BREAKING: Penry To Exit Governor Race

UPDATE #2: No Penry run for Rep. John Salazar’s CD-3 seat or Lt. Gov., says MSNBC (pretty much what we said at the bottom of the post a little earlier):

A campaign source says that up-and-comer Josh Penry decided against a CO-GOV primary challenge against Scott McInnis, his former boss when McInnis was in Congress, because he was scared off, in part, by a 527 that was ramping up for McInnis that was set to go after Penry. [Pols emphasis] He is sitting out the 2010 cycle and is NOT running for CO-3 despite the rumors…

The source added that Penry’s Name ID, they were seeing, was only about 15% to 20% statewide, and Penry felt that a 527 and a nasty political fight could have ruined or significantly damaged his reputation and hurt his political capital with Republicans. This path helps Penry, who’s only 33, build up political capital, the source said.

UPDATE: Denver Post puts uncertainty to bed, though Penry himself has yet to make a statement:

Two sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on Penry’s behalf confirmed for The Denver Post that Penry intends to leave the race.

One source said an announcement was imminent and that Penry met with McInnis Monday morning to inform him of the decision. Penry explained he was leaving the race for “personal reasons,” the source said.

Penry has not returned phone calls seeking comment…

Washington Post’s The Fix blog, holy [expletive]:

Colorado state Sen. Josh Penry (R) plans to end his gubernatorial campaign and endorse former Rep. Scott McInnis (R), according to two sources familiar with his thinking.

Penry’s decision to opt out of the race is a stunner as many national Republicans had touted him as a potential rising star (and we had featured him in our “Rising” series that looks at up and coming politicians).

Chatter in the immediate aftermath of Penry’s decision suggested he may well be considering a run against 3rd district Rep. John Salazar (D) who won the Western Slope seat when McInnis retired in 2004. Salazar’s seat is one of 49 held by Democrats that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried in 2008. (McCain won it 50 percent to 48 percent for President Barack Obama.)

McInnis, who spent six terms in Congress, now has a clear shot at Gov. Bill Ritter (D) next fall. Democrats have expressed serious concern about Ritter’s electoral prospects and his poll numbers have lagged badly since he was elected in a landslide in 2006.

Obviously this would be a major move, but it would make a lot of sense. For all the “rising star” accolades, Penry is clearly not yet ready for a race like this, and badly losing a primary is a quick way to end both the “rising” and the “star.” A Penry loss also knocks him out of the State Senate and his Minority Leader status, leaving him in a tough spot to make a jump to higher office at a later date.

If this is true, it makes much more sense for Penry to run for re-election to the Senate and then re-assess his future later. Leaving this race to take on Rep. John Salazar and his million-dollar warchest would be silly and completely counterproductive. You don’t leave a tough race that you might lose in order to run in another tough race that you might lose (especially when there is no way to transfer the money you raised for Governor to a Federal campaign).

As for McInnis, internal polling numbers and fundraising reports obviously show that he is in a great position. This is what we said when McInnis announced he wouldn’t debate Penry — clearly McInnis knew he was in the catbird’s seat.

The timing of Penry’s announcement does put McInnis in an interesting predicament where Gov. Bill Ritter is concerned. McInnis was in a great position where he was — raising money and not having to stake out positions on tough issues — but now he can’t avoid the spotlight as the presumptive GOP nominee (sorry, Dan Maes). Whether McInnis is really ready for that is another question.

And finally, this is the worst-case scenario for Ritter. Both polling and common sense (McInnis is much more moderate than Penry) showed that Penry was the better general election opponent for Ritter; but even if McInnis had won the primary outright, at least he would have had to spend the next nine months in a slugfest. Now McInnis can save all of his powder for the general election.

143 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Aristotle says:

    If this is true (both McInnis running solo for Gov for the GOP) and Penry is going after Salazar instead, then I think the ‘pubs have just increased their chances of doing well at the midterms in this state dramatically. I’m not sure Penry can unseat Salazar but he’s got a much better shot at it than anyone else I’ve heard of. And McInnis, who can now be free of a divisive fight forcing him to go wingnut, could give that pantywaist Ritter a run for it too.

    We’ll see if it’s true, but The Fix doesn’t just post unsubstantiated rumors.

