‘I’m a realist,’ Penry says of ending his bid

Better for GOP if he exits race for governor, GJ legislator says

DENVER — Soon after the Republican victories last week in New Jersey and Virginia, two Grand Junction Republicans running for the governorship of Colorado were on stage at Colorado Christian University waging their own political battle.

“Scott said, ‘We need to talk,’” state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said of Scott McInnis.

The upshot of that conversation was that Penry decided to withdraw from his bid for the governorship, leaving the field open to his former boss, McInnis, a six-term congressman.

His decision was a pragmatic one, Penry said Tuesday. He could compete with, though not necessarily overcome McInnis’ advantage in terms of money and name identification, Penry said.

The question for him and his staff was: “Was that the most responsible use of our time and the millions of dollars we would raise” in search of the GOP nomination for governor, he said.DOWNLOAD A COPY OF PENRY’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO SUPPORTERS.

McInnis, meanwhile, had collected the backing of contributors willing to wage a battle against any intraparty opposition, according to published reports. Ultimately, Penry decided the more prudent course was to get out of the race and leave the governorship for another day, he said.

The most important thing, he said, is to defeat incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter, who is seeking his second term in the 2010 general election.

Republicans in New Jersey and Virginia captured governorships from Democrats who were backed by President Obama.

Republican chances to do the same in Colorado wouldn’t be helped by a “war of attrition” within the party for the top spot, he said.

On Monday, he and McInnis met again, this time for Penry to tell McInnis that he was withdrawing from the race.

That leaves McInnis with a primary challenge from Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, whose presence in the race was largely overshadowed by the struggle between McInnis and Penry.

Penry and McInnis have had a long and complicated relationship. Penry worked for McInnis in Washington, D.C., as his spokesman and lead negotiator on McInnis’ forest-health measure.

When Penry, a Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College graduate, decided to return home, he ran with McInnis’ backing for the state House.

Two years later, he ran against McInnis’ brother-in-law, Matt Smith, for the state Senate, causing a rift in the relationship. Penry won and now is the Senate minority leader.

After he retired from Congress, McInnis went to work for a Denver law firm, splitting his time between Grand Junction and Denver.

Penry easily raised more funds than his old boss in Mesa County in the third-quarter, but he found himself in third place statewide among the top three candidates for governor.

State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams, who had said he welcomed a primary for the party nomination, now has McInnis as the frontrunner.

Wadhams and McInnis have had a rocky relationship that Penry said now will heal.

Penry said he wants to nudge McInnis toward more concrete proposals, such as eliminating or consolidating departments, for dealing with the state’s budget problems.

He met again with McInnis near the state Capitol on Tuesday after declaring his intention to withdraw.

Penry hadn’t made plans for what he and his family will do now that he’s no longer campaigning because of his single-minded focus on the race for governor, but he said he will work for other candidates.

Dealing with budget issues will dominate his activity in the coming legislative session, Penry said, citing also the financial difficulties awaiting the Public Employees’ Retirement Association.

“It’s disappointing,” he said of his decision to withdraw. “I’m a competitor. You don’t run for the state House at 28 and the state Senate at 30 and not be a competitor.

“I think I’m the best person to be the next governor, but I’m also a realist.”

And, he said, “I’m also 33.”


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