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Scott Gessler

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Scott Gessler
Scott Gessler.jpg
Colorado Secretary of State
Former officeholder
In office
January 11, 2011 - January 13, 2015
PredecessorBernie Buescher (D)
Base salary$68,500
Elections and appointments
Last electionJune 24, 2014
First electedNovember 2, 2010
Campaign $$317,575
Term limits2 consecutive terms
High schoolRiverside-Brookfield High School (1983)
Bachelor'sYale University
Master'sNorthwestern University
J.D.University of Michigan (1990)
Military service
Service/branchU.S. Army Reserves
Place of birthMichigan
ProfessionAttorney, Businessman
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Scott Gessler campaign logo
Scott Gessler is the former Republican Colorado Secretary of State. He was first elected to the statewide position in 2010, unseating Democratic incumbent Bernie Buescher.[1] He was sworn into office on January 11, 2011.

Gessler did not seek re-election when his seat came up in 2014. Although he initially stated his intention to run for a second term in March 2013, two months later Gessler suspended his re-election campaign and filed paperwork allowing him to begin raising money for a potential gubernatorial bid, confirming rumors he had designs on a higher office.

Gessler officially entered the gubernatorial race on September 17, 2013, becoming the third declared candidate in the Republican primary field, after former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and state Sen. Greg Brophy, setting up a possible showdown with Democratic incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper. At his campaign launch, Gessler, arguably one of the governor's most outspoken critics since they had both taken office in 2011, called Hickenlooper the "TBD governor," and then stated, "I'm the only one who's actually won a statewide campaign, beating a Democratic incumbent...I think I can beat a Democrat incumbent again." [2][3] Gessler lost to Bob Beauprez in the Republican primary election on June 24, 2014. The general election took place November 4, 2014.


Gessler grew up in Riverside, Illinois. He graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1983, and went on to earn his B.A., MBA and J.D., from Yale University, Northwestern University and University of Michigan, respectively.

After receiving his law degree in 1990, Gessler began his career as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He served as a reservist in the United States Army for sixteen years and has served overseas in locations such as Bosnia where he ran a Civil-Military Cooperation Centre in Gornji Vakuf, and Travnik, both in British Multi-National Division Southwest. Following his move to Colorado, Gessler joined Hackstaff Gessler LLC, a Denver-based private practice law firm, where he still works today. Prior to assuming office of secretary, he taught election law at the University of Colorado Law School.[4]


  • Riverside-Brookfield High School (1983)
  • Bachelor's degree, Yale University (1987) in history and political science
  • Juris Doctorate degree, University of Michigan (1990)
  • Master's of Business Administration degree, Northwestern University (1996)

Political Career

Colorado Secretary of State (2011-2015)

Gessler defeated incumbent Bernie Buescher (D) in the 2010 general election, becoming Colorado's 37th Secretary of State.


Discretionary fund misuse

On June 13, 2013, Gessler was charged with misusing his office's discretionary fund to attend a lawyers conference that took place in Florida. The Colorado state ethics commission determined that Gessler had "breached the public trust for private gain" by using taxpayer money to fund a trip that was not in service of the office. Gessler went to the conference to earn ongoing legal education credits, which were necessary to maintain an up to date law license, but not a requirement of the secretary of state.[5]

In reaction to the ruling, Gessler accused the commission of unfairly targeting him because of his affiliation with the Republican Party. He pointed out that "two commissioners have donated to my political opponents, and they both unsurprisingly ruled against me." The ethics commission is a five-member panel composed of both Democrats and Republicans.

Gessler's relevant travel expenses were found to have cost Colorado taxpayers about $1,800, and he was penalized twice that sum to reimburse the state. The investigation into Gessler's ethics violations cost the commission and the secretary of state's office $143,000 in legal fees.[6]

