‘Let dust settle,’ says Penry of McInnis ‘error’

GOP candidates in statewide races and legislative ones need to hunker down and redouble their efforts, Republicans around the state said Friday.

From Grand Junction Sen. Josh Penry to former congressman Bob Schaffer to Colorado House leaders, Republicans said down-ticket races that often rely on statewide campaigns to lead them can’t do that this year.

“Every candidate running for the state Legislature needs to redouble their efforts and realize they’re on their own,” former congressman Bob Schaffer said. “They need to make personal appeals to their constituencies and to their donors and not rely on any coattails to take them down to the Capitol.”

Although Schaffer declined to comment on the current situation the two GOP governor candidates have faced in recent weeks — former congressman Scott McInnis admitted plagiarism, and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes was fined $17,500 for campaign finance violations — he said candidates on the top of the ticket normally have a large impact on down races.

He quickly added, though, problems in the governor’s race may prove to not be such a big deal because voters are more impatient with the Democrats who are in charge and Washington, D.C., politics.

“Political issues in general are bringing people back to the political center and away from the far left. The rampant debt, excessive spending and rudderless leadership in Washington and in Colorado are driving them,” said Schaffer, who ran an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2008 against U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and now is chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education.

“Virtually every leader in Colorado is a Democrat at the federal or state level. There’s clearly one party in charge and this is a function of their leadership,” he said. “Regardless of who’s the candidates in the Senate and governor’s races, a good candidate running for everything from Congress to county commissioner ought to be able to define the differences between the two competing political philosophies.”

Speaking for the first time since the McInnis controversy began, Penry said the party needs to “find a way forward.”

What that way is, however, he didn’t know.

“Scott has been a friend, a boss and a competitor,” Penry wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Sentinel. “He’s done a lot for the state, but he’s committed a very serious error that’s significantly weakened his candidacy. And let’s call an ace an ace: Dan Maes’ misuse of his campaign funds was probably an even worse offense.”

Penry, who is managing Jane Norton’s bid for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, said conservatives need to win the governor’s mansion.

Penry, who once worked for McInnis and even briefly ran against him for governor before dropping out last fall, has been named as a possible replacement in the governor’s race should McInnis or Maes drop out after the Aug. 10 primary.

“When people ask me what Scott should do, what Dan’s going to do, or what I’m going to do, here’s my answer: Conservatives need to win the governor’s race,” he wrote. “How we accomplish that objective at this point is more than a little unclear. The best thing to do now is to let the dust settle.”

That was the same advice offered by House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, and his heir-apparent, Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. McNulty is expected to replace the term-limited May if the Republicans remain in the minority, but could become the next House speaker if they win a majority.

“Mainly, we have to wait and see how this plays out,” McNulty said of the governor’s race. “So long as we have a strong top of the ticket in the Senate race, it will help us in the down-ticket races, but I don’t think we should give up the governor’s race, either.”

Some inside the party have questioned whether McInnis or Maes should be pressured to drop out after the primary to allow a third candidate untainted by controversy to run against Democrat John Hickenlooper instead.

Penry, whose name has come up as that possible third contender, said such talk is useless. He withdrew from the governor’s race in November and immediately threw his support behind McInnis.

“I’m committed to Jane Norton,” he said. “As long as Scott and Dan stay in the race, all this speculation amounts to only that — speculation.”


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