Libertarian candidate for Colorado governor Scott Helker has eye on future races

Author: Joey Bunch - January 23, 2018 - Updated: January 26, 2018

Scott HelkerLibertarian gubernatorial candidate Scott Helker (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Scott Helker
Party: Libertarian
Hometown: Golden
Age: 62
Occupation:  lawyer
Political experience: Former Republican and bipartisan campaign volunteer, including for U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter
Family: Wife, Lisa; daughter, Eleanor

This is a weekly series of personal interviews Colorado Politics is doing on all the candidates, so we can learn who they are as people before we tear into their political positions.

Scott Helker showed up for a gubernatorial candidates event in Wheat Ridge on a Saturday afternoon this month, and his name wasn’t on the list, a mix-up over an e-mail, he said. He watched from the audience while the other candidates spoke, he said.

Helker is the only candidate carrying the flag, so far, for Colorado’s Libertarian Party into November’s election for governor, but he doesn’t have a campaign website. Heck, he doesn’t even have a Facebook page yet.

“I haven’t taken a picture in years,” he told Colorado Politics on the phone, when we asked for one.

Helker isn’t delusional, even though he’s never been a candidate before.

“I’m not that worried about becoming governor,” he owns up to easily, perhaps the most honest thing a politician has ever said.

But if people learn his name and hear his thoughts on the state’s highest election stage, maybe it will open doors for him in the state Senate or some other office. It might also attract more people to the Libertarian Party to support its mission of smaller government and more personal freedoms.

In the last Colorado gubernatorial election, Libertarian Matthew Hess and running mate Brandon Young got 1.9 percent of the votes cast in a race in which Gov. John Hickenlooper held off Republican Bob Beauprez by 3.3 percent.

When he saw no one else was jumping in to represent the party at the top of the ticket, Helker didn’t want to see Libertarians lose the public profile they gained when former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson ran under the Libertarian banner for president in 2016.

He’s patient.

“If you don’t have name recognition, you’re going to lose your first couple of elections, unless you’ve got big bucks behind you,” Helker said. “If you run for governor … by the time I get done, a few people will know who the hell I am.”

The former Arvada lawyer is enjoying his “retirement job” doing legal work for LexisNexis, he said. He’s overcome some health problems recently and decided it was time to take a shot at politics and stop standing by the wayside.

“This is just a good starting point,” Helker said. “It may not be that I ever run again, but it may be more people get interested in the party.”

Helker was a lifelong Republican, until the last few years when his ideas about limited government led him to become a Libertarian, and the GOP was delivering disappointments and getting into things he didn’t care about.

“The Republican Party left me behind,” he said. “It just got too conservative, and I’m not all that conservative. I’m just fiscally conservative, but if you want to get married, I don’t care if you’re gay.”

Helker was born in Tulsa, Okla., but his family moved to Colorado when he was 6 years old for his dad’s job with Western Airlines. He graduated from Evergreen High School and got his undergraduate degree from Western State in Gunnison. His law degree is from the University of Denver.

“The biggest problem is finding money,” Helker said, recalling a time when his friend Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, was a newcomer to politics and was trying to get his footing in public awareness and fundraising before he was elected to the state Senate in 2002.

“Nobody believes you can win,” he said he told Perlmutter when he was starting out. “You’ve got to convince them you can win.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.