Bob Beauprez (1948–) is a rancher and former banker and politician from Boulder County. He represented Colorado’s Seventh Congressional District from 2003 to 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 and 2014. A devout Catholic and member of the Republican Party, Beauprez has long maintained his stance as a moderate conservative despite rightward shifts within the Republican Party. After leaving politics, Beauprez bought a 1,300-acre bison ranch in North Park, where he now spends most of his time.
Robert Louis Beauprez was born on September 22, 1948, to Marie and Joseph Beauprez on the family’s dairy farm in Lafayette. Bob was the youngest of three brothers in an intensely Catholic family. Joseph Beauprez’s father was a Belgian immigrant who brought his family to rural Lafayette in the early twentieth century. Bob Beauprez has cited his childhood as an inspiration for his political career: while he did not fancy the ranching life, he came to appreciate his parents’ dogged work ethic, and he resented the federal government for levying an estate tax on the farm that made it hard for the family to make ends meet. Beauprez attended Fairview High School, where he met his eventual wife, Claudia, and was an All-Conference football player.
Beauprez attended the University of Colorado in the late 1960s, when the counterculture movement swept across American campuses. Beauprez, however, has said he was “disgusted” by the antiwar protests, drug use, atheism, and loose sexual attitudes of his peers. In college, however, Beauprez was no conservative. His father was a Democrat, and the son’s own political views were closer to those of John F. Kennedy, the country’s first Catholic president, than to Richard Nixon. He graduated with a degree in physical education in 1970. Although he hoped to escape the family farm after graduating, he ended up back home after his plans to move to New Zealand and work as a geologist did not materialize.
Rancher and Banker
Beauprez and Claudia, newly married, moved into a house on his family’s farm. Although he had somewhat reluctantly returned to ranch life, he soon found that he could make a lot of money by breeding his dad’s prize-winning cattle and selling the embryos. After arthritis forced his father to retire in the late 1980s, Beauprez sold the family farm to real estate developers.
Beauprez then took $250,000 in cattle-embryo profits and bought a struggling bank in Louisville. He renamed it Heritage Bank and expanded the enterprise into a thirteen-branch, $450 million business by 2006. In 2009 Beauprez sold the bank to New Mexico–based First Community Bank, making $16.5 million.
Beauprez has cited Democratic President John F. Kennedy as a political inspiration, writing in his 2009 book A Return to Values that Kennedy “spoke of a strong, unyielding America that could withstand any challenge, and of a citizen’s obligation to contribute to the country.” But in the mid-1970s, Beauprez’s inroads in the business community, as well as the political climate, pushed him toward the Republican Party.
Beauprez has cited the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the “feminism movement,” and the “strong antiestablishment movement that existed” after the Vietnam War as reasons why he abandoned the Democratic Party. “These new Democrats,” Beauprez wrote in A Return to Values, “didn’t sound much like JFK to me.” Republicans, he continued, “seemed to be the ones talking about personal responsibility, individual liberty, economic opportunity, and standing up to the Soviet threat.” So, while his father voted for Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Bob voted for his Republican challenger and eventual winner, Ronald Reagan.
As Beauprez became better connected in the Colorado business world, Republicans in Boulder County saw him as someone who could speak to both the party’s suit-and-tie business demographic and its working-class rural demographic. He was made chair of the Boulder County Republicans in 1997, and two years later was named chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.
House of Representatives
Beauprez entered electoral politics in Colorado’s newly created Seventh Congressional District in 2002. During the campaign, he touted his business credentials and described his priorities as “improving education, creating jobs, lowering taxes and protecting Medicare and Social Security.” Beauprez’s campaign messaging, which included Democratic priorities such as protecting the nation’s welfare system, reflected Colorado’s political reputation in the early 2000s as a “purple” state with a near-even mix of Democratic and Republican voters, especially along the Front Range. In the dramatic election, a recount saw Beauprez defeat his Democratic opponent, Mike Feeley, by just 121 votes. Beauprez was now a Republican member of the 108th Congress representing the Democratic-leaning Denver suburbs.
In 2003 Beauprez cosponsored his first bill, HR 1562, which called for insurance companies to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs for costs of “medical care furnished to veterans.” The bill had bipartisan support but ultimately failed. Beauprez went on to sponsor or cosponsor twenty-three bills through his four-year stint in Congress, many of which focused on veterans and military issues as well as management plans for federal lands and projects in Colorado. Most of this legislation, however, died in committee, with only one Beauprez-sponsored bill making it to the Senate. That bill, HR 2766, provided for a land exchange between the city of Golden and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, but the Senate ultimately rejected it.
Beauprez’s legislative agenda reflected his interest in balancing private and public solutions to pressing issues. In July 2005, for example, he introduced the Rural Colorado Water Infrastructure Act, which would have authorized the secretary of the army to provide “environmental assistance” to private businesses, including “design and construction assistance for water-related environmental infrastructure and resource protection.” Although the bill was not enacted, it reflected Beauprez’s conservative belief that in environmental stewardship as well as other areas, government should support personal responsibility instead of setting up its own costly projects and programs.
During his two terms in Congress, Beauprez served on the Ways and Means, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation Committees.
In 2006 Beauprez, then among the brightest stars in Colorado’s Republican ranks, made his first bid for governor. He raised $3.7 million, but his Democratic opponent, Bill Ritter, brought in more money and captured the governorship with 57 percent of the vote. With Beauprez on the gubernatorial ballot, Democrat Ed Perlmutter carried Beauprez’s former district, winning the Seventh by more than 20,000 votes.
By 2012 some Republicans wanted Beauprez to challenge Democrat Mark Udall for his Senate seat, but Beauprez opted to try again for the governorship in 2014. In late June 2014 Beauprez secured the Colorado GOP nomination, besting anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo. In the general election, Beauprez took on incumbent Democratic governor John Hickenlooper. He positioned himself as a moderate conservative, indicating his support for public education and the state’s recent marijuana legalization, but criticizing Hickenlooper on prison policy, oil and gas regulation, and Medicaid expansion. He also suggested that Colorado should be given more control over its federal lands.
The 2014 gubernatorial race was closer than many expected, but Hickenlooper prevailed with 49 percent of the vote versus Beauprez’s 46 percent. Beauprez left politics after the 2014 election.
Return to Values
In between his bids to become Colorado’s governor, Beauprez wrote Return to Values, his political manifesto, in 2009. The book was equal parts celebration and critique of contemporary conservative politics. Despite his admiration for the party’s commitment to issues such as antiabortion policies and lower taxes, Beauprez called for a return to Reagan-era political norms, when he believed policy discussion was prioritized over election results. He criticized what he called the “blood sport” of the contemporary GOP, in which Republicans fought with a “mercenary zeal to proclaim oneself as the purest Republican.” “How can a debate of ideas even occur,” he wrote, “when the only idea that matters is winning?”
Beauprez now spends most of his time on his North Park ranch, but he has remained active in politics. He still believes that solutions to the most pressing problems come from the middle ground between Left and Right, though he laments that neither party nor their supporters seem to agree with him. Beauprez was briefly considered for the position of interior secretary under President Donald Trump, but the administration instead picked the more conservative Ryan Zinke.
Since 2016 Beauprez has run Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), a political action committee that he erroneously registered as a nonprofit. In 2017 the state ordered CPA to pay a fine of $17,000—the second-largest such fine in state history—for failing to register as a political organization.