Governor Bill Ritter received an early Christmas gift in November when Josh Penry bowed out of the Republican gubernatorial primary campaign in favor of Scott McInnis, a fraying but familiar politician who aspires to be a heavyweight, but has never been more than a bantamweight.
In choosing to stick with the familiar, Colorado Republicans have once again dumped on their rank-and-file members, many of whom believe that Penry would have mopped the floor with McInnis in a primary.
But the big boys of the GOP wanted a guy who can raise serious cash from corporate contributors. McInnis can. Democrats have already accused him of coordinating his campaign with a huge 527 political fund, which is illegal.
And, in 2004, when McInnis was a member of Congress, the Federal Election Commission investigated his campaign committee for possible violations. The committee, which had a huge bankroll of campaign funds, continued to pay McInnis’ wife for work after he announced he would was not a candidate for office. The complaint was eventually dismissed, but questions of ethics remain.
Tom Strickland, who is now chief of staff for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Washington, ran twice for the United States Senate against Republican Wayne Allard. Strickland lost both times in bitter campaigns. Before the 2002 campaign Strickland was a top attorney for Hogan and Hartston, a prominent international law firm based in Washington, D.C.
The Republicans’ most effective campaign strategy in 2002 was to refer to Strickland—in every news release, public statement or simple utterance—as a lawyer/lobbyist or a millionaire/lawyer/lobbyist. The scheme was devised by Dick Wadhams, the current Republican state chairman, who was Allard’s campaign manager at the time.
Ironically, when McInnis retired from Congress in 2005, he also went to work for Hogan and Hartson, certainly as a lawyer/lobbyist but more likely as a millionaire/lawyer lobbyist.
And McGinnis carries a bit more baggage. He was a strong supporter of term limits when he was first elected to Congress in 1992. He promised to serve only eight years, in compliance with volunteer term limitations being espoused at the time by some screwball rightwing group. But at the end of eight years, McInnis wasn’t ready to quit; he reneged on his promise.
He said he hadn’t realized the value seniority adds to the pursuit of good government. It’s amazing that McInnis served 10 years in the Colorado Legislature before becoming a congressman and never recognized the value of seniority.
Despite his shortcomings, McGinnis was endorsed by the Republican hierarchy, which includes former Gov. Bill Owens, among other GOP heavyweights. They apparently didn’t learn a lesson when they decided at the 11th hour in 2004 to shift their support from former Congressman Bob Schaffer to beer heir Pete Coors in the Republican primary election. Coors was soundly defeated by Democrat Ken Salazar in the general election.
This year they’re leaving nothing to chance. They’ve shoved Penry, minority leader of the state Senate, out of the race months before the GOP primary election. Ritter, who also packs considerable baggage, can only hope that millionaire lawyer/lobbyist McInnis will meet the same fate as Schaffer.