DENVER (AP) – Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who suffered a big defeat in the 2006 gubernatorial contest, will get a second act in Colorado politics as the Republicans’ choice to try to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hicknlooper in November.
While Republicans selected one familiar face in Tuesday’s primary, they also sought to distance themselves from another: former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.
Tancredo’s tough stance on illegal immigration made him a household name, but it also has turned him into a potential liability. Mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike saw him as little threat to Hickenlooper in a state where Latinos are a crucial voting bloc.
Some said his comments on immigration could have rallied Democrats in November, harming GOP candidates in unrelated races.
Tancredo, who finished second in the four-way race, said he called Beauprez to offer congratulations and support – even if that means staying as far from the race as possible. “If I’m really the ogre that I’m portrayed as, who knows who will want me around?” he joked.
For Beauprez, the victory punctuates an eight-year journey back to the Republican Party spotlight and shows that despite his past defeat, the GOP establishment still views him as the most formidable candidate against Hickenlooper.
“I grew up in an America where you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off, you start all over again,” Beauprez said, recalling his 17-point loss to Democrat Bill Ritter. “That’s sort of the nature of life. This is a very different environment than it was in 2006.”
This time, Republicans are looking to criticize Hickenlooper for gun-control bills he signed last year in the wake of mass shootings. Also, Beauprez went after Hickenlooper over his decision to grant an indefinite stay of execution to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap. Dunlap was convicted of murder in the deaths of four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora in 1996.
Beauprez said Hickenlooper’s decision on Dunlap showed “an unwillingness to even make the tough call.”
Democrats wasted no time attacking Beauprez. A press release from ProgressNow Colorado on Tuesday night called Beauprez “one of Colorado’s most storied political losers.”
For his part, Hickenlooper, released a statement that read, “I congratulate Congressman Beauprez and look forward to a positive conversation about the future of our state.”
Since Beauprez’s loss to Democrat Bill Ritter, the GOP has had difficulties. Republicans have been in the minority in the Colorado Senate and controlled the state House for only two years. Barack Obama also carried the state twice.
Republicans are now putting their hopes in Beauprez, a buffalo rancher who grew up working on his father’s dairy farm, to end the losing streaks.
The other primary candidates were Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former state Sen. Mike Kopp.
The 65-year-old Beauprez, who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, entered the GOP governor race in February, describing himself to primary voters as the best choice to defeat Hickenlooper, who has far outpaced all GOP challengers in fundraising.
Hickenlooper has raised nearly $3 million for his re-election bid, already has bought $1.4 million in television advertising for the weeks leading up to the general election.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.
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