Penry, McInnis dominate straw polls for governor

A straw poll of Denver County Republicans on Thursday placed Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry atop the list of prospective Republican candidates for the 2010 race against Bill Ritter for governor.

Penry swiped more than half the vote, beating fellow Grand Junction resident Scott McInnis 53.3 percent to 26.7 percent. Gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes placed third with 13.3 percent of the vote.

Maes came in first with 37.9 percent at the Denver Republicans’ May breakfast meeting, with Penry in second at 24.1 percent and McInnis in third with 10.4 percent of the vote.

“Obviously it’s very flattering to receive this kind of support before making an announcement one way or the other,” Penry said. “I think it’s evidence that there’s real enthusiasm for new energy, new leadership and a new way forward in the Republican party.”

McInnis, who won a recent straw poll among El Paso County Republicans, said he doesn’t give much credence to straw polls.

“These straw polls, it’s like going to a family picnic. It’s not scientific,” McInnis said.

Mike Hesse, McInnis’ former chief of staff and a volunteer for his current campaign, said

McInnis doesn’t plan to put much emphasis on straw polls in general this election season because they can be skewed by the amount of friends people “bring to breakfast.”

“The real poll is going to be a year and a half from now,” McInnis said.

When presented with the premise of running against Penry, McInnis said, “you hate to run against a friend, but we’ll do what we have to do.”

McInnis came out on top in an April survey conducted by Public Policy Polling. The North Carolina-based Democratic polling group found a race between Penry and Ritter would give Penry 40 percent of the vote and Ritter 42 percent of the vote. Polling showed a race between Ritter and McInnis would split 48 to 41 percent in McInnis’ favor. The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.

The Denver straw poll is conducted with a write-in ballot purchased for $1 at monthly meetings of Denver Republicans. Chairman Ryan Call said most of the 70 people at Thursday’s meeting participated. Call said Maes placed well last month because he spoke at the May meeting.

McInnis and Penry are received well in Denver, according to Call. He said supporters are familiar with McInnis’ congressional experience, but they are “open to the idea of new, fresh leadership” offered by Penry.

“In my mind, the governor’s race will come down to them,” Call said.

Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, isn’t so sure.

“Even if Sen. Penry announces, I don’t think it will be a two-person primary,” King said.

King added it’s “a little premature” for him to endorse Penry or McInnis, especially since

Penry has not filed candidacy papers.

Republican Rep. Laura Bradford of Collbran, however, didn’t hesitate to say, “I’m not on the fence, I will be supporting Josh.”

Support for Penry comes from more than his home county. Assistant Senate Minority Leader Greg Brophy of Wray and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, are among the 693 members of the Draft Josh Penry for Governor group on networking site Facebook.

Penry’s fan base on the site, created by Rob Fillion, comes from across Colorado and as far away as Taiwan.

House Minority Leader Mike May called Penry the “next governor” Tuesday at a news conference held by the two men in Grand Junction.

Brophy said in a phone interview Friday he hopes Penry runs for governor because Penry is conservative and part of “a new breed of young and hip Republicans.” If Penry joins the race, Brophy predicts “he’ll walk away with the nomination and become the next governor of Colorado.”

“I like Scott (McInnis), he’s a good guy, but the Republican party needs to go in a new direction,” Brophy said.

Brophy predicted a 65 percent to 35 percent split with Penry leading McInnis if the two appeared as the only two candidates in the Republican primary.

McNulty said Thursday’s straw poll shows people are sick of politics as usual.

“I suspect my favorite is going to be Josh,” if Penry becomes a candidate, McNulty said. “I think we need fresh leaders, fresh faces. I think that’s something Josh gives us. It’s good to see a proposed candidacy excite the grass roots ... .”

Penry said he plans to make a decision and an announcement about the race “very soon.”


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