Governor's race heating up

With no primary, hopefuls Ritter and Beauprez set to duel

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— Bob Beauprez is a boxer who has just fought a few rounds, taking some strong punches and working up a sweat. Bill Ritter is coming into the ring fresh out of the locker room.

Which candidate for governor has the advantage depends on whom you ask.

Nearly two weeks ago, the Colorado Supreme Court ended former University of Denver president Marc Holtzman's quest to challenge Beauprez in a Republican primary. The ruling left Beauprez, a banker and congressman from Arvada, as the sole Republican nominee for governor. He presumably will oppose Democrat Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, in November's general election.

Now that a contested primary is out of the question, the two heavyweights have begun swinging at each other in earnest. A recent series of dueling press statements and advertisements indicates that in the Beauprez-Ritter race for governor, the bell has rung.

"It went very quickly from a Republican primary situation to a general election situation. The same is probably true for both sides," Ritter campaign spokesman Evan Dreyer said Monday.

"We're recalibrating our campaign for the general election," Beauprez spokesman John Marshall said. "Having spent the past six or eight months in the middle of a primary battle, we are in prime fighting condition. Bill Ritter, on the other hand, hasn't really had to campaign to this point. He's been sitting on his laurels."

Beauprez and Holtzman have campaigned against each other since summer 2005, beginning with a heated public debate about Referendum C, a ballot initiative passed by voters in November that allows the state to keep more than $4 billion in surplus taxpayer refunds during five years.

The Holtzman campaign criticized Beauprez for not doing enough to publicly oppose the referendum and eventually dub--bed the congressman "Both Ways Bob," a moniker that the Ritter campaign has adopted.

"(Beauprez) can expect to wear it around his neck from now until Election Day," Ritter campaign manager Greg Kolomitz said about the nickname.

Beauprez spokesman John Marshall called the nickname "baseless and without merit," and said sparring with Holtzman sharpened the skills of Beauprez and his campaign staff.

But it also caused Beauprez to spend money. Although the congressman still leads in total fundraising, with $2.039 million compared with nearly $1.9 million raised by Ritter, the gap is narrowing.

Ritter's campaign raised $360,000 in June, according to an announcement Friday. Marshall said Monday that Beauprez's June total was $151,000.

Dreyer said the Ritter campaign has used some of that money to purchase TV advertising slots in the fall. Beauprez has launched statewide radio advertisements that question Ritter's stance on illegal immigration and his record as a district attorney -- questions that Ritter immediately disputed, saying Beauprez is using "wedge politics" and attack ads because the congressman's campaign is "desperate and flailing."

Get a front-row seat, voters. The title bout has begun.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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