    • Automaticftp says:

      He’s done something at least halfway intelligent by bailing.  Now we need to see if Romanoff can equal Penry’s intelligence level.  😉

      • AngieS says:

        Stepping aside to fight for another day is more than just half way intelligent. Penry Raised plenty of money and ran an effective campaign. However, unlike GOP candidates from the past, Penry sees a clear path to GOP victory and he chose to be a statesman rather than a mad-man.

  2. twas brillig says:

    just the fact that Cillizza  put this up SERIOUSLY undermines Pentry politically. The tail just might wag the dog on this one.  

  3. Middle of the Road says:

    then this is a win/win for McInnis and I bet he’s a happy man this afternoon.  

  4. MADCO says:

    Does  Penry have to give any back?

    Can he spend it to run for the House?

    Can he spend it to run for re-election?

    Can he hire his wife and pay her big salary?

    Can he start a phony charity and never donate?

    • crazypoliticians says:

      Penry’s out and now McInnis can concentrate on beating Ritter, which is what we need.

      And it’s not “if” it’s true…because it is…

    • Colorado Pols says:

      Transfers to other state races. He can move his Governor money right over to his State Senate account.

      • Middle of the Road says:

        for his state re-election bid. My, this has worked out nicely for him, hasn’t it?

      • Ralphie says:

        He can trade up State->Federal, but not trade down.

        I’m gonna get my nose in Teh Google and see what the rules are.

        • Libertad says:

          Rich Coolidge, the spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, said Penry cannot transfer the money to another candidate in Colorado. Nor could Penry move the money to help in any federal campaign he may pursue.

          “The state and the federal can’t mix,” Coolidge said.

          Instead, Penry can either return his gubernatorial campaign money to donors, give it to a political party or donate it to an IRS-recognized charity. Penry can also transfer the money to use in a different state race but only to a point. Coolidge said Penry could transfer all of his money to an account for a different statewide race — for instance, if he should decide to run for treasurer or attorney general. But Coolidge said Penry could not transfer the money to help in a state Senate run because the money for the gubernatorial election was raised under different contribution limits than apply for state Senate or House races.

      • One Queer Dude says:

           He may be able to transfer some of it, but aren’t there limits to how much of it he can transfer.  The Post article contains a quote from someone in the S.O.S. Elections Division.

          One thing he cannot do is transfer it to a federal race.

          BTW, it is certain he’s running for re-election to the state Senate?  He’d be foolish not too, but doesn’t this upset the ambitions of Steven King (the scary legislator, not the scary writer) and Beastiality Rowland?

        • Danny the Red (hair) says:

          Truthfully it comes in a distant 3rd to Wes McKinley’s impressive cowboy handlebar/walrus and Randy Baumbardner’s very scary Biker/Horseshoe (although fearful Moustachianatos report that it may have been shaved this summer).

          Seriously though, Steve voted with the Dems last year on a bill that Beth McCann voted against so he’s got that going for him.

  5. PoliceSquad says:

    and have a “free” shot at Salazar in 2012, when he would be in the middle of a four year term.  Even then, however, a loss to Salazar wouldn’t add lustre to his record.  But Salazar might not run in 2012.  Penry is obviously young enough to run in 2014, assuming Ritter is re-elected, or 2018.  Or 2022 or 2026…  

    • Arvadonian says:

      Salazar’s district could look quite different in 2012 following redistricting…and a Governor McInnis could well pay back Penry for exiting the race now by rewarding him with a more favorable district free of Pueblo and areas more friendly to Salazar…

  6. Danny the Red (hair) says:

    What is the depth of Cillizza’s Colorado contacts?

    Why would information like this come through a DC reporter and not a more local source?

    On the other hand McInnis still has strong DC connections that he could force a rumor like this through and force Penry to deny the rumor, but plant the seed with the rank & file?

    I am not saying this is what is happening, I need to know more.

  7. Craig says:

    I have confirmed this through a different source altogether.  However, that source states that Penry is going to run for Lt. Gov.

  8. Fidel's dirt nap says:

    is he committing seppuku right now ?

  9. ardy39 says:

    How come I received all kinds of breathless email updates from the Penry campaign that I didn’t care about the last couple of months, but now, when I would like some confirmation, he’s suddenly all coy and hard-to-get?

  10. ardy39 says:

    He didn’t wait until halfway through his term as Governor to quit. He quit years before he might have won the race.

    Dude! You are the Palin-ator Supreme!

