GOP gubernatorial candidate

Kopp hopes vision pays off with voters

People feel they've been forgotten, candidate says

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Kopp

It makes sense for a guy with the least amount of name recognition among a crowded field of Republican candidates for governor to spend time with Coloradans whom he believes have been considered an afterthought.

Recently, Mike Kopp kicked off a six-day bike tour called “We are Colorado.” The tour covered 436 miles across the state and focused on places that aren't called Denver or Boulder. Rather, Kopp rode around and talked to folks in places like Lamar and Holly.

“It's a reflection of the fact that so many people around the state feel like they're forgotten,” Kopp, a resident of the Golden area, said in a recent interview. “It's the elites in the city, and in Washington and on the East Coast, who make the decisions for them, and they're the ones left picking up the pieces for big government decisions.”

Kopp believes that Democratic-led policies — particularly gun-control legislation and renewable energy mandates on rural electric cooperatives — have angered those who live in lightly populated parts of the state.

“The sentiment out there is largely that you've got a party in Denver and the Democrats seem to pay more heed to Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg as opposed to the values of our own state,” Kopp said.

Kopp believes his message will resonate with Republican voters, who on June 24 will select their preferred candidate to match up against Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.

Kopp is a former state Senate minority leader, having represented Senate District 22 from 2007 through 2011, when he resigned after his wife, Kimberly, died of cancer. He has since remarried. Prior to holding office, Kopp served in the Gulf War as an Army Ranger.

In April, Republican state assembly-goers gave Kopp the top line on the GOP primary ballot. That surprised many political observers, seeing as how Kopp's name isn't as well-known as his three opponents: Tom Tancredo, Bob Beauprez and Scott Gessler.

But name recognition doesn't matter to Kopp.

“I'd certainly put my record up against any of my opponents in this race in that regard,” he said.

Kopp is a “firm believer” in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” saying that the ownership of mineral resources is “a sacred right.”

“So we now have a bunch of ballot initiatives out there that would make it more difficult, if not impossible, for energy producers to get this property that they own,” Kopp said.

On education issues, Kopp, who served on the state Senate Education Committee, said that students are not being tested properly. He said that assessment tests miss the point when they evaluate the results after the school year, after the student has already moved on to the next grade. Kopp said it would be better practice to provide teachers and students with “real-time information on a child's academic trajectory,” so adjustments can be made during the school year.

Kopp also wants to give school districts more flexibility in deciding how teachers are paid and kept.

“There is no grater factor in education than the quality of the teacher and I think it's critical that our policy reflects an ability to pay excellent teachers more money,” he said. “And we should have the ability to fire teachers that are failing the kids.”

Kopp is also highly critical of Hickenlooper's decision to grant a temporary reprieve for Nathan Dunlap, a death row inmate who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993.

“This is just kind of typical of the way the governor tries to handle these sticky issues, by creating a new, gray scale,” Kopp said. “The governor should have made a decision. I would have set the execution date.”

Kopp holds conservative views on many issues, including abortion. He is an unapologetic pro-life Republican. But, while that may work to his advantage in a Republican primary, recent general elections have shown that when reproductive rights are made a key issue in a campaign, Republicans fall short.

But Kopp said his message is bigger than just one issue.

“It's funny because the Democrats have had the same sort of playbook year after year,” he said. “It's something they tried a lot on me in 2006. I made the main theme in my race the idea of fighting Washington, defending freedoms and empowering people.

“I have a very high regard for life and embracing life, but the bigger issue is what you offer to our state that helps the greatest amount of people, and that's what my campaign has been about.”