BOULDER — It was a tale of two state assemblies Saturday as Republicans spent hours choosing their statewide nominees from a crowded field of contenders while Democrats briskly rubber-stamped their hand-picked candidates.
In the Republican gubernatorial contest, easily the most suspenseful of the day, Republican delegates nominated for the primary ballot former state Sen. Mike Kopp (R-Golden) with 33.6 percent of the vote and Secretary of State Scott Gessler with 33.1 percent.
“It’s clear from the Colorado GOP State Assembly that our campaign has the big momentum as we came away with the top-line victory!” Kopp said in a statement after the ballots were counted.
“Delegates heard our grand vision for Colorado and responded. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication!” Kopp said.
Out of the running were state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), who collected 18.9 percent of the vote; businessman Steve House, who drew 12.8 percent, and rancher Roni Sylvester with 1.59 percent. Candidates must receive 30 percent of the vote to qualify for the ballot.
Kopp and Gessler will join former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who qualified last week for the June 24 ballot via the petition process, in the primary race. Former Rep. Bob Beauprez is also attempting to qualify by petition.
For the U.S. Senate race, Republicans also nominated Rep. Cory Gardner with 73.6 percent of the vote, allowing him to avoid a contested primary against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs), who took 23.8 percent.
Meanwhile, Democrats nominated by voice vote Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall, both of whom are seeking reelection for second terms.
Udall, playing up his image as an outdoorsy environmentalist, asked delegates if they were ready to “climb a mountain for Colorado on Nov. 4,” while his supporters waved signs showing a peak that said, “Udall 14er.”
“You can’t schmooze your way up a mountain. You can’t trash-talk your way up a mountain. You just put on your boots and climb the doggone thing,” said Udall. “My mission every day as a United States senator is to get up and climb a mountain for Colorado.”
Democrats also nominated University of Colorado Regent Joe Neguse for Secretary of State; former Rep. Betsy Markey for state Treasurer, and Adams County District Attorney Don Quick for Attorney General.
On the Republican side, state Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) qualified by a hair for the Attorney General primary with 30.7 percent. He’ll face Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who won 69.3 percent of the delegate vote.
On a less suspenseful note, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams received the nomination for Secretary of State, while state Treasurer Walker Stapleton easily won the nomination for reelection.
The hit of the Democratic Assembly was a humorous video showing Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia whipping Hickenlooper into campaign shape by having him bike-ride and drink protein shakes, among other things.
“John and I are getting in shape for this election because we know that there are outside groups ready to pour millions of dollars here into Colorado trying to scare us and trying to divide us, but as Coloradans, we know better than to fall into that trap,” said Garcia.
Hickenlooper, wearing a blue basketball jersey over his dress shirt, urged Democrats to beware of “outside money coming into Colorado to distort our record and try to divide us.”
“We need to stay united and laugh off those attack ads for the jokes that they are,” said Hickenlooper.
Valerie Richardson reported from Denver and Leslie Jorgensen reported from Boulder.