With primary ballots due on Tuesday, June 24, Republicans and Democrats around the state are picking their candidates for scores of offices. Both major parties have contested primaries.
But, for a variety of reasons, including more strong Democratic incumbents in major offices and fewer open seats in safe Democratic districts, the races garnering the most attention are all among Republicans.
Here are the key races to watch during the 2014 Colorado primary election:
- Gubernatorial (Republican): This is the biggie. Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former state Senate minority leader Mike Kopp and two former U.S. congressmen, Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo, are facing off for the nomination. Of the four, Tancredo is seen as the Tea Party option and many in the GOP establishment worry that if he wins the primary, his strong opposition to illegal immigration could drive Latinos away from the entire Republican ticket in November. Of the other three, Kopp won top billing at the Republican state assembly, while Gessler has led in the last few fundraising cycles. Beauprez, a longtime figure in state politics, is seen as the establishment favorite.
- Congressional District 4 (Republican): This safely Republican district became a primary hotbed after Representative Cory Gardner threw his hat in the ring for U.S. Senate. Two former Senate hopefuls, former Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and businessman Steve Laffey, are running for the now-open House seat, along with Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and state Senator Scott Renfroe. The winner Tuesday has a very good chance of being the district's next representative in Washington. Here's a preview of the race.
- Congressional District 5 (Republican): Incumbent Doug Lamborn once again faces challenger Bentley Rayburn, making his third primary run against the congressman in eight years. A debate between the two last week turned into what the Denver Post called a “slugfest” and the Colorado Springs Gazette characterized as a "cat fight," with Lamborn attacking Rayborn as not being conservative enough. Rayburn accused his opponent of getting little done during his time in office. The men are quite mismatched in the money arena with Lamborn holding $200,000 in the bank and Rayburn reporting no money being raised so far. Here's a preview of this rematch.
- State Senate Districts 19 and 22 (Republican): Republicans are hoping to take control of the state Senate this fall and whether they succeed could have a lot to do with how these two races come out on Tuesday. Both seats are currently held by Democrats. In both races, two fairly middle-of-the-road candidates, Lang Sias (SD-19) and Mario Nicolais (SD-22), face political newcomers backed by the powerful Rocky Mountain Gun Owners association, Laura Woods (SD-19) and Tony Sanchez (SD-22). Political observers believe Sias and Nicolais have a better chance of knocking out the Democrats who currently represent these swing districts, but may have trouble winning over primary voters who are traditionally more conservative.
- House Districts 22 and 63 (Republican): The story here is the mirror image of the Senate primaries. Two of the state Assembly's most conservative incumbent Republicans, Justin Everett (HD-22) and Lori Saine (HD-63), face primary challenges from more moderate members of their parties, Loren Bauman (HD-22) and Bruce Sparrow (HD-63). How those newcomers do on primary night will be one yardstick for measuring the current influence of the party's more conservative wing.