Updated: October 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm
Former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp announced Tuesday he will run for governor in 2014, becoming the fifth Republican to enter the race against Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
It's a crowded field for the GOP that Republicans say illustrates the vulnerability of Hickenlooper and Democrats attribute to the right-side's inability to organize a cohesive front.
Kopp said he views the large candidate field as a response to a leadership vacuum in the state, federal overreach and the erosion of Second Amendment rights.
"To me the most important issue in this election is leadership, and it's leadership that is relentlessly focused on empowering individuals," said Kopp, who lives in Golden. "To me, government has taken a front seat and it really should be in the back seat."
Kopp said he's ready to be the leader the state needs.
But first, he'll have to win the stamp-of-approval from his own party.
Already in the Republican race are former Congressman Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and state Sen. Greg Brophy.
A fifth candidate, Jim Rundberg, from Moffat in Saguache County, has also filed for the state-wide office.
"The fact that there's no clear frontrunner for the Republicans to me just demonstrates they are just allover the place," said Laura Chapin, a Democratic political consultant from Denver. "They seem to have the same problem they have had for the last several cycles . They can't get a moderate to win the primary and then they can't get a hard-line conservative to win the general."
Ryan Call, state chairman of the GOP, said it's going to a be robust primary, giving voters options.
"Republicans recognize that Hickenlooper is vulnerable," said Ryan Call, state chairman of the GOP. "Part of it is that we've seen when you give Democrats the control of all levels of government the kind of policies they enact and the priorities they push are out of step with the needs of all Coloradoans."
Call specifically called out Hickenlooper for not vetoing a single bill last session when both the House and Senate were held by Democrats.
"He was a rubber stamp to one of the most left wing legislative sessions we've seen," Call said.
But Call cautioned that Republicans will have to be careful not to tear down each other as they seek the primary endorsement.
"These are four gentlemen who have all known and respect one another and as a result they know that their success in the primary cannot come at the expense of tearing down the party or one another to pieces," Call said.
Kopp - the most recent to announce - echoed those sentiments, saying he has already put a stop to destructive campaign whispers and tactics.
Chapin said aside from negative campaign ads, the five Republican candidates - which could grow to seven if those waiting in the wings jump in - will be stretching fundraising dollars to the limit.
A gubernatorial race in Colorado will likely cost between $5 million and $8 million for a candidate to run a state-wide race.
"A million dollars each is not going to cut it," Chapin said.
Call emphasized he hopes voters in the primary will take the viability of a candidate - including the size of their campaign coffers into consideration.
"There will be an honest assessment at the end of the quarter when fundraising numbers of the candidates are posting," Call said. "Those come out on the 15th of this month and I think it is very appropriate to have an honest assessment."
So far, Hickenlooper is the frontrunner.
The incumbent governor filed his paperwork to seek reelection in August and has $588,000 in his campaign fund despite having spent about $435,000.
Gessler has $50,554 in his war chest and has spent about $26,000.
Tancredo has about $30,000 with minimal expenditures.
And Brophy and Kopp will disclose their first financial reports on Oct. 15.
Rundberg has a negative account balance of $286.
Contact Megan Schrader