his wife died following a long battle with cancer. Kopp now works for Intermountain Rural Electric Association.
Kopp never said Hickenlooper’s name in his speech, The Denver Post reported. Kopp said later he preferred to talk about his “message,” not anyone else’s. His points, however, seemed to take aim at some of Hickenlooper’s most controversial acts.
Hickenlooper signed the renewable energy standard into law in June.
Kopp also said he would defend gun rights, which he called “the right to self-protection.” Hickenlooper signed a package of hotly contested gun-bills into law in March, which prompted the successful recall of two statehouse Democrats last month.
“To me, this really boils down to leadership, not politics,” Kopp said.
He enters a GOP field that includes Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former Rep. Tom Tancredo and state Sen. Greg Brophy.
Veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams knows the challenges. The only Republican governor in the last four decades was Bill Owens. Wadhams was his campaign manager.
“I think the things that set Gov. Owens apart is number one he didn’t convey hostility to any voting groups,” Wadhams said. “He was approachable, he was naturally optimistic, and he also had a very clear agenda.”
Wadhams said Owens made no apologies for his conservative credentials. He insists the right candidate doesn’t have to be a moderate, but he does have to have a mainstream agenda. Among other things, Owens championed education reform.
“He reached out to Hispanic and African-American communities and said to them, ‘Listen, your kids are being failed by this mediocre school system and we need to change that.’ And he had guts as a Republican to take a position no other Republican had before,” Wadhams said.
Despite the recalls of two state lawmakers over gun control, Wadhams says this isn’t a single issue election.
“It’s very clear the state legislature and Gov. Hickenlooper went too far on their gun legislation, but if Republicans think they can beat an incumbent governor on guns alone, they’re crazy,” he said.
It’s been more than 50 years since any elected incumbent governor in Colorado was defeated.
Wadhams said the field isn’t set yet and there will likely be more Republicans who jump in.
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