  11. Chef says:

    McInniss must have new advisors to actually make a logical decision without putting his foot in his mouth. If he can maintain the momentum, he stands a good shot at taking out our current self-serving, disappointing Governor.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Disappointing is a big maybe considering the state of the economy but “self serving” is a worthless adjective.  Ritter taking controversial stands on school taxes and winning served the under funded schools in this state.  Ritter reducing state government to balance the state budget served the people of Colorado and was exactly the kind of decisions that he was elected to make.  Ritter has done his job and is a proven state wide candidate.  Everyone already anointing shady Scott McInnis and his Tom Delay tainted past are getting ahead of themselves.  You had an up and coming and whacked teabagger versus an out of touch and shady holdover in the GOP primary. Now selling the second coming of a west slope Beauprez is going to be harder than you think.

      • dukeco1 says:

        The reports of Governor Ritters’ demise are a bit premature. McInnis is up to his ears in “politics as usual”. I don’t think that book is a bestseller this time around.

      • Chef says:

        My opinions are “worthless” to you, but obviously not to me. It takes no intelligence to call someone else’s viewpoint “worthless” simply because you disagree. You like Ritter. I don’t. Get over yourself.

        Ritter cutting jobs is not “reducing state government to balance the budget” to me. Ask the people he’s dumped if they appreciate his cuts, ask their families how they like his move.

        Ritter being “a proven state wide candidate” says nothing about the quality of his performance. Try thinking clearly, if you’re able. Being a “proven state wide candidate” proves he’s a legitimate candidate. Big whoop. If I had Ritter’s money machine and power, I’d be a “proven candidate” as well.

        And just because I don’t care for Ritter as a man or governor, does not mean I’ll vote for tipsy McInnis, either. The ability to type does not afford you the ability (which you don’t have) to try to shut me down simply because I disagree with your opinion.  

  12. davebarnes says:

    I was really torn between voting in the Repub primary or the Dem primary.

    Easy decision now.

  13. WesternSlopeThought says:

    was in a grumpy mood yesterday.  Penry has a better shot at satisfying his ambitions in a CD3 race than he ever did at governor.  The rest of the state does not buy in to Penry’s extremist uberCon ideology much as the congressional district does.  It would still be a long shot against John though.

    “Is anyone else here tired of the flimflam, mealy-mouthed Republican?”  –Josh Penry

  14. ClubTwitty says:

    sounds all but official…

    Penry felt unseating Colorado’s sitting Democratic governor was too important to risk an acrimonious primary, the campaign source said.

    Additionally, Penry was facing fundraising challenges, especially with big money names in the state expected to start a powerful independent political committee not restricted by campaign finance limits. That message was sent to Penry, sources close to the campaign said.

    A recent poll showing Penry making no headway against Gov. Bill Ritter was also discussed during a meeting with Penry and Western Slope supporters over the weekend, a source said.

    However, I might reword that first sentence in the quote to read:

    Penry felt that continuing on his quest to spend his life on the public dole was too important to throw it all away on a losing primary.

  15. WesternSlopeThought says:

    a great day for Colorado!

    Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, confirmed the news with the Daily Sentinel shortly after receiving a call from Penry this afternoon. Bradford said Penry told her he is definitely leaving the race and has not considered running for Colorado’s Third Congressional District seat currently held in the U.S. Congress by Democrat John Salazar.

    Instead, he will focus on helping other Republican candidates around the state work on their campaigns, Bradford said.

  16. ClubTwitty says:

    That’s Josh’s taxpayer funded campaign office Senate Minority Office is being shuttered?  I mean what else do they do besides send out Penry campaign talking points?

  17. Middle of the Road says:

    And I mean that, sincerely. Get out while you still look gracious doing it, even if you really are just getting out because you’re getting your ass kicked in fundraising and name recognition. Get out now and the Party will love you for forgoing a bruising primary. Get out now and build that political capital and hey, Josh, while you’re at it, learn how to run a campaign.  

    • Early Worm says:

      If McInnis loses, Penry still positioned well to be the R nominee in 2014.  If McInnis wins, Penry positioned to get McInnis suppport for whatever he pursues in the future, house seat, senate, or gov in 2018.  Only scenario it is bad is if Penry thought he could win the primary and the general.  Clearly he thought he couldn’t.

  18. Jambalaya says:

    …to have primary debates with Scooter now?

    Plus, don’t Wadhams and Scooter hate each other?

  19. Retired says:

    His campaign is lathargic and he has squandered his political capital. Good luck selling the “New and improved Colorado Promise.”

