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Penry wants to duel GOP opponent

October 31, 2009

State Sen. Josh Penry is eager to go one-on-one with Scott McInnis, his fellow Grand Junction resident, former boss and rival for the GOP governor’s nomination.

“We’re not going to win this race on the front porch, having an iced tea,” said Penry, who’s generally regarded as the underdog. “We’ve got to get out and sell ourselves.”

McInnis, a former congressman, is just as keen to avoid intramural damage before the big match against the Democratic incumbent, Bill Ritter. Last weekend in Colorado Springs, he told a meeting of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women that governors running for re-election in Colorado have been turned out of office only once in the last half-century.

“When you face those historical odds,” he said, “the critical thing that we have to do is unify. In the past, unfortunately, we kind of formed circular firing squads.”

McInnis has limited his direct exchanges with Penry, and on Monday said he would never agree to a full-on debate.
The policy has been criticized by Dick Wadhams, the state GOP chairman, and Penry said McInnis’ refusal to debate is “at his own peril,” adding, “I don’t think that will last very long.”

Forums in which the candidates appear together but aren’t supposed to interrogate each other directly, are still on the schedule.

The Colorado Springs event last weekend followed that format. Penry, McInnis and a third candidate, Dan Maes of Evergreen, made opening remarks and took questions from the audience.

The format muted the candidates’ criticism of each other. It took some reading between the lines to interpret Penry’s remark that the Republicans had become “the party of business as usual” and was “in a wilderness” because “we earned it” as a veiled criticism of McInnis, who was a member of the Republican majority in Congress for George W. Bush’s first term as president.

Likewise, McInnis’ invitation to “look beyond the pitch and look at the record” was a veiled dig at Penry’s votes.
The GOP candidates have committed to appear together on Tuesday at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood. John Andrews, the former state senator who runs the university’s public policy arm, said the event would include questions from a panel he would lead.

“This will probably lead to the candidates directly addressing or interrogating each other,” Andrews said Friday. “There will certainly be the opportunity for direct back-and-forth.”

Andrews added that the McInnis campaign was satisfied with the arrangement.

“We’re not trying to ambush anybody, we’re not trying to cause trouble,” said Andrew Cole, a Penry spokesman. “All we want to do is discuss the issues.”

But the McInnis camp remains leery.

“People will remember Both Ways Bob,” said Sean Duffy, McInnis’s spokesman, referring to the moniker that was slapped on Bob Beauprez, the Republican who ran against Ritter in 2006.

It was at a debate in March 2006 that Marc Holtzman, who challenged Beauprez for the GOP nomination, debuted the term “Both Ways Bob.” Ritter supporters picked up the phrase, pounded Beauprez with it in the fall campaign, and Ritter cruised to victory by 15 points.

Contact the writer at 476-1654

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