Three McInnis staffers resign

Three top staffers in Scott McInnis’ campaign for the GOP nomination for governor have tendered their resignations in the wake of the candidate’s plagiarism scandal, the campaign confirmed Saturday.

Front Range newspapers and television stations had reported late Friday that the staffers, policy director Mac Zimmerman, political director Dustin Zvonek and regional director Tyler Houlton, left the campaign because they didn’t care for how McInnis was handling his plagiarism scandal.

All three joined the McInnis camp at the same time in January. They worked in the Senate Republican office under then Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, who dropped out of the governor’s race last fall and now is running the U.S. Senate campaign for Jane Norton.

Two of them, Zimmerman and Houlton, are one-time staffers of former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who became the first big-name Republican to call on McInnis to drop out of the race because of the plagiarism scandal.

Zvonek and Houlton also are former workers for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. Houlton worked in his congressional office and Zvonek as his campaign manager.

None of the campaign workers could be reached for comment, but KMGH Channel 7 in Denver reported the three left because they didn’t care for McInnis’ attempt to blame the scandal on an 82-year-old Glenwood Springs researcher that McInnis had hired for a few hundred dollars to do work he was being paid $300,000. McInnis has agreed to pay the money back to the Hasan Family Foundation that hired him in 2004.

McInnis’ plagiarism woes also showed its impact in recent polls.

A Rasmussen telephone survey of 750 likely voters conducted Thursday showed Democrat John Hickenlooper ahead of McInnis 45 percent to 43 percent. The Denver mayor held a similar margin against McInnis’ Aug. 10 primary opponent, Dan Maes. In it, Hickenlooper led Maes 46 percent to 43 percent.

The new numbers are a dramatic difference over a similar poll conducted in June, which showed McInnis with a five-point lead over Hickenlooper and Maes.

“Another potentially troubling sign for McInnis is that just 9 percent of voters now have a very favorable opinion of him,” Rasmussen said in its report. “That figure is down seven points from a month ago. At the same time, his negative ratings are rising. His very unfavorables are now at 24 percent, an increase of 10 points over the past month.”

The polling firm said voters were evenly divided over whether McInnis should quit the race.

Also last week, a Denver Post poll conducted after the plagiarism scandal broke asked Republicans: Who would be the strongest GOP candidate for governor? Tancredo came in first with 29 percent, followed by McInnis at 19 percent and Maes with 13 percent.

A Denver Post/9News poll last month showed McInnis leading Maes 57 percent to 29 percent.


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