DENVER - Republican Scott Gessler told 9NEWS he is suspending his re-election campaign for secretary of state, and is forming a committee Thursday to finance a run for the governor of Colorado.
At this point, Gessler has not gone all-in on his gubernatorial bid, saying he is not prepared to make a formal announcement for the office yet.
"I plan to spend the summer making sure my issues are the right issues for the state of Colorado," Gessler said.
Gessler plans to start building his campaign's infrastructure, all the while monitoring who else might get into the race.
"I want to avoid damaging the Republican Party through a contentious primary," Gessler said.
As Colorado secretary of state, Gessler established himself as a contentious political figure. His efforts to crack down on potential ineligible voters have been attacked by opponents and called a witch hunt designed to intimidate minority voters.
He also became the subject of an ethics probe over his use of state travel funds to attend partisan events last year. Gessler recently repaid the money.
If and when he makes a formal announcement, Gessler told 9NEWS he will not pursue re-election as Colorado secretary of state. Until then, he is leaving the option open to bow out of the governor's race and return to the secretary of state's race.
Gessler cannot raise funds for both efforts at the same time. Likewise, his name cannot appear on the ballot for two separate offices, unlike federal races where candidates may run for two offices at once, the most recent example being Rep. Paul Ryan, who lost as Mitt Romney's running mate, but won re-election to the House.
The funds already raised for Gessler's secretary of state bid, which totaled $31,000 in April, can be transferred to his new committee to run for governor.
It's a murky picture right now for the GOP, which faces a difficult task taking on incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper, who's performed well against potential opponents in recent polls.
Republicans do think they've found some weakness in Gov. Hickenlooper's recent decision to let the next Governor decide whether to carry out a death sentence, and they're counting on their base to punish Hickenlooper at the ballot box in response to his support of gun control.
The death sentence decision is what prompted former Congressman Tom Tancredo to jump into the race earlier this month.
Other Republicans were highly critical of Hickenlooper at the time, including state Rep. Greg Brophy of Wray, Colo. and newly-minted 18th District Attorney George Brauchler.
Brophy is considering a run. Brauchler has neither expressed interest in a bid, nor ruled it out.
Speculation remains over whether any current GOP members of Congress might take an interest in the Governor's office, though Rep. Cory Gardner tells 9NEWS he won't run for governor or U.S. Senate in 2014.
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