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It’s official: Hickenlooper is running for re-election in 2014

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made his re-election campaign official this week, filing candidate paperwork with the secretary of state and embarking on a two-day tour of rural Colorado to defend his record.

He faces a still-forming field of Republican contenders who have their pick of issues to attack him with, including his endorsement of new gun control laws that have created uproar throughout the state and his decision to indefinitely stay the execution of mass murderer Nathan Dunlap.

So far, the field of opponents includes former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and state Sen. Greg Brophy.

While each has their conservative credentials, they each also have their hurdles to overcome.

Tancredo ran a maverick campaign against Hickenlooper in 2010 as the Constitution Party nominee after deciding that neither candidate vying for the GOP nomination could beat Hickenlooper. The race divided the Republican Party and left an impression of Tancredo as a loose cannon. Tancredo did, however, come in second place with 36 percent of the vote, more than three times the votes earned by GOP candidate Dan Maes.

Gessler, who hasn’t officially committed to the race but who has formed a campaign committee, was dogged all year by an ethics investigation related to his expenditure of state funds for travel to a Republican lawyers’ conference. The state Independent Ethics Commission found that he misspent the money, and Gessler said he plans an appeal.

Brophy, who was a vocal critic of the Democratic majority in the state legislature, appeals to conservative rural Coloradoans — he lives in the small farming town of Wray near the Kansas border — but he may not have the same name recognition with urban voters. His support of the ASSET bill, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Colorado universities, may also cost him some conservative votes.

Despite the lack so far of organized big-money attacks on his record, Hickenlooper began the 2014 campaign defending some of his more controversial decisions, according to the Associated Press. He said a new universal background check law will prevent criminals from buying weapons, referencing just one of the hot button gun laws that have wracked the state.

Gun legislation has led to two historic recalls of state senators and a lawsuit against the state by most of Colorado’s elected county sheriffs. It was also a factor in talks of secession among at least 10 rural counties who feel ignored by Denver politicians.

Hickenlooper also addressed his controversial decision to grant convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap an indefinite stay of execution earlier this year, saying Dunlap had severe bipolar disorder.

“We rarely execute somebody who has a severe disability like that,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Hickenlooper’s popularity sank as a result of the stay, which can be undone by a future governor. A Quinnipiac poll in June showed that 67 percent of Coloradoans disapproved of the reprieve and showed the governor with a 47 percent approval rating. The poll also showed him running neck and neck with Tancredo.

The Dunlap decision may be the impetus for another Republican to join the race to unseat him. Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler — who represents the district where Dunlap went on a shooting spree at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993, killing four — is seriously weighing whether to run.

Brauchler blasted Hickenlooper for making a non-decision in the Dunlap case, telling reporters soon after the announcement that Hickenlooper, a former brewpub owner, displayed a lack of leadership.

“The governor is a nice man,” he told the Denver Post. “I think he wants to be a friend. I think he wants to be an adviser. But at the end of the day, no one elected him to be the state bartender. They elected him to be governor.”

One reason for Brauchler’s hesitancy is because he’s prosecuting James Holmes for the Aurora theater shootings, arguably the most high profile case in state history.

Brauchler is also something of a political newcomer, just halfway into his first term as district attorney. Nevertheless, Republican backers apparently see him as untarnished fresh face who could have statewide appeal — Denver’s Fox31 reports that big GOP donors are holding on to their money to see what Brauchler decides.

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