DENVER -- Former Congressman Bob Beauprez began his campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in earnest Tuesday morning, arguing that offers Republicans the best chance to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.
Beauprez, who lost the 2016 governor's race by 17 points, sat down with FOX31 Denver to talk about his decision to join the primary field, his path to victory and why he believes he can end the Colorado GOP's 12-year losing streak in top statewide races.
Here's a transcript of his conversation with political reporter Eli Stokols:
ES: "Seeing you campaign for Mitt Romney so much in 2012, it just seemed like you still had that fire in the belly, that you weren't done with public life. How did you get to this point and decide to enter this race?"
BB: "Well, the fire's in the belly, and it's been there for a while. I wasn't exactly sure what it was going to lead to or mean, but looking at the situation right now in Colorado, you've got a lot of guys in our race on the Republican side who are good friends. It isn't about them.
"It's about defeating John Hickenlooper and making the case that the state's on the wrong track."
ES: "And you don't think any of the other Republican gubernatorial candidates can do that? What do you see when you look at the field?"
BB: "It looks to me like folks are still looking for another choice. I'm going to offer myself as that choice; I hope I can earn that trust and be that choice and make the case against Hickenlooper in the fall."
ES: "If the fire's in the belly, why did you wait this long? Why not get in right away? Were you hoping someone would catch fire and you wouldn't have to run?"
BB: "There were two things. I've been working on bringing the convention here; I told them I'd see them through this first phase of making that proposal and I wanted to do that. And I also wanted to be sure that if I did that, if I passed that torch, that I'd be passing it to someone who can carry it at least as well, maybe even better than I did. And we've got Pete Coors on board to do that now.
"And, yes, the other thing was seeing if maybe there was that obvious front-runner that I thought maybe could move to the front of the line and beat Hickenlooper. And it looks to me like maybe that's not happening."
ES: "What is it that tells you that? That none of these other guys are going to get it done?"
BB: "Well, everyone's interested in poll numbers and all that but the biggest thing at this stage of the game is: can you raise the money? That's the biggest poll of public support that you can point to. And that's probably what pushed me over the edge, Eli. In January, the numbers were fairly anemic and that told me we've got a problem. And my phone started ringing and people started asking and it was 'will you consider?' and then it was 'run, Bob, run' and 'we'll be behind you.'
"We assessed it and decided yes, we're in. And I'm ready to take the fight to Gov. Hickenlooper. I think people want to do better. That's a good way to sum it up, actually: we just have this little bit of nauseousness in our belly; we're just not quite as good as we can be. Four and a half years into an economic recovery, we ought to be talking about full employment and economic opportunity, not two out of three people saying we're on the wrong track. There's just something wrong."
ES: "How do you, in three months, get the signatures you need to get on the ballot and really ensure that you win that primary on June 24?"
BB: "It feels very similar to 2002, when I got into that primary at the very last minute. We made our case; thankfully, enough thought I was the right nominee. I won the primary and then I won the closest race in the country by 121 votes. And then two years later I was reelected by 30,000.
"I've been there and done it before. I think there is still plenty of room in this field. I think our electorate, our primary voters, are still looking for somebody to rally around. I'm hoping to earn their trust."
ES: "I know you weren't happy about the race you ran in 2006. What do you say to these primary voters who remember that campaign and your struggles and wonder whether you've really got any better shot to beat Hickenlooper than Tom Tancredo?"
BB: "I'm not proud of 2006, but I did learn from it. We're putting together a very new team. I feel like I'm a very refreshed, energized candidate. One of the biggest challenges I had in 2006 was being both a congressman and a statewide candidate. That's the biggest mistake I made. I thought I could pull that off, and do both jobs well and I simply couldn't.
"I'm also running against an incumbent, an incumbent with a record that I think is very vulnerable.
"No two circumstances are exactly alike. One of the great things about America is the way that old song goes: 'pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.' And that's what I've been doing." I didn't disengage. I wrote a book, I've opined about public policy. I've stayed engaged.
ES: "I know you've been keeping a close eye on Gov. Hickenlooper, who, after a tough 2013, seems to be getting back to being that moderate pragmatist that people elected him to be. His poll numbers have ticked back up. Sum up your argument against him."
BB: "John Hickenlooper ran as this moderate, pro-business guy. I wanted to believe he'd be that way. But he's been exposed after last year, presiding over the most extreme, liberal legislative session ever and not vetoing a single bill.
"Here's some context: Bill Owens, in his last two years, vetoed over 90 bills. Ninety! 9-0. And this governor, in the most extreme session can't find even one? The curtain's been drawn back: the emperor has no clothes.
"He can't pretend to be a moderate, right down the white line, 'Rs and Ds don't matter to me' guy -- he's been exposed. I'm going to expose him a little more. I'm going to take him to task. I think Colorado does want a new direction."
ES: "You know that Republicans haven't won a statewide race in 12 years. You've read the criticisms, that the party and its candidates keep alienating swing voters. I think Rob Witwer and Josh Penry wrote after the 2012 election that the party 'can't keep voting these groups of people off the island'. This is a party criticized for being a party of and for old white guys. So how do you come in and broaden its appeal and steer this party back on a winning track?"
BB: "First, let me accept your premise. We haven't done a good job communicating to these folks and we've paid a price. But think about it: the people who have cast their lot with the Democratic Party -- what'd they get?
"The people who are hurting the most for jobs and opportunity in this country, who are they? It's the poor, women, youth, Hispanics and blacks. If you're really looking for opportunity with the other party and it's only gotten worse, at some point you think, maybe I ought to try the other product on the shelf.
"I think we have a strong case to make, and I'm going to make it."AlertMe