The upstart campaign of Greg Lopez, the former Parker mayor, took the top spot among Republican gubernatorial candidates in the straw poll Saturday night at the Western Conservative Summit.
Lopez was somewhat a surprise entry onto the four-way primary ballot in April, when he got 33 percent at the GOP state assembly after a fiery speech.
Saturday night he got 39 percent of the vote in the unscientific poll of attendees, many from out of state, at the two-day gathering of conservatives in Denver.
Presumed frontrunner Walker Stapleton came in second with 36 percent, followed by Victor Mitchell with 17 percent and Doug Robinson with 7.5 percent.
Jeff Hunt, head of the Centennial Institute and chief organizer of the summit, said Democrats Jared Polis and Donna Lynne also picked up votes.
"A handful of people are liberals," he said.
All four GOP candidates spoke at the gathering at the Colorado Convention Center.
"Across America and here in Colorado, the tree of liberty is dying," Lopez told the crowd Saturday morning. "The life-sustaining leaves of personal freedom are falling from it. As Thomas Jefferson stated, and I paraphrase, it is with the blood of patriots and tyrants that we keep the tree of liberty alive."
He answered a question on stage from Republican University of Colorado regent Heidi Ganahl about lowering crime rates by saying, "I believe what's happening in our society today is because we've abandoned God."
He was speaking to the right crowd at the summit put on the by Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.
Ganahl asked about whether, as governor, Lopez would work with Mayor Michael Hancock on Denver's reputation as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
"I don't think he understands that the Hispanic community, the majority, does not want sanctuary cities," said Lopez, the former board president of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "I think he's listening to the minority and thinks it's the majority position of the Hispanic community. And I can tell you we're proud Americans and want everybody to follow the rule of law. We know we're a nation of immigrants. We just want them to be legal."
He said he would have to "agree to disagree" with Hancock "to move forward for the betterment of all of us."
Stapleton was joined on stage Friday by his 10-year-old son, Craig, and began his pitch talking about his faith.
"Today is a great day to be a conservative, and today is a great day to be a Christian in Colorado," he said. "But the worst kept secret in this room, that we all know, is that every single day is a great day to be a Christian."
He said Polis as governor would kill the energy industry in the state.
"Jared Polis adamantly believes a government takeover of your health care the best and only option," Stapleton said. "I say that will restrict health care even more for young people starting their careers."