Penry takes over U.S. Senate candidate Norton’s campaign

U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton stops to talk to Sen. Josh Penry and Penry’s three-year-old daughter Emme at Two Rivers Winery, in this January file photo.

Republican voters will see some changes now that Josh Penry has taken charge as campaign manager for Jane Norton.

At least, that’s what the Grand Junction state senator promised Wednesday not long after Norton’s campaign announced the Colorado Senate minority leader will be her new campaign manager.

The announcement comes on the heels of criticism the Norton campaign received last week when it announced the Grand Junction native and former Colorado lieutenant governor would try to get on the August primary ballot through the petition process.

While Penry said he doesn’t support all of his predecessor’s decisions, that isn’t one he would try to reverse.

“There are some decisions that I agree with and some I would do differently,” Penry said. “Jane wants to go on offense and has enlisted me. You don’t play in Game 7 of the World Series unless you win Game 6, and Jane is not taking anything for granted.”

Penry replaces Norm Cummings, who will stay with the campaign as a political adviser.

The campaign said Norton was not turning her back on the state party’s nomination process, but she needed to petition on because U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet also planned to petition onto the Democratic Party primary ballot.

Republicans, including Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, her chief opponent, were scratching their heads over that decision, saying Norton needs Republicans to sign her petitions, not Democrats.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said unless Norton changes her mind, he would bar her from addressing Republicans when the GOP holds its convention in Loveland next month.

Penry said that won’t happen, but voters will see Norton going after Buck more than she has in the past.

Up to now, Norton spent much of her time and considerable campaign money attacking President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress.

Meanwhile, Penry said Norton has been attacked as a political insider by Buck and his supporters.

“This notion that Ken is an outsider is the biggest fiction since alien autopsies,” Penry said. “He’s worked for the government his whole life, and his wife had been on the Republican Party executive committee for years. He was best man at (Democratic Gov.) Bill Ritter’s wedding. He’s a lot of things, but he’s not an outsider.”

Walt Klein, one of Buck’s advisers, said going negative against Buck won’t go over well with Republican voters.

He said that’s a tactic the Norton camp will quickly reverse.

“I guess when you have a candidate who’s had trouble connecting with voters with her message, maybe that’s what it drives you to,” Klein said. “It seems like a strange strategy to me. The way to make Jane Norton popular is to attack Ken Buck? That makes about as much sense as her explanation for not going through the state assembly.”


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