Denver, CO – The next race for Governor in Colorado is already heating up fueled by incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper’s leadership on several controversial issues in the state. Chief among the irritants to republicans is the Governor’s support of strong gun control legislation, his support for civil unions and most recently his decision issuing an executive order delaying the execution of convicted murderer Ralph Dunlap.
As new, more stringent gun control laws take effect tomorrow, July 1, several state republicans are now relishing a chance to get to the start line for the next race for governor. Tom Tancredo, a former congressman and former candidate for the governor’s seat, has already announced his plans to run again. Tancredo lost to Hickenlooper’s in the last race. Another prominent republican, state Sen. Greg Brophy is expected to announce his candidacy soon. Brophy is an ardent guns rights advocate and was perhaps the most vocal critic of the new legislation in the last session of the Colorado legislature. Another potential candidate is the current Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. All three men point to the gun control issue as a major factor in their decisions to challenge Hickenlooper.
The fallout from the new gun laws and next year’s elections are not limited to just the governor’s race. It is already impacting those who were pro-gun control in the last legislative session. Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo are facing potential recall elections in their respective districts. The recall elections are being pushed strongly by pro-gun forces in the state.
And next year’s elections will likely be most contentious. “It most certainly energizes the GOP base and helps develop this narrative about the Democrats’ control of state government this year,” Ken Bickers, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said about the new gun laws.
Tancredo seems to not miss a chance to tie the gun control issue to the current governor in any of his remarks, most recently when he announced his candidacy on conservative talk-radio host Peter Boyles’ show on KHOW in Denver. For his part Brophy said that the governor’s support of stricter gun control laws, “It became obvious to me by the end of January that this governor was different than what he portrayed himself to be on the gun issues. His gun positions were the first shot, so to speak, that sprung this issue onto the political scene in Colorado,” Brophy said.
State democrats disagree with republicans, of course. Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, argued Coloradans are not focused solely on guns and dismissed the notion it will be any sort of litmus test for the majority of Colorado voters. “This is a big issue for a small minority of Coloradans,” Pabon said. “And it’s being amplified by the media. Polls have shown — and proven — that the majority of this state’s residents support the new laws.” Pabon highlighted a Denver Post poll from January — before lawmakers cast votes on the gun measures — that revealed 83 percent of Coloradans at the time supported universal background checks.