Kopp, Gessler win GOP assembly, advance to June’s gubernatorial primary

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BOULDER --  In a bit of a surprise, former state Sen. Mike Kopp narrowly won top line on the June primary ballot for the chance to be the Republican to challenge Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.

Kopp, a former state lawmaker, took 33.6 percent of the vote, eking out a win over Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who also made the ballot with 33.1 percent support at the state GOP assembly here.

"It was a good day," Kopp said after the results were announced.

He and Gessler both emerged from a field of five candidates vying to draw 30 percent or more of the votes from Republican delegates from across the state, the threshold needed to make the ballot.

Tom Tancredo, whose name was on the assembly ballot, did not address delegates having already qualified for the June ballot by submitting enough valid petition signatures.

Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who also did not speak to delegates, is also petitioning onto the primary ballot.

In his speech, Kopp, R-Littleton, highlighted his experience as an Army Ranger and talked about the strength he draws from his family and wife, Shannon.

And, like all the gubernatorial candidates, he attacked Hickenlooper.

"John Hickenlooper has demonstrated he does not know how to lead," said Kopp, after being introduced by former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong.

Following an introductory video, Gessler embraced his "Honey Badger" nickname and told delegates he's "ready to fight."

"I am tired of weak-kneed Republicans who believe every Democratic attack means disaster. They roll over instead of standing up," Gessler said.

State Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who presented himself as a "gun-toting, bicycle-riding, Prius-driving farmer, promised to be a governor "for all of Colorado."

"How about we try a little common sense instead of Common Core," Brophy said, one of many applause lines in a well-received speech.

Brophy, a favorite of the party's grassroots, drew just over 18 percent of the vote.

Adams County businessman Steve House and Roni Bell Slyvester also spoke after being nominated as gubernatorial candidates, but failed to garner enough support to make the primary ballot.

All five candidates who spoke emphasized their own conservative credentials, harshly criticized Hickenlooper and argued that they have the best shot at beating him in November.

Colorado Republicans officially nominated all the party's candidates for the statewide ballot on Saturday.

Congressman Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, won the GOP nomination to be the party's U.S. Senate candidate, as was expected almost from the moment Gardner decided to enter the race in February, which prompted all but two poorly-funded candidates to drop out.

Gardner took 73 percent of the vote, enough to keep state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, who drew 23 percent, off the ballot.

In the other big, contested race for Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman doubled up state Rep. Mark Waller, who barely qualified for the primary ballot.

Waller won just over 30 percent to Coffman's 69 percent.

And Wayne Williams, the only candidate nominated, will be the Republican candidate for Secretary of State.