GOP looking at 3 primary battles in Colo. next year

McInnis, Penry may square off in ’10

Scott McInnis giving thanks in front of the old Mesa County Courthouse.

Colorado Republicans are looking at three possible primary races to determine their candidates for the November 2010 elections, a prospect the GOP chief said he relishes and that the Democrat chairwoman says she’s glad to avoid.

Republicans are looking at potential showdowns among Grand Junction Republicans Scott McInnis and Josh Penry, plus Dan Maes of Evergreen, for the right to run against incumbent Gov. Bill Ritter.

They also are looking at a match-up between Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck with the winner taking on Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

Meanwhile, a second Republican is bidding for the party’s nomination for Colorado state treasurer, setting up the possibility of a primary battle for the right to take on incumbent Democrat Cary Kennedy.

J.J. Ament, the son of Don Ament, a former state senator and agriculture commissioner, announced his bid on Monday. J.J. Ament would face Walker Stapleton, whose campaign already has begun and who is touting his ability to collect campaign cash.

“I’ve never been one to think that primaries are bad,” said Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. “I don’t think a primary ever defeated a Republican in a general election.”

Wayne Allard survived a spirited challenge from Gale Norton when he won election to the U.S. Senate in 1996, defeating Democrat Tom Strickland.

“That primary gave him (Allard) the ability to win the general election,” Wadhams said. “It made him much better” as a candidate.

Similarly, Democrat Ben Nighthorse Campbell came out of his 1992 primary “like a slingshot” and defeated Republican Terry Considine for the Senate seat now held by Bennet, Wadhams said.

Republican Bob Beauprez waged a primary fight against Marc Holtzman four years ago, though, only to lose to Ritter in the November election.

Primaries are good, Colorado Democrat Party Chairwoman Pat Waak said, but they also can be divisive and expensive.

So far, Waak doesn’t have to deal with intraparty challenges of her candidates: Ritter, Bennet and Kennedy.

Without primary fights this time around, her candidates “can focus in on messaging and organizing,” Waak said.

Republicans, though, will have public attention and recognition that will linger beyond the primary, Wadhams said.

“If he were totally honest, he’d rather not” have to supervise primary fights, Waak said of Wadhams.

The number of Republicans announcing bids for state office shows “there’s more than one person who’s not happy with the current administration” of Ritter, said Ament, who hails from Littleton.

The treasurer’s office under Kennedy “has become an extension of the governor’s office,” Ament said.

Ament has worked with treasurers of several states as a banker and businessman, he said.

“I’ve been Cary Kennedy’s banker,” he said.

Ament is challenging Stapleton, CEO of SonomaWest Holdings Inc., who this month announced he has raised more than $138,000 for his candidacy, outcollecting Kennedy.

The first measurement of the candidates’ viability will be in October, when campaign-finance reports are due.


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