Colo. Republicans looking at gubernatorial options
DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republicans are looking at their options as GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis struggles over plagiarism allegations, but there are signs he intends to ride out the scandal.
Former congressman Tom Tancredo said Thursday that the GOP has a number of good candidates who could step in if McInnis bows out of the race, including former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown and University of Colorado president Bruce Benson.
McInnis’ primary rival, Benson, made millions of dollars in the oil industry, could bring in substantial amounts of money while Brown has substantial contacts in Washington.
Tancredo said he would also be willing to run because he doesn’t believe McInnis or his primary opponent, Dan Maes, can win a general election against Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
Tancredo said his reputation as a maverick and a firebrand opposed to illegal immigration could be a turnoff for mainstream Republicans, adding: “I may have to run as an independent.”
Benson, Brown and Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams did not return phone messages seeking comment Thursday.
McInnis issued a statement saying he intends to stay the course and told supporters to “stay strong.”
“Despite the rumors circulating, we have no intention of leaving this race and will continue to fight to for the future of Colorado’s families and businesses,” said McInnis, who canceled a campaign event in northern Colorado.
McInnis has apologized for lifting part of a judge’s work for a series of essays he passed off as his own and for which he received $300,000 in 2005. He dismissed allegations that a newspaper column he wrote in 1994 and a subsequent speech he made resembled a column that appeared six weeks earlier in The Washington Post, saying he had permission from the authors to use their material.
Tancredo said the best option for the GOP is to keep McInnis in the race and beat Maes in the GOP primary on Aug. 10, then persuade him to step aside and let the party’s central committee fill the vacancy for the general election.
“I don’t think Dan Maes or Scott McInnis can win the general election. If someone wants to take this on, fine, if not, I’ll step in,” Tancredo said.
Maes, who has the backing of antiestablishment tea party voters, said any attempt to pull a bait and switch would fail. He added that mainstream Republican support has surged since the allegations were made public.
“This is Scott McInnis and his elitist cronies trying to trick the voters again, and voters will not put up with it,” Maes said.
Tancredo said former GOP gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry, mentioned as another possible stand-in, is damaged goods because he pulled out of the race following a power struggle with McInnis. He said he believes Penry would have won his primary and the party wouldn’t be facing tough choices.
As of July 1, Hickenlooper and McInnis had raised $2 million each, while Maes only collected $151,000.
GOP political consultant Katy Atkinson said keeping McInnis in the race to win the primary and then finding a replacement may be the best option to get the GOP out of a messy situation.
Colorado Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak said any plan to replace McInnis would set a bad precedent.
“Whether he stays in the race or not, elitists in the Republican Party are trying to circumvent the will of their own party faithful to taint the integrity of the primary ballot,” Waak said.
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher refused to issue an opinion on whether a candidate could be replaced in a primary race, saying it was all hypothetical.
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