Colleague: Penry dropping from Colorado governor’s race
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – State Sen. Josh Penry, considered a rising star in Colorado’s Republican Party, plans to drop out of the gubernatorial race, a House colleague said Monday.
State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Colbran, said Penry called her to tell her he was ending his run against former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis. Penry called the Republican caucus in both houses to tell them of his decision, Colbran said.
Penry did not return several calls seeking comment. His campaign office said he would not have a statement before Tuesday.
Colbran said Penry has not decided what he’ll do next. Republican Rep. Steve King has already announced plans to run for Penry’s Grand Junction seat. “He’ll be around, he told me that,” she said.
One Penry supporter said the senator told him fundraising was a factor in his decision. Another issue was the amount of time it was taking Penry away from his family, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Penry’s campaign.
Another official, who requested anonymity for the same reason, said Penry had informed McInnis of his decision to withdraw.
McInnis issued a statement saying he has a “tremendous amount of respect for Josh and his team” and that he believes Penry has a bright political future ahead of him.
McInnis reported raising nearly $550,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in the latest quarter. Penry collected about $416,000 in the same period. McInnis also topped Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who reported collecting $452,000 in July, August and September.
Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, who is still in the Republican primary, said he raised about $12,000.
State Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams said he had not talked to Penry.
“He made a great run for governor,” Wadhams said.
Penry gained the minority leadership post in the state Senate at age 33. When he announced his gubernatorial candidacy, he said he believed the GOP “needs a clean break from the past and be a party with guts to move in a new direction.”
“Those of us who run have to acknowledge the past failures of the party. Fiscal discipline, the economic message. That is still a compelling message,” Penry said. “The Republican Party hasn’t had any credibility there after years of governing.”
Democrats hold a majority in both chambers of Colorado’s statehouse, the governorship, five of seven congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats. Barack Obama won the state in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Penry talked about rugged individualism and government staying out of people’s lives. He said his campaign wouldn’t get bogged down in social issues such as gay marriage.
“We can’t be a finger-wagging party. We can’t judge harshly those who disagree with us. The best tool is persuasion, not judgment,” he said at a candidate forum last week.
Former GOP state Rep. Rob Witwer of Genesee, an early Penry supporter, said Penry “ran a heck of a campaign and made a great case for why the state needs change.” He said the campaign was difficult for Penry, who has two children.
“This was a huge sacrifice for him and he’s proud of the campaign he ran,” Witwer said.
Penry’s pending announcement would leave McInnis, who served in the state Legislature before being elected to represent the 3rd District in Congress from 1993 to 2005. The fourth-generation Coloradan was born and raised in Glenwood Springs, where he served as a police officer before earning a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
McInnis drew criticism this year from party regulars when he refused to debate Penry, saying he didn’t want to give Democrats ammunition for the general election. McInnis said the GOP lost to Ritter three years ago because Republicans fought among themselves, and he had no intention of repeating that mistake.