GOP gubernatorial nominee on Colorado’s issues and his planned comeback

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Photo: Elections 2014 GOP Primary BeauprezLast night Republicans selected former congressman Bob Beauprez as their candidate for governor. He’s taking on incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper in the November general election.

In a race with approximately 16 percent voter turnout, Beauprez earned about 30 percent of the GOP vote, beating out former congressman Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former state senator Mike Kopp.

Beauprez represented Colorado's 7th Congressional district in Congress for two terms, and he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, losing to Democrat Bill Ritter. In an interview today with Colorado Matters, Beauprez said things have changed since that defeat.

"The environment's completely different," Beauprez said. "Back then it was a tough year for Republicans, a tough year for members of Congress. And it was very difficult, far more than I imagined, to be a member of Congress...and come home on the weekends and try to run statewide."

Beauprez also pointed to Colorado's mobile population, which includes newcomers who weren't here when he ran in 2006. "We have a new set of voters to talk to," Beauprez said.

But if history is any indication, Beauprez is facing an uphill battle this year: No elected incumbent governor has lost in Colorado since the 1960s.

Since leaving Congress in early 2007, Beauprez has stayed involved in politics. He was a strong supporter of Mitt Romney's presidential bid in 2012. He's also spent a lot of time on his family’s buffalo ranch in Northern Colorado.

Beauprez's central message in the campaign is the need for less government regulation.

"I think that's the big difference that's going to be on the ballot this time," Beauprez said. "I talk to people around the state...ask them what's the biggest problem you face," Beauprez said. "They invariably say, 'It's government.'"

Gov. Hickenlooper has said similar things in previous campaigns. And in this year's State of the State speech, Hickenlooper touted his administration's efforts to shrink bureaucracy. He said, "We have also reviewed, modified or repealed nearly 11,000 state rules -- many of which were redundant and flat-out dumb."

But Beauprez says Gov. Hickenlooper's time in office hasn't adequately reduced the role of government.

"In this case the substance doesn't match the rhetoric," Beauprez said. "He presided over what everybody called the most anti-business legislative session in Colorado history in 2013, and of the hundreds of bills that got to his desk, he signed every one."

When asked which regulations Beauprez would like to repeal, the candidate gave as an example the gun laws that passed last year restricting the size of ammunition magazines and requiring universal background checks.

"They ran a company out of Colorado," Beauprez said. Gun accessories manufacturer Magpul Industries announced in January it planned to move its headquarters from Colorado to North Texas because of the new Colorado laws.

More broadly, Colorado's economy is showing growth, particularly compared with other states. Unemployment fell to 5.8 percent in Colorado in May, lower than the national average of 6.3 percent. But Beauprez points to Utah as an example for Colorado to follow.

"We do exactly what Utah did, which made them the number one economic opportunity state in the nation, and that's by eliminating every single regulation, every rule, every function of government...that is anti-growth," Beauprez said.

That "economic opportunity" figure likely comes from an analysis Beauprez quoted in previous interviews and in his victory speech last night, when he said Colorado went from second to 22nd in economic opportunity. The analysis is by the conservative group ALEC, whose mission is to advance limited government. To determine the rankings, economists examined policies like tax rates, a state’s minimum wage and whether union membership is optional in the state, and did not consider economic performance.

Utah's unemployment rate is currently 3.6 percent, tied with Nebraska for third lowest in the nation.

In addition to gun laws and the economy, Beauprez addressed oil and gas drilling in his interview with Colorado Matters. Asked how he would handle the desire by some communities to restrict or ban fracking, Beauprez said any such ban is dangerous.

"If we would allow multiple, dozens, hundreds of communities to come up with their own regulation," Beauprez said, "You create an absolutely nightmarish situation." He added that the oil and gas industry would immediately leave the state.

Beauprez said banning fracking can't happen unless you compensate the mineral rights owners, a position very similar to Gov. Hickenlooper's stated position. Beauprez did not say he'd tell communities they don't have the right to forbid fracking.

Beauprez said he has not yet chosen his running mate for the position of lieutenant governor.