    • ClubTwitty says:

      but what do I know…

      McInnis will be more difficult to beat than Penry, statewide, I think, but he is not quite the ‘moderate’ he is portrayed to be.

      The ‘Put-a-Lobbyist-in-office’ mantra will work for several GOP candidates this year in Colorado.  McInnis won’t energize the teabag vote as much as Penry would have–its hard for a 6 term former Congressman from the era of DeLay/Abramhoff to run as an anti-politician. Still, the chance to vote against Ritter–since none of them are FOR anything–will no doubt turn some teabaggers out.  Ritter needs to focus on energizing his base.


  20. redstateblues says:

    In an e-mail to supporters, campaign director David Kenney had this to say:

    Our campaign has now become crystal clear — a choice between Governor Ritter’s future-driven ideas to move Colorado forward, or Scott McInnis’ politics of the past.

    Scott McInnis brings no new ideas to the table, just the same disastrous Bush-DeLay-era policies that he championed in Congress. It’s no surprise that Scott McInnis makes no apologies about featuring photos of George W. Bush on his new campaign web site, something few politicians on either side of the aisle have the gall to do.

    Let’s tell Scott McInnis that Coloradans don’t want to go back to the past. Let’s tell him Coloradans embrace Governor Ritter’s New Colorado Partnership to develop a more entrepreneurial government, a more modern economy, and a world-class education system here in Colorado.

    Campaign message courtesey of Josh Penry.

    • Retired says:

      his boss hired McInnis at the law firm they worked at together, seems he didn’t have a problem with his politics then.

      • Jambalaya says:

        How do you conclude that Ritter hired McInnis?  Just became they worked at the same place?  Oh yeah, cuz I hired everyone who works at my job.

        In any event, it may turn out that people have different expectations and qualifications when choosing a governor (v. choosing another blood-sucking law firm partner with whom to split profits).

      • PERA hopeful says:

        So it must be true!  No … wait … it was just you writing the same thing 2 minutes ago.

        So is this a trial balloon for the McInnis campaign theme?  “Ritter and McInnis worked together!  Which means … something….”

  21. WestSloper says:

    Unless Tim Foster has set aside a nice cushy job at Mesa State for him, Penry will “reconsider” and run for re-election. Penry couldn’t bare to be out of circulation waiting for John Salazar to retire and he wouldn’t be as helpful to McInnis either as a lame duck in the legislature. Who really cares about Steve King’s political career at this juncture when the Prince-of-the-Republicans future is in a log-jam?

    • gertie97 says:

      King can revert to running in HD54 again. Too bad for the two clowns who announced for the House seat. Politics ain’t a sport for sissies, guys. The young prince must be served, and shit rolls downhill.

  22. redstateblues says:

    To the Penry sockpuppet/shill crew: TaxCheatGeithner and Ram2010 (if I’m missing anyone, sorry!)

    You guys did a top notch job ripping apart McInnis on a daily basis since even before Penry announced. You’ll be missed. Truly. Thanks for all the ammo.



  23. jfenter says:

    It was all political, right? So much for public property rights.  

  24. JeffcoBlue says:

    It doesn’t matter that McInnis is “more moderate,” he was running from that moderate shit and he made the mistake of going on the record. He’s out of touch, unstable, and a flip-flopper. He’s Beauprez the sequel.

    Hearing me, Anschutz? Cranberg? Mark my words, you re-elected Bill Ritter today!

    • crazypoliticians says:

      No one is as bad as Beauprez.

      And you think Ritter is in touch and stable? I saw him over this past week give a crappy stump speech. The guy is already using the, “I know you don’t like me and my policies, but…” You can’t win a campaign that way.

  25. DavidThi808 says:

    The biggest impact this will have is a negative on on the GOP. The GOP  is screwed until it works out how it’s going to move forward. And the way political parties do that is primaries. McInnis/Penry was perfectly set up for that. Very bad news for the GOP.

    It’s also bad news for all of us political junkies. Bennet/Romanoff is over. Norton/Buck/Wiens has been boring (so far). What are we going to talk about?

    It’s great news for Ritter. Penry could have beat Ritter. It was uphill but doable. But McInnis, I just don’t see how. McInnis is the same story as Beauprez & Schaffer – GOP guy who’s been around forever and doesn’t realize campaigning has changed. (The fact that he tweets doesn’t mean he understands how to use it.)

