Penry out of guv race

Grand Junction Republican Josh Penry will withdraw from the 2010 race for governor today, according to one of his Republican rivals for the seat.

Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Grand Junction Republican, told The Daily Sentinel he met Monday morning with Penry, and Penry told him he was pulling out of the race.

McInnis declined to reveal full details of the meeting, but said “a belief that the (Republican) party should be unified” was central to Penry’s decision to drop out.

McInnis said Penry will hold a news conference today in Denver to make his decision official.

Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, contacted The Daily Sentinel after Penry called her around 3:30 p.m. Monday — 2 1/2 hours after Chris Cillizza broke the story on his Washington Post blog, The Fix. Bradford said Penry confirmed to her that he was leaving the governor’s race and plans to work on other Colorado Republicans’ campaigns for the 2010 election. Despite rumors Penry may be interested in running against U.S. Rep. John Salazar next year, Bradford said Penry told her “he is not interested” in the 3rd Congressional District seat.

Republican Rob Witwer, who served in the Legislature with Penry from 2005 to 2008 and was one of his earliest supporters when Penry announced his bid for governor in July, said he also spoke with Penry on Monday. Witwer said Penry is leaving McInnis “a playbook for how to run an effective campaign against (Gov. Bill) Ritter” and made his decision “with the goals of the entire Republican party and the state in mind.”

“I’m disappointed he’s out of the race because he’s one of the brightest lights in the Republican party, but he’s doing it for the right reasons and this is not the last we’ll see of Josh Penry,” Witwer said.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said he doesn’t agree stepping aside so one candidate can shine is the best thing for the party. He advocates competition because it “instills better candidates.”

“When you have to enunciate your position in front of an audience with an opponent, it makes for a rigorous campaign,” Wadhams said. “Josh, Scott and Dan (Maes) were having a very positive discussion about Colorado.”

Wadhams said he wouldn’t be surprised if Penry’s absence from the campaign even encourages other Republicans to announce a run for governor.

Attempts to reach Penry were unsuccessful and his voice mailbox was full Monday. His campaign manager, Mike Britt, did not return a phone call Monday evening.

Grand Junction Rep. Steve King, a Republican who is running for Penry’s Senate seat, said he felt it “inappropriate” to comment on Penry’s decision until Penry himself makes a formal announcement.

— Gary Harmon contributed to this report.


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