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Articles by Donald E. L. Johnson

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Colorado Republicans hear strong pitches from Dan Maes, Scott McInnis, Josh Penry

On the night GOP candidates were taking back governors’ chairs in Virginia and New Jersey, Colorado Republicans cheered as Scott McInnis, Josh Penry and Dan Maes took turns showing that they are ready to unseat another Democrat, Governor Bill Ritter, in 2010.

The three GOP gubernatorial candidates shared the stage at a forum held at

the Music Center on the campus of Colorado Christian University, and they all claimed that they are uniquely qualified to take on Ritter next year. One of them is, but we won’t know which one for months.

Usually, when challengers are so bold as to take on a sitting governor, senator or president, they look small and ill equipped in comparison with the incumbent.

But in this year’s gubernatorial contest, it’s clear that Maes, Penry and McInnis all have the stage presence, knowledge and political skills to more than give Ritter a run for his campaign contributors’ money.

A packed, standing room only crowd of mostly Republicans, including former Senator Bill Armstrong and the chairs of the board of commissioners of Arapahoe and El Paso counties, heard the candidates make their well rehearsed pitches and their backers cheer them when they were introduced and after they spoke. It was almost as if there were three campaign rallies in the room.

This wasn’t a debate. It was a talent show.

Dan Maes showed that he can stand on a stage with veteran politicians even though he’s never been in politics. He played the CEO.

Josh Penry showed that he’s mastered the intricacies of state government and can sound as conservative as they come. He played the wonk.

Scott McInnis silenced the hall with an impassioned plea that voters think about the 315 people who went to work this morning and returned home to their families jobless. As he has in many previous campaign appearances, McInnis challenged Ritter to debate anytime, anywhere. He played the campaigner.

Basically, the three candidates agreed on the issues presented to them: Jobs and the economy, Ritter’s misguided economic polices and the importance of recognizing that voters are more concerned about jobs and the economy than about social issues. In response to a questioner wondering while social issues aren’t getting any attention from them, the three candidates declared that they are pro-life and believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Maes said that until last week, in his seven months of campaigning, he hasn’t heard anyone ask about social issues.

So who won? When moderator and former state Senate President John Andrews opened the show by asking the audience who they were backing, it sounded like almost everyone in the room had picked their favorite candidates.

But I sat next to a woman who hadn’t decided before the forum and wouldn’t commit after it. Yes, it was a sample of one, but a savvy one, I think.

Historically, people like me who are so bold as to declare winners after candidates appear together ultimately are mocked by polls and final election results. So I’m not going to declare a winner because I don’t have strong feelings one way or another.

A few undecideds probably found their candidates while others went home still undecided. People who came to support one of the three candidates probably went home thinking their man came off best.

Ritter was invited to appear with the Republicans but begged off late Monday, Andrews told the audience of more than 300 people.

Links

GOP gubernatorial rivals outline what Colorado needs. By Lynn Bartels

Interview: Josh Penry explains his ideas for cutting Colorado’s budget deficit. The Business Word.

GOP gubernatorial candidates square off in Lakewood. By Joe Hanel.

Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidates focusing on economic issues, not social wedge topics. The Business Word.

What’s with Denver Post’s attacks on Scott McInnis for his refusal to debate Josh Penry, Dan Maes? The Business Word.

Posted by Donald E. L. Johnson on 11/03/2009 at 09:57 PM

ColoradoPolitics

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