    And for those that will counter that Ritter’s team only sort-of knows how to campaign in the age of the net – yep. But there are a lot more of us on the left effectively helping on the net than people on the right. A Dem only needs to be competent on the net to have the advantage there.

    So the GOP put off the day of working out what they want to be and gave up the governorship. Ritter just got 4 more years. And we have nothing to talk about.

    I can live with that 🙂

    • crazypoliticians says:

      The voters felt the same way you do. All the political junkies on this page may look that deeply into it but not the average voter. As long as Ritter keeps doing what he’s doing then he’ll be just as screwed as the rest of them.  

    • ClubTwitty says:

      Penry has little base outside of Grand Jct, as his fundraising shows, and even his defenders were noting in some of the articles today that he was likely to be the one most bloodied in a primary, possibly stunting his career.

      (I still think it likely that Josh would have carried the West Slope in the primary, but that doesn’t get the win).

      McInnis’ 527 was gearing up to go after Josh, which scared him away.  Smart move for Penry if he wants to advance; he’ll be back, now that he avoids defeat in the primary and wins kudos from GOP leadership.

    • gertie97 says:

      This is Colorado. Retail campaigning still matters. Face to face, and not Facebook, matters.

      Don’t sell Scooter short. Ritter needs the economy to improve. If it doesn’t, he’s got a tough road. If it does improve, he wins.

      Scooter is still a fine one-on-one campaigner, and he can raise money. You may not believe it, but most normal people aren’t married to the net.

      Most of us on this blog are, by definition, not normal.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        But the net is the equal of feet on the ground and has more impact than anything else except paid TV. I saw it locally here in Boulder with the election that just ended – low turnout, not major issues – historically that means the Sierra Club slate wind in a landslide.

        Except… Of the 4 Sierra Club candidates – 2 won. Of the 5 main moderate candidates – 3 won. (Take out the incumbents and it was even more lopsided 0 – 2.)

        What changed is a large number of people were willing to put in the time to Google the candidates where before the only low effort resources were the endorsements. It made for a big change.

        And you have more an more voters in my situation – we don’t see any TV commercials, we don’t read any printed news, and Google determines in large part what we learn about candidates & issues.

        If the race is close, owning the net is good for 6 – 12 points. And that’s everything state-wide in Colorado.

        With that said, Ritter has it a lot easier if unemployment drops.

        • ClubTwitty says:

          (I doubt even in Boulder).

          You think the web matters as much as feet on the ground???  Retail still carries the day, the web is important and campaigns need to know how to use it, but 6-12 points???  Based on what do you make that claim?  (PS 6-12 points is not an indication of anything resembling a close election).

        • RedGreen says:

          Right, except that in Aurora, two city council incumbents (one of whom was as net-savvy as any of that suburb’s candidates) got knocked off by a plain, old-fashioned robo-call and feet-on-the-ground GOTV campaign. The one candidate targeted by Ryan Call’s anti-tax campaign who survived was Bob FitzGerald, who notoriously doesn’t even know how to read e-mails. How’d he win? TV commercials and feet on the ground.

          You’re also underestimating the web activity and prowess of the McInnis campaign.

          • DavidThi808 says:

            And the trick is not to know what the net is, it’s to use it effectively. In ’08 Bob Schaffer got destroyed on the net. And I’m guessing he still doesn’t realise how that impacted his campaign.

            McInnis may be putting effort into the web, but I don’t see anything terribly effective. (And no, I’m not going to list out what he could be doing.)

            On the flip side, there’s still time for the McInnis campaign to learn. Hopefully they won’t.

    • WesternSlopeThought says:

      we will see an extra-puffy piece?  Maybe bring towels to pat each other’s tears?  You could still ask him about the demise of his Balloon Daddy campaign.  Or did his Roberto Duran moment include you also?  🙂

  26. pueblogrouch says:

    If what I heard this evening is true, Penry is finished in politics. He apparently has a youthful indescretion that he would prefer not be revealed. If he withdraws and can keep it quiet, he will not embarrass his family.

    Also in the gossip was that a well-known Denver person is planning to give Ritter a primary. God, do you have to live in the boonies to hear this crap?

  27. AngieS says:

    From Monday’s Denver Business Journal:

    Sondermann said. “Of Ritter, McInnis and Penry, it was Penry, in my mind, who was running the superior campaign. He had a very sharp political message.”

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