Former Congressman Bob Beauprez emerged from a crowded field of Republican hopefuls to capture the GOP nomination for governor on June 24.
The native Coloradan hopes to erase memories of an unsuccessful 2006 bid for the governor's mansion by defeating Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in the fall.
Speaking to an enthusiastic group of supporters at the downtown Denver Athletic Club, Beauprez invoked themes of freedom and liberty and a direction toward fewer government regulations.
"There is a difference between living and just kind of getting along and living free," Beauprez said during his victory speech.
Beauprez defeated fellow candidates Tom Tancredo, also a former congressman, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp to capture the Republican nomination.
Beauprez garnered just over 30 percent of the more than 380,000 votes that were cast. Tancredo finished second with 26.6 percent. Gessler took third with 23.2 percent of the tally. Kopp trailed the pack with 19.8 percent.
Beauprez tried to set aside any doubts about party unity when he told supporters that he had spoken with the other three candidates, who had called to congratulate him on his win.
Beauprez said the contest has always been "about who the real opponent in this race was. It's John Hickenlooper."
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are a team," he said to hoots and applause from his supporters.
Beauprez took aim at Hickenlooper several times in his remarks to supporters. He called out the governor for signing laws that increase renewable energy mandates for rural electric cooperatives and for his support of gun legislation, such as universal background checks and bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
And, what is expected to be a key campaign issue, Beauprez blasted Hickenlooper for granting a temporary reprieve last year for death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1996.
"If he won't lead, if he won't enforce the laws in the state of Colorado, I will and Nathan Dunlap will see justice served," Beauprez said.
Republican voters answered the question of whether they would give Beauprez another chance, following his double-digit loss in a 2006 governor's race against Bill Ritter.
Beauprez made no reference to that defeat during his victory speech. But in a prior interview he likened himself to John Elway, who had also lost badly prior to winning two Super Bowls.
Beauprez and Tancredo were atop public polling leading up to the race. But a round of late campaign advertisements that questioned whether he was the right fit to win a general election may have hurt Tancredo.
Some Republicans were concerned that Tancredo's polarizing and well-known views on immigration could hurt the party with moderates and Latino voters in November.
Neither Tancredo nor Kopp could be reached for comment prior to Colorado Community Media's print deadline.
Gessler said he was disappointed with the results, but said he was proud of his "respectful" performance.
"I thought we ran a great campaign overall," he said. "Obviously, things didn't turn out the way we wanted. It is what it is."
Hickenlooper congratulated Beauprez through an e-mailed press release in which the governor also touted the state's recent uptick in economic numbers.
"Over the past four years, we've seen Colorado go from 40th to fourth in job creation, and we've seen unemployment drop from 9 percent to 5.8 percent," Hickenlooper said. "We're committed to keeping the positive momentum going until Colorado is number one in the country for job creation."