A year ago, the Republican candidate for governor was assumed to be a sacrificial lamb, with no chance of beating one of America’s most popular governors, Democrat John Hickenlooper.
But after one of the most controversial legislative sessions in memory, Republicans think they have a chance, and six of them are in the hunt to oust Hickenlooper in the November election.
Here’s a quick look at who they are:
Tancredo served in Congress for 10 years and ran for president in 2008 to draw attention to his crusade to crack down on illegal immigration. In 2010, he entered the chaotic election for Colorado governor as a member of the American Constitution Party and finished ahead of the Republican candidate, political neophyte Dan Maes.
He supports tax credits for private school tuition and cutting government jobs, and he opposes the gun-control bills Hickenlooper signed last year.
An early favorite in the primary, Tancredo refuses to debate with other Republicans, saying debates only provide ammunition to Democrats.
Tancredo and his wife, Jackie, have two sons and six grandchildren.
In his three years as secretary of state, Gessler has become a magnet for liberal critics, who accuse him of using his office to tilt elections in favor of Republicans. Courts have overturned his attempts to prevent inactive voters from getting ballots, and to limit campaign-finance fines and allow small campaign groups to avoid registration.
He also has gotten crosswise with county clerks, who largely supported an election bill that increases mail voting and makes it easier to register. Gessler vocally opposed it.
Gessler says Colorado is losing its competitiveness in business, and its schools are substandard – problems he says he will fix.
Gessler served 16 years in the Army Reserve and was deployed to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. He and his wife, Kristi, have a 5-year-old daughter. They live in Denver.
The state senator from Wray has a conservative voting record that makes his biography a bit surprising. He drives a Toyota Prius and is an avid long-distance cyclist, and he has sponsored bills that increase cyclists’ rights.
He farms watermelons and uses a few of them for targets at a popular shooting party he hosts.
He has sponsored unsuccessful but high-profile bills to keep Daylight Saving Time all year, and to allow teenagers to order an alcoholic drink in a restaurant if their parents are with them.
In 2013, Brophy changed his mind and became one of just a few Republicans to vote for in-state tuition for children who immigrated illegally with their parents. He has opposed previous versions of the bill.
Brophy has been the most critical of the candidates about Tancredo’s refusal to debate.
Brophy and his wife, Angela, have three children.
A former state Senate minority leader, Kopp now works as manager of corporate affairs at Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the utility that has been most forceful in its opposition to renewable-energy mandates.
In the Legislature, Kopp sponsored bills to limit Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s power over gas and oil drilling sites, to make it easier for residents to track government finances online and to fund grants for wildfire mitigation. Kopp served on a wildland fire hot-shot crew.
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, who is seen as the elder statesman of Colorado conservatives, endorsed Kopp.
Kopp left the state Senate in 2011 to care for his four children when his first wife died. He now is married to Shannon Kopp.
House is a health-care consultant and chairman of the Adams County Republican Party. He moved to Colorado in 1994 to run the regional office for GE Healthcare.
House promotes his business experience – and lack of political experience – as positive traits that set him apart from the rest of the field.
He says Colorado’s economy should be better than it is, given its agricultural base, natural resources and educated populace.
House and his wife, Donna, live in Brighton. They have six adult children.
The Meeker businessman is the only Western Slope resident in the Republican primary.
Rundberg is an Army veteran and opposes abortion.
According to a questionnaire Rundberg filled out for Project Vote Smart, he believes human activity is contributing to climate change, and he supports use of natural gas as a transportation fuel as a way to cut global-warming pollution.
He is single with four children.