Holtzman, McInnis could square off in race for governor
Glenwood Springs native and former congressman Scott McInnis is giving serious thought to making a bid to become Colorado’s next governor.”I wouldn’t rule it out at all,” he said last week in a telephone interview from his Denver law office. “I’ve got 22 years of experience and a lot of legislative experience, and it would be an honor, I think, to be the governor of Colorado.”Should McInnis decide to run, he likely will face a challenge from fellow Republican and fellow Western Slope resident Marc Holtzman. The president of the University of Denver has maintained a residence on Missouri Heights outside Carbondale since 1993.McInnis, who returns home to Grand Junction each weekend, has known Holtzman for years. Holtzman previously served as technology secretary to incumbent Gov. Bill Owens, who will be forced out of office by term limits at the end of 2006.”Scott and I are close friends,” Holtzman said in an interview. “If we become opponents in an election we’ll be close friends, and one of us will support the other when it’s over.”McInnis also could face another friend in U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, another Colorado Republican who is looking at running for governor.”That happens in party politics. Bob Beauprez is a fine fellow and Marc Holtzman’s a great guy,” McInnis said. “Once in a while you luck out and run against someone you don’t like.”More often, McInnis has run against people he has had a high regard for, even when he has faced Democrats in general elections. “Frankly, I’ve had a lot of people I’ve met in public service and not a lot of them I don’t like,” McInnis said.If he seeks the governorship, he could end up running against former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter, a friend and colleague of McInnis’ at the Hogan & Hartson law firm office in downtown Denver. The Democrat