Colorado Republican voters face tough – some might say dispiriting – choices today.
Should they vote for an accused plagiarist, or an opponent whose grasp of public policy has been questioned several times?
Should they even wait to see if someone better comes along after the primary?
At a time when Republicans across the nation are counting on victories in gubernatorial races, Colorado’s Republican Party is struggling with two candidates with serious questions about character.
Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis apologized to voters for lifting part of a judge’s work in 2005 for a series of essays on water rights that McInnis passed off as his own, and for which he was paid $300,000.
McInnis said it was unacceptable, but that it was also unintentional. He blamed a research assistant for the plagiarism, and his staff prepared a letter for the assistant to sign taking full responsibility.
The assistant, Rolly Fischer, insisted McInnis was lying. And he refused to sign the letter.
Last week, McInnis paid the $300,000 back to the Hasan Family Foundation, which had hired him to do the water essays.
Evergreen businessman Dan Maes had his own ethics problems. He paid a $17,500 fine for campaign finance violations, including $44,000 he claimed in undocumented mileage reimbursements.
Maes, a virtual unknown until McInnis’ scandal, also raised eyebrows of late by declaring that a Denver bike-share program encroaches on “personal freedoms,” and that as governor he’d fire 2,000 state workers – “just like that.”
Maes called the bike program part of a U.N. attempt to control U.S. cities. A U.N.-affiliated group, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, is an association with more than 1,200 communities as members, including Denver. It recommends environmentally friendly ways cities can reduce pollution.
Maes’ campaign said the candidate was illustrating the larger picture of what the organization represents and its “extreme” views on global warming.
During the plagiarism scandal, McInnis rejected suggestions that he step down and allow a GOP vacancy committee to appoint a replacement if he wins the primary and trails Democrat John Hickenlooper, who is unopposed, in the polls. He stuck with his campaign theme – creating jobs – though character issues overshadowed debate over platforms and what each candidate would do as Colorado’s next governor.
Those issues prompted former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo to quit the party and run for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket. Tancredo says neither candidate has a chance of beating Hickenlooper. But his move threatens to further divide the conservative opposition come November.
The Libertarian Party primary Tuesday featured Jaimes Brown, a real estate broker, and Internet entrepreneur Dan Sallis.
It wasn’t the first time McInnis faced ethics issues. In 2005, he was investigated – and cleared – by the Federal Elections Commission after Democrats complained his wife had been hired as a campaign manager in 2004 after McInnis decided not to seek re-election.