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McInnis says he could be running for governor

Carrie Click/Special to the Daily
Glenwood Springs Post Independent Photo by Jim Noelker
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Third District Congressman Scott McInnis told a crowd of supporters here Saturday that he sees a new peak in the distance in his political career, but declined to be more specific.

In Denver, his next stop on a whirlwind, one-day, five-city tour, he said, “That peak could be running for governor,” quickly adding that no decision had been made.

But he made clear he is considering it, saying he disagreed with pundits who said giving up his congressional seat would hurt his chances as a gubernatorial candidate. McInnis noted he would have more time to campaign.

McInnis’ appearance at 10:15 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the Hotel Colorado was the second stop in the Saturday tour, starting in Grand Junction and continuing onto Glenwood Springs, Denver, Pueblo and Durango.

With his wife, brother and parents at his side, the Grand Junction Republican said he might run for political office in Colorado “some time in the future,” but for now, he is very happy and fulfilled, and will not seek re-election to Congress in 2004.

He plans to return to Colorado full-time after his term ends in January 2005.

McInnis, 50, told the crowd that he and his wife, Lori, reached the decision together.

“We have a great marriage, and I’m under no political pressure,” McInnis said. “There are no ethics issues, or anything like that. We decided we wanted to go out on top.”

McInnis dispelled rumors that have swirled in the last week about what he’ll do next.

“In the past three days, people have said I’m going to be the next president of Fort Lewis College or of Mesa State College,” he said with a smile, “and that I’m running for the Senate against Ben (Nighthorse Campbell).

“I know another peak is out there. We might climb it, and we might just go to its base.”

He did mention the “g” word in an interview with the Post Independent following his formal remarks.

“People have told me that if I was to run for governor, I should stay in office,” he said. “But I want to be back in the state of Colorado. I want to be here participating.”

Gov. Bill Owens is in his last term in office, due to term limits, and the seat will be open in the 2006 election.

“Wonderful years of service”

Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof introduced the congressman by recounting their long friendship and thanking McInnis for serving the 3rd Congressional District, which includes the majority of the Western Slope, the San Luis Valley Pueblo, and much of the lower Arkansas Valley.

“I could stand here until lunch telling all of you the pages of accomplishments Scott has completed during his years in office,” said Vanderhoof, mentioning that McInnis was advisor to NATO, and was only the third Colorado congressman to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. “But mostly, I want to thank him for his wonderful years of service to this district that he loves so much.”

When McInnis took the podium, he returned Vanderhoof’s compliments.

“When I first thought of running for office 21 years ago and told my dad, he said Don was the go-to guy I needed to talk to about it,” said McInnis. “Don has known me before I knew myself.”

Much of McInnis’ appearance in Glenwood Springs had a feeling of old-home week.

While addressing the crowd, the congressman would stop and point out longtime friends and associates, calling out their first names like he was speaking just to them. He pointed out Division of Wildlife director Russell George if Rifle and Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf, calling her “the godmother of politics in Garfield County,” as well as Glenwood Springs attorney Diane Delaney, who he said was instrumental in helping him since his first run for political office.

“Politics were always in him”

There’s good reason for the familiarity. McInnis, a fourth generation Coloradoan, was born and raised in Glenwood Springs.

“Politics were always in him,” said McInnis’ brother, Kohler McInnis, who now lives in Durango. “Since he was old enough to think, he was the president of the tree house club, and later, president of the class.”

McInnis attended Glenwood public schools and graduated from Glenwood High School. At Saturday’s event, he greeted a former classmate, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, though there was some debate about who was an upperclassman.

“Of course, Gregg was much older than me,” said McInnis with a laugh, bear-hugging Rippy.

“Oh, I don’t know about that!” said Rippy, 48. “I demand a recount!”

“Well, I do know you married the cutest girl in school,” said McInnis, seemingly redeeming himself.

“It’s been a wonderful run”

McInnis received his bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Fort Lewis College in Durango. He returned to Glenwood and worked as a police officer and volunteer firefighter before earning his law degree and practicing law in Glenwood.

He won a seat in the Colorado General Assembly in 1982, by a 13-vote margin over incumbent Democrat Kathleen Sullivan Kelley of Meeker. In 1992, he successfully ran for the 3rd Congressional District seat, which had just been vacated by now-U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Now 21 years later, McInnis looked back on his experiences in politics.

“Never would I have thought I would sit in office in Washington during an impeachment,” he said, “or that I would be at the Capitol during 9-11 when we were threatened with a surprise attack. Never would I have thought I would touch the hand of Mother Teresa, or would have sat down to dinner with 30 Medal of Honor recipients.

“I am completely convinced America is the promised land. It’s been a wonderful run.”

“I’m so thankful to all of you,” McInnis’ wife, Lori, said when she briefly addressed the crowd. “You “get’ him just like I do. As a spouse, it can be hard, but it’s been a magic carpet ride, and I am so glad I got to share him with you. I can tell you, 18 years ago I picked a winner, and so did you.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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