Ballot-mailing legislation

Gessler incited a forceful backlash from Colorado Democrats when he filed a lawsuit and subsequently testified against a popular bill to include and/or reactivate voters classified as "inactive-failed to vote" since 2010.[7] The bill, introduced by Democratic Pueblo County Clerks, aimed to reach out to this base of underground or circumstantially disenfranchised voters, comprising roughly 71,000 Coloradoans between Denver and Pueblo, by automatically mailing them ballots. Supporters argued that "without the legislation, it will be more difficult for seniors, active duty military and others who rely on mail ballots to cast votes in 2012."[8] As for his reasons, Gessler cited the legislation's expense, the importance of procedural uniformity in elections across all counties, and the irresponsibility of performing "radical surgery on elections administration"[8] shortly before a presidential election. His initial reaction was to file suit against Denver County- one of the two "Democratic strongholds"[7] the bill would target; when his request for an injunction was rejected by Denver District Judge Brian Whitney in October 2011, he continued fostering efforts to crush the bill, leading up to his controversial testimony in March 2012. Angered Democratic lawmakers and party-members were adamant that his opposition reflected a disposition toward letting his partisan agenda precede the concern for doing right by Colorado voters, noting that the only clerks who were not on board were Republican and the mailings would primarily impact Democratic-leaning precincts.

After the judge's ruling in October 2011, thousands of dormant military voters--some overseas--were mailed ballots. Gessler invoked his preemptive authority as the state's chief elections official to issue the clerks a cease and desist order.[7] The bill passed in the State Senate 29-10 but was ultimately killed in the Republican-dominated House local affairs committee on March 28, 2012. Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said afterward, "If Gessler is unwilling to fulfill his duties as a nonpartisan election officer, the people of Colorado should consider all avenues necessary to remove him as Secretary of State."[8] A member from Gessler's public relations team responded that he would not dignify "left-wing antagonism," including Palacio's threat of a potential recall election.[8]

Issue committee financial reporting

On June 10, 2011, two non-profit voter advocacy groups -- Common Cause Colorado (dead link) and Colorado Ethics Watch -- sued Gessler in Denver District Court over a new financial rule he imposed on ballot measure issue committees. Gessler, in his capacity as Secretary of State, had announced in May that issue committees would only be required to report contributions and expenditures over $5,000; under the Colorado Constitution, that threshold is set at $200. The $5,000 requirement is standard in several other states, including neighboring Nebraska.

Gessler explained that he imposed the new rule in response to a November 2010 court decision against the state, in which the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the $200 threshold excessively low and unduly burdensome to issue committees. He criticized the plaintiffs in the June 2011 suit, noting that he acted to protect the state, which had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending itself before the 10th Circuit. "This latest complaint only adds insult to injury," he said.[9] In response, Common Cause Colorado and Colorado Ethics Watch argued that Gessler's office lacked the authority to rewrite state campaign finance law by fiat. They also suggested that applying a one-size-fits-all rule like Gessler's to "every ballot question ... from the smallest local measure to a statewide ballot initiative where millions of dollars are involved," was inappropriate.

In addition to raising the reporting threshold to $5,000, Gessler's rewrite of the campaign finance rules also called for limiting the total fine that may be charged for late or incomplete campaign-finance reports to $9,000—-or $50 a day for up to 180 days. The new order went into effect permanently on March 30, 2012. The suit's unsuccessful plaintiffs, among other critics, expressed disappointment that these rules would greater strengthen the already influential role of money in determining election outcomes. Gessler countered that the rewrites promote First Amendment rights. "We want to make campaign finance requirements as clear as possible so that Coloradoans can get the transparency they expect with maximum political participation and civic engagement," he said on February 22, 2012.[10]

Presidential preference


See also: Endorsements by state officials of presidential candidates in the 2012 election

Scott Gessler endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. [11]



See also: Colorado Gubernatorial election, 2014 and Colorado secretary of state election, 2014

Contradicting Gessler's March 2013 announcement that he would run for a second term as secretary of state, The Denver Post reported in May that he was in fact exploring a bid to take on Democratic incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper.[12][13] Gessler subsequently suspended his secretary of state re-election campaign, but did not immediately announce his candidacy for governor. After filing paperwork to start raising money for a potential gubernatorial campaign, Gessler stated his plans "to spend the summer making sure my issues are the right issues for the state of Colorado."[14] He officially entered the race on September 17, 2013, becoming the third candidate in the Republican primary field after former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and state Sen. Greg Brophy, the latter of whom ultimately did not qualify for the primary ballot.[15]

Gessler sought the Republican nomination in the primary election on June 24, 2014. He was defeated by Bob Beauprez.

