Gessler entering GOP gubernatorial field of Hickenlooper challengers

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Scott Gessler is hitting the airwaves with his campaign's first TV ad that attacks his top two rivals ahead of the June 24 gubernatorial primary.

DENVER — After a listening tour of 118 days, Secretary of State Scott Gessler will make it official Tuesday night — he’s entering the Colorado governor’s race.

Gessler, who will make the announcement at the Cable Center on the University of Denver campus at 6 p.m., will be the third Republican officially running to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper next year.

“Going around the state, talking to people and just thinking about it myself, I really got a sense of just how bad the last legislative session was,” Gessler told FOX31 Denver Tuesday afternoon.

“We just saw the impact of that rushed elections law in how messy these recalls were, and outside the metro area, we’re seeing growing resentment from people about the reality of increased electricity rates over time. I’ve just gotten a sense of real disaffection.”

Republicans are increasingly bullish about their chances against Hickenlooper, who’s seen his disapproval ratings rise in the months following a divisive, Democrat-dominated legislative session and his controversial decision in May to grant convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve just months from his scheduled execution date.

Gessler, nicknamed “Honey Badger” by his detractors for pursuing brash reforms aimed at reducing voter fraud, has been a lightning rod for criticism by Democrats — he’s arguably the most high profile Secretary of State Colorado has seen in some time.

But he believes, of the other candidates in the field, he’s got the best chance of unifying the Republican Party.

“Folks from across the entire spectrum of the Republican Party like me,” Gessler said. “They respect what I’ve done. I haven’t alienated any wing of this party; and people know who I am. I’ve got a record of achievement no one else can match.”

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who broke ranks with the GOP in 2010 to launch a late, third-party bid for governor, is well known but polarizing, given his strong positions on illegal immigration.

He was the first to enter the gubernatorial field in May.

In mid-summer, state Sen. Greg Brophy, a Wray farmer known for his strong opposition to the state’s new gun control laws and for being an unconventional conservative — he drives a Prius and voted in favor of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, for starters — joined the GOP’s gubernatorial field.

And former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp is likely to join the field as well at some point.

Some establishment Republicans have been urging Araphoe County District Attorney George Brauchler to enter the field, but that possibility is appearing less likely for the prosecutor, who’s reluctant to give up the reins in the ongoing death penalty case against Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.

On Tuesday, Gessler told FOX31 Denver that he discussed delaying his official announcement, scheduled some weeks ago, given the devastating floods impacting much of the northern Front Range, but decided to go ahead with the event.

He plans to tour flood damage in Larimer County Wednesday morning before embarking on a listening tour that’ll take him to Pueblo and Colorado Springs later that day and to the Western Slope on Thursday.

Former Congressman Bob Schaffer and state Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, R-Pueblo, were among the supporters who showed up for the official announcement Tuesday night.

More supporters will be announced in the coming weeks, Gessler said.