McInnis: ‘No way’ he is going to quit
SILT — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis had just arrived at a fundraiser at a Silt-area ranch Saturday evening when he faced the inevitable question.
“You’re not going to quit?” a concerned supporter asked him.
“No way,” McInnis assured her.
In an event in McInnis’ native Garfield County, more than 300 people turned out to show their continued faith in McInnis despite what has been a trying time for him in recent days. It was also his chance to assure them their faith is well-placed, that he isn’t getting out of the governor’s race following a week in which headlines focused on plagiarism in essays on water issues that he provided to a foundation for $300,000.
In a brief interview as McInnis greeted supporters, he said he “absolutely” is staying in the race.
He said he isn’t involved in any backroom deal in which he would quit the race if he wins the August primary, clearing the way for his party to name another candidate for November’s general election.
“That ain’t going to happen,” McInnis said.
“This is politics,” he said of the events of recent days. “It’s not for the faint-hearted. I expect more of it. Look, this is for the governor of Colorado.”
He said the race is an important one with Colorado being a bellwether state and issues such as redistricting facing it in coming years.
McInnis said he accepted responsibility for the plagiarism, but his problems pale in comparison to those of people losing jobs and homes, and natural gas drilling rigs disappearing in areas such as the region surrounding the site of Saturday’s fundraiser.
“These are issues I’ve run on. That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” he said.
He said he couldn’t ask people to stand behind him and then drop out of the race.
“He’s not pulling out,” said Kent Jolley, who helped organize Saturday’s event and jokingly threatened McInnis with bodily harm if he quit.
After a withering week in which three of McInnis’ staffers quit, he promised to repay the $300,000 to the Hasan Family Foundation, and editorial boards at the Denver Post and Daily Sentinel called for him to quit, Saturday’s fundraiser was a chance for him to bask in the backing of longtime friends and supporters.
Those supporters say McInnis should be judged on a lot more than some essays containing plagiarism.
“I think people make mistakes or errors in judgment, but that doesn’t change their base values,” Levy Burris said.
The Silt police chief and a former Garfield County undersheriff, Burris said he has a lot of respect for someone who, as a congressman, stepped in to help remove the bodies of fallen firefighters from Storm King Mountain in 1994.
Burris’s brother-in-law, 50-year-old Kelly Couey, who hosted Saturday’s fundraiser, said he first voted for McInnis some three decades ago.
He said McInnis brings a unique level of experience to the governor’s race as a former congressman and state representative.
“That’s why everybody’s shooting at him. He’s the most qualified,” Couey said. “I think the media is just concentrating on Scott, and the real issues are not being addressed in this campaign.”
Tom Jankovsky, a Republican candidate for Garfield County Commission, said he has known McInnis since coming to Garfield County in 1985. He said he realizes the plagiarism issue is serious.
But, he added, “I think to some extent the press has got ahold of him, they’re not letting go. They need to back off a bit.”
Michael Gaasch said he is worried that the plagiarism problem could cost McInnis votes.
“It is an issue, but I feel it’s been taken care of,” he said.
He said McInnis “is on the right track” in focusing on job creation.
BillyJack Kunze, a ranch hand for Couey, said he changed his registration from unaffiliated to Republican this year so he could vote for McInnis in the primary, and he still plans to do so.
“He’s probably the first politician that I have 100 percent confidence in,” Kunze said.
He said he first met McInnis at a rodeo in Collbran, and he was impressed when the politician didn’t say a word about politics.
“I think he’s straightforward and honest and down to earth. He didn’t push and say, when election time comes, vote for me,” Kunze said.
He thinks the plagiarism “was an honest mistake on Scott’s part.”
“I can’t picture Scott doing something like that intentionally,” he said.
State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican whose district includes western Garfield County, also attended Saturday’s event.
He said he thinks what happens in the past is in the past, and it’s important to move on and focus on the future.
“It’s like everybody — people grow and they do better than possibly they have in the past. I mean, I’ve got things in my past, but I’ve always been upfront and honest about it. Just ask my wife,” he said.