Primary Election Results

Governor of Colorado, Republican Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngBob Beauprez 30.2% 116,333
Tom Tancredo 26.7% 102,830
Scott Gessler 23.2% 89,213
Mike Kopp 19.9% 76,373
Total Votes 384,749
Election Results via Colorado Secretary of State.


Gessler's 2014 gubernatorial campaign was endorsed by:[16]

  • Former Rep. Bob Schaffer
  • Former Speaker of the House Lola Spradley
  • Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras
  • Former Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez
  • Former El Paso County GOP chairman Eli Bremer
  • Former El Paso County GOP executive director Bill Roy
  • Former Chaffee GOP chairman Dave Williams
  • Pueblo law enforcement veteran George Rivera

A complete list of endorsements could be found here, at Gessler's Official campaign website.

Race background

Democratic nomination

Democratic incumbent Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ran for re-election in 2014 alongside Lieutenant Governor Joseph Garcia (D). Hickenlooper and Garcia were first elected together in 2010. They were uncontested for re-nomination in the Democratic primary on June 24, 2014.

Republican nomination

On June 24, qualified Colorado voters selected Bob Beauprez as the Republican nominee for governor. It was the only contested primary for a statewide office held that day. Beauprez represented Colorado's 7th Congressional District from 2003 to 2007 and he was the 2006 Republican nominee for governor.[17] He drew 30 percent of the primary vote, according to unofficial totals, defeating Tom Tancredo (27 percent), Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (23 percent) and Mike Kopp (20 percent).[18] Gessler shunned a possible second term as secretary of state in 2014 in favor of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to challenge Hickenlooper for the state's top office. Since Gessler was knocked out of the governor's race, he was unable to make a bid for re-election to his current post.

While Beauprez trailed most of his primary opponents in fundraising leading up to the primary, the Democrats made him their number one target for attack, leading Republican voters unfamiliar with Beauprez to perceive him as a serious threat to Hickenlooper. Beauprez also stood out as the preferred choice of the Republican establishment, which favored Beauprez over Tancredo in particular. A former Republican colleague of Beauprez in the U.S. House, Tancredo raised the most money and campaigned more aggressively this election. But by running against Hickenlooper in 2010 on the American Constitution Party ticket and later switching his affiliation back to Republican, Tancredo had cultivated a reputation among party members as a wildcard.[19]

Despite his crushing double-digit loss in the 2006 governor's race, often invoked by opposition groups such as ProgressNow Colorado, who called Beauprez "one of Colorado’s most storied political losers," in a pre-primary press release, the GOP establishment placed their faith in Beauprez in the 2014 election.[20] About that defeat, which occurred during his last term in Congress, Beauprez reflected, "I’m even more experienced than I was eight years ago. I’m certainly a lot wiser."[21]

On the advertising front, the primary campaign season was a relatively quiet one for the governor's race. This changed after the primary election, however, as Hickenlooper shifted out of his unopposed reverie into active campaign mode . According to the candidates' campaign finance reports due July 1, Hickenlooper raised nearly $3 million in preparation for the second phase of this campaign cycle and ended the reporting period with $579,268 of cash on hand. Meanwhile, Beauprez, having weathered a tough primary battle, was left with a mere $34,921 cash on hand. Beauprez' total fundraising for the cycle as of June 25 was $351,921, and he already faced loans exceeding $500,000, most of which he lent to himself. [22]

General election

Hickenlooper, Beauprez, Matthew Hess (Libertarian), Harry Hempy (Green) and various unaffiliated candidates competed in the general election on November 4, 2014.[23][24]

In September 2014, Governing rated the race between Hickenlooper and Beauprez as a "Toss-up" while The Cook Political Report gave Hickenlooper a slight advantage with a "Lean D" rating.[25][26]


Hickenlooper vs. Gessler
Poll John Hickenlooper (D)* Scott Gessler (R)Someone elseUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Quinnipiac University
(Aug. 15-21, 2013)
Public Policy Polling
(December 3-4, 2013)
AVERAGES 47% 41% 0.5% 11% +/-3.05 1,056
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to
Gessler campaign logo.jpg


See also: Colorado Secretary of State election, 2010
  • General Election
    • Gessler won the general election race for secretary of state with 49.5% of the vote.
2010 Race for Secretary of State - General Election[27]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Republican Party Approveda Scott Gessler 49.5%
     Democratic Party Bernie Buescher 43.9%
     Constitution Party Amanda Campbell 6.6%
Total Votes 1,717,065

  • Scott Gessler ran unopposed in this contest

Campaign contributions

Comprehensive donor information for Gessler is available dating back to 2010. Based on available campaign finance records, Gessler raised a total of $317,575 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 8, 2013.[29]

Scott Gessler's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Colorado Secretary of State Not up for election $42,126
2010 Colorado Secretary of State Won $275,449
Grand Total Raised $317,575


Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Scott Gessler's donors each year.[30] Click [show] for more information.


Gessler currently resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Kristi, and their daughter, Sofia.[31]

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Contact information

Capitol Address:
Secretary of State
1700 Broadway, Ste. 270
Denver, CO 80290


Phone: (303) 894-2200
Toll Free Phone: (303) 869-4867
Fax: (303) 869-4860

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Campaign links

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Campaign Twitter
Campaign YouTube


  1. Grand Junction Sentinel, "Gessler becomes new Colo. secretary of state" 3 Nov. 2010
  2. National Journal, "Hickenlooper Winning Bipartisan Praise," January 24, 2013
  3., "Amid flood disaster, Scott Gessler announces bid for governor," September 17, 2013
  4. Gessler for Colorado, "About Scott Gessler," accessed August 27, 2013 (dead link)
  5. The Gazette, "Panel: Secretary of State Scott Gessler violated ethics rules over spending," June 13, 2013
  6. The Denver Post, "Colorado Secretary of State wrong to use state funds for trip, ethics commission rules," June 14, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Denver Post, "Judge's ruling allows Nov. 1 election ballots to be sent to inactive voters," October 8, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 The Denver Post, "Colorado Democrats want Secretary of State Scott Gessler removed from office," March 29, 2012
  9. Denver Post, "2 groups sue Gessler over campaign finance decision," June 10, 2011
  10. The Denver Post, "Secretary of State Scott Gessler rewrites Colorado campaign finance rules," accessed February 23, 2012
  11. Mitt Romney for President, "Mitt Romney Announces Support of Minnesota Leaders," February 4, 2012 (dead link)
  12. The Colorado Statesman, "Gessler announces for re-election as secretary of state," March 29, 2013
  13. The Denver Post, "Scott Gessler evaluating run for Colorado governor in 2014," May 16, 2013
  14. 9 News, "Scott Gessler suspends re-election bid to focus on Governor's race," May 30, 2013," accessed June25, 2013
  15., "Amid flood disaster, Scott Gessler announces bid for governor," September 17, 2013
  16. >The Denver Post, "Scott Gessler releases endorsements list in 2014 Republican race for governor," December 6, 2013
  17. Bob Beauprez for Governor 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed June 25, 2014
  18. Associated Press, "Colorado - Summary Vote Results," last updated June 25, 2014
  19. CBSlocal, Denver, "Bob Beauprez wins Colorado GOP Primary," June 24, 2014
  20. ProgressNow Colorado, "Republicans head for repeat disaster as "Both Ways Bob" claims nomination," June 24, 2014
  21., "Former Rep. Bob Beauprez wins GOP primary for Colorado governor," June 24, 2014
  22. The Denver Post, "Hickenlooper fundraising passes $3 million mark," July 1, 2014
  23. Reuters, "Former congressman Beauprez to challenge Colorado governor," June 24, 2014
  24. Colorado Secretary of State, "2014 Primary Election Official Candidate List," accessed June 23, 2014
  25. Governing, "2014 Governors Races," September 10, 2014
  26. The Cook Political Report, "Governors Race Ratings 2014," September 15, 2014
  27. Colorado Secretary of State - 2010 General Election Results
  28. Colorado Secretary of State - 2010 Republican Primary Election Results
  29. Follow the Money, "Career financing for Scott Gessler," accessed July 8, 2013
  30. Follow the, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
  31. Project Vote Smart, "Secretary Scott Gessler's Biography," accessed August 27, 2013

Political offices
Preceded by
Bernie Buescher (D)
Colorado Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Wayne W. Williams (R)