When Greg Lopez walked into Dawn James’ Civics class last Thursday and began a conversation with the students, his connection with the kids—and their enthusiastic response--would have led one to believe he was a teacher or, maybe, even one of the parents. Not so. Lopez is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor of Colorado. He’s also a man full of surprises.
Lopez is no stranger to politics. In 1992, he was elected mayor of Parker at the age of 27, making him Colorado’s youngest mayor ever. He spent six years as State Director of the small Business Administration. He was also a weapons specialist in the Air Force, has done advance work for VPs, is a member of the civilian secret service and now owns a restaurant in Aurora.
But the entirety of his life story is very different from those of his opponents, one of whom is a member of the Bush family and the other a self-made millionaire. Lopez’s parents were migrant workers, and his early childhood years were spent as a migrant farm worker, beginning in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and then traveling and harvesting crops as far north as Michigan. Once the family settled, they still lived below the poverty level with a life characterized by free lunches at school and clothes purchased from Goodwill. Nonetheless, the upbringing he received from his parents instilled the principles he follows today: work hard, have strong family ties, be honest, help others and have faith in God.
“I’m not special,” he said to the students. “Yet here I stand before you, running for governor of Colorado. In America, you can achieve anything.”
With a successful mayoral campaign run on $1,000, Lopez started in politics as a Democrat but, after being elected, switched to the Republican Party, largely because of the fiscally conservative agenda. Those years in public office where he was both mayor and city manager laid the groundwork for his role with the SBA where he could instruct small business owners on government rules and regulations and mentor those starting up businesses. “We built our country on the shoulders of small business,” he said. “Even the major corporations started small.” Small business continues to be a major priority, and Lopez aims to remove some of the regulations that are “strangling Colorado’s small businesses”. He went on to say, “Regulators are the most powerful people in the state because they impact small business the most.”
He discussed what he sees as the negative impact of Amazon on small, local brick and mortar retailers, further encouraging the students to combine buying power with “common sense”. “Every action you take today impacts your economy,” he said. “In our country, 500,000 small businesses employ over one million people.”
Lopez took questions from the students, who were both enthusiastic and prepared. When asked about education, he promoted “10KBA”, a program where students can earn their BA for $10,000 by taking half of their classes online.
When asked about the legalization of marijuana, he stated he did not support Amendment 64 and discussed what he sees as its detrimental impact on the state.
When asked about voting, Lopez emphasized the importance of being involved and went on to expand on the importance of civil discourse and mutual respect despite differences of opinion. When asked about Trump’s use of Twitter, he described it as “genius”. Of Trump, himself, he said, “He’s a true leader because he says what he’s going to do and then he does it.”
At the end of class, the students still had questions. Some of them even lined up to speak with Lopez before they left.
In the statewide assemblies, Lopez came in second with 33% of the vote. Even so, he has an uphill climb to the nomination with limited statewide recognition and $16,000 in campaign contributions compared to Walker Stapleton who has $1.3 million. But if the EHS students are any indication, Lopez might still have a few more surprises up his sleeve.
Greg Lopez is traveling the state on his “It’s All About Us” town hall tour.