DENVER - State Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) is joining the GOP field challenging Governor John Hickenlooper. Brophy sat down Friday for an exclusive interview with 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark.
"I think the big difference between me and Governor Hickenlooper is that you can trust me," Brophy said. Hickenlooper "drags along the people of Colorado" by failing to take a stand on controversial issues, Brophy said.
He took issue with Hickenlooper's decision to grant an indefinite reprieve to convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap rather than commute his sentence or allow his execution to proceed.
"That was gutless and shameful and shouldn't have happened in that manner," Brophy said. "[The death penalty] is nothing you relish. It's a hard thing to do but it's something that you expect your Governor to do. Just go do the right thing."
Brophy assailed Hickenlooper and Democrats in the legislature for ignoring the economy and basic function of government and instead focusing on what he called "fringe issues" like gun control, renewable energy mandates and voting rules. He pledged to roll back those laws where possible, noting that he wouldn't challenge civil unions, which became law this year.
"We need a competent and experienced leader who cares about the things that matter at the kitchen table, who also will guard all of your liberties," Brophy said. "We're talking about transportation, education, public safety and a long term budget that's actually balanced."
Brophy, a frank and at times unconventional conservative, is a farmer in Wray, on the Eastern Plains. He was first elected to the Colorado House in 2002 and was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate in 2005. He was re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
Colorado has not elected a farmer or rancher to the Governor's mansion since Governor Daniel Thornton who took office in 1951. Brophy mused that perhaps they just didn't have enough time to run for office or, like him, preferred life on the farm to life at the Capitol.
Brophy has one of the more active Twitter accounts at the statehouse. His Twitter bio describes him as "an avid cyclist, farmer and defender of freedom."
He brushed off a suggestion that some his more than 6,000 tweets could come back to bite him.
"What you see is what you get," Brophy said, describing his viewpoints as "eclectic."
In the last legislative session, he sponsored a bills to allow Coloradans to vote on Daylight Saving Time, set rules for driverless cars and another to allow parents to buy alcohol drinks in bars for their children 18 years of age and older. He reversed his previous opposition and voted for in-state college tuition for people here illegally, one of just three state senators to buck the party line.
"These kids are home. They can't go back home. This is their home," Brophy said. "Each kid that doesn't get educated may never have that chance so I saw this as an issue that needed to be solved now."
Despite the fact that his campaign website touts his record as "one of the state's most conservative lawmakers," in his interview with 9NEWS, Brophy said he doesn't consider himself to be more or less conservative than former congressman Tom Tancredo, who has entered the race, or Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is expected to run.
"I like them a lot," Brophy said of Tancredo and Gessler. "I don't think either one of them can win a statewide election in Colorado."
Tancredo lost in a three-way gubernatorial race in 2010, the same year Gessler was elected Secretary of State.
"I don't think Scott Gessler can win again given the [press] coverage that he's had and the reputation that he's earned," Brophy said. "[He has] no experience and, frankly, he comes across as a little bit mean."
Democrats appear to be salivating at the prospect of running against three outspoken conservatives known for making attention-grabbing statements, such as Brophy's recent remark on talk radio that linked wildfires and terrorism.
When asked Friday, Brophy doubled down on his suggestion that Colorado's spate of wildfires could be linked to calls by Al Qaeda to start fires in the United States.
"It's possible. And we're not prepared for it," Brophy said. "So whether it was started by an arsonist or a terrorist, it doesn't matter, the houses still burn down. And the legislature, this last session, failed to address that, from a safety standpoint."
NBC News has reported an online article allegedly written by members of Al Qaeda instructed followers on how to light wildfires in the Western United States.
Brophy will make a formal campaign announcement Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Wildlife Experience before kicking off a tour with stops around Colorado. The schedule is outlined on his campaign website.
Brophy said he's confident he has the appeal to lure independent voters but first he must survive the GOP primary gauntlet.
"I think most conservatives believe that government has a real role and it ought to do that role and it ought to do it well," Brophy said. "That's where I'm at. I just want it to operate. Kind of a no-drama government."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)