Penry bows out

As seismic shifts go, Josh Penry’s surprise decision to withdraw from the Colorado gubernatorial race ranked high on the political Richter scale. Heck, the impact of the decision was felt as far away as Washington, D.C., where it was first reported in a blog on The Washington Post Web site.

By far the greatest effect registered in Colorado, however, where Penry’s decision substantially changes the dynamic of the race for governor next year and potentially affects other races in the state.

Speculation about the reasons for Penry’s decision was rampant Monday. The state Senate minority leader from Grand Junction offered his own explanation in an exclusive interview with The Daily Sentinel’s Gary Harmon on Tuesday. And, as Harmon’s article in today’s edition of the Sentinel makes clear, Penry was intent on changing the dynamics of the governor’s race when he decided to withdraw.

Penry said Republican gubernatorial victories last week in Virginia and New Jersey, both places where the GOP candidate didn’t face a challenge from within his own party, convinced Penry not to push a primary battle with fellow Grand Junction Republican Scott McInnis to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter. Penry said he “didn’t want a war of attrition with Scott.”

Penry also acknowledged that he faced an uphill climb in both name recognition and fund-raising. Other accounts suggested those may have been key reasons for Penry’s decision. The Denver Post reported that a group of leading Republicans in the state was preparing to launch an independent political committee, with the potential to raise large amounts of money, to oppose anyone who challenged McInnis. The Post also noted that Penry had failed to gain political ground against Ritter, based on recent polling.

People close to Penry said family concerns — the amount of time he was spending away from his wife and children, even in the early stages of the campaign — played a big part in his decision to opt out of the race.

For all these reasons, Penry’s decision strikes us as a sound one.

The primary battle between McInnis and Penry was shaping up to be a bitter one. McInnis still faces at least one fellow Republican in the race, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes. And others could still enter the campaign. But without Penry in the race, McInnis is the clear front-runner. He can save resources and rhetoric for the general-election battle with Ritter.

Additionally, a costly and prolonged campaign in which Penry lost could have left him with massive debts, no job and few immediate prospects other than to join the ranks of politicians-turned-lobbyists. That would have been tough on his family.

But at age 33, Penry is young, intelligent, ambitious and he is a rising powerhouse in the Republican Party. Whether he chooses to seek re-election to his current Senate seat or eventually decides to seek some other office, Penry will remain a force to be reckoned with in Colorado politics.


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