Ex-candidate Penry to pull for fellow Republicans

No longer a candidate for governor, Josh Penry is planning to leverage his withdrawal from the race for maximum Republican advantage.

It’s also possible that he’ll run again for the Senate seat he already holds, Penry said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Sentinel editorial board Thursday.

Most immediately, however, Penry said he hopes to translate his withdrawal into a coalescing force for the GOP.

“I took one for the team,” he said of his decision to step out of the race with former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

He hopes to parlay the good will from that act into support for other GOP candidates, such as Cortez Republican Scott Tipton, who is making his second run against Democrat incumbent John Salazar for the 3rd District congressional seat, Penry said.

Penry, 33, said he remains convinced he would be the best candidate for governor and that he could win the primary against Scott McInnis, as well as the general election against incumbent Gov. Bill Ritter.

Every dollar that he and McInnis would spend, however, would be one that wouldn’t go toward down-ticket Republican candidates, such as the party’s nominees for Congress, state treasurer, two Western Slope state Senate seats and others, he said.

Republicans working at a financial disadvantage could endanger what he said is “a great opportunity for us” in 2010.

“We (Republicans) can gain back much of what we lost and not squander it this time,” he said.

He said he plans to campaign and help raise money for those Republicans.

Tipton is “a good candidate who has a shot” at unseating Salazar, he said, noting the district, which covers most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado, “can flip in a tidal-wave scenario.”

His withdrawal gives him some advantages he might not otherwise have in the coming legislative session, said Penry, the Senate minority leader.

“It leaves me in a strong position” to advocate for changes to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association that are backed by the retirement system, as well as action on the state budget, he said.

Penry has yet to endorse McInnis, for whom he worked as press secretary in Washington, D.C.

He didn’t press McInnis for a job, he said, and made no other arrangements with him, but is hoping to press him to offer more definitive budget plans to voters, Penry said.

As to whether he’ll try to keep his current job in the Senate, Penry said he would speak with state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. King announced he was running for the Penry’s Senate seat after Penry announced his gubernatorial bid.

The two frequently drive from Grand Junction to Denver together during the legislative session, and Penry said he planned to speak with King before deciding whether to run again.


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