Gessler Wins Teller And State GOP Caucuses

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Photo by Kim Francis

by Rick Langenberg:



Secretary of State Scott Gessler won the first preliminary contest in the jam- packed GOP contest for Colorado governor.

And not surprisingly, Teller Republican caucus participants strongly sided with the state verdict and gave Gessler the thumbs-up in straw polls held at various caucus locations throughout the county.

In the Teller caucuses, Gessler, who recently spoke at a Republican rally hosted by the Teller Tea Party Patriots in Woodland Park, emerged as the clear favorite, receiving 36 percent of the tallies in the competition among a hefty lineup of active contenders. The eventual winner will be determined during the state assembly and finally the primary. The victor will challenge incumbent John Hickenlooper in the general election in Nov. 2014.

The pro-Gessler tally in Teller was fairly similar to statewide results, with the secretary of state receiving approximately 31 percent in unofficial tallies conducted at precinct caucuses throughout Colorado. The caucus straw polls are the first contests in a series of forthcoming elections for this seat. The governor’s race is considered a position a Republican candidate can win this year in Colorado, according to most political predictions.

The Teller GOP support for Gessler isn’t too surprising, as he gained much notoriety locally for playing a role in resurrecting the county clerk’s office in 2012, following problems with a previous election.

As for the runner-up spot, Teller GOP caucus results differed slightly from state norms. Teller gave state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp the “Silver” title in the race for governor, while former Congressman Bob Beauprez received second place in the overall state tallies, followed by former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo.

Teller GOP voters, meanwhile gave Beauprez, who ran for governor in 2006, a somewhat cold response, awarding him only 30 tallies out of 216 caucus votes. Tancredo, known for his staunch anti-immigration stance, only received 28 votes. The other candidates, state Senator Greg Brophy and businessman Steve House, only got 9 and 3 tallies respectively. A few other gubernatorial contenders didn’t receive any votes in the Teller caucuses.

Party insiders, though, caution that the caucus polls are merely the first step in the process. “I think this thing is still up for grabs,” said Dick Wadhams, the former chairman of the state GOP party, in a recent report in the Denver Post, regarding the heated governor’s showdown.

Republican leaders, though, are hungry for victories this November. Despite having a larger number of registered voters than Democrats in Colorado, the Republicans haven’t won a key gubernatorial or U.S. Senate election in Colorado since 2002.

Besides the race for the governor’s office, the Teller and Colorado Republicans are eyeing the Senate seat, currently held by Mark Udall, which is up for grabs this November. Current polls show this contest as a dead heat between Udall and the probable Republican candidate.

For the U.S. Senate race, GOP caucus-goers clearly sided with Congressman Cory Gardner, who recently entered the contest during a switch with Ken Buck. Buck, who was considered a definite front-runner and participated in a recent candidates forum hosted by the Tea Party Patriots, has dropped out to seek Gardner’s congressional seat.

And based on state caucus polls, Gardner has gained the driver’s seat status in the GOP U.S. Senate contest, snagging the clear majority of the tallies.

The Democrats also held caucuses last week. But unlike the Republicans, they are rallying support behind current incumbents Hickenlooper and Udall in the big forthcoming state races and so straw polls don’t mean much.

During the caucuses, the Democrats and Republicans also picked delegates to the county assemblies. The delegates will then vote on what county candidates they support, a verdict that could impact what names will appear on the June primary ballot. The Teller GOP County Assembly, slated for March 15, will play a key role in determining the county assessor’s seat, as incumbents Betty Clark-Wine and Violet Watt are vying for this position. They are both Republicans.

Two republican candidates, incumbent Mike Ensminger and Danny “DJ” Riley have entered the contest for sheriff. But Riley has announced plans to petition his way onto the ballot and so won’t be soliciting delegate votes during the GOP assembly (see related story).

The caucus and assembly process in Colorado has generated much praise and criticism. Supporters say its grassroots politics at its best, allowing party regulars in many jurisdictions to get involved in the process in a neighborly fashion. Critics, though, say it’s nothing more than good ol’ boy favoritism with a system dominated by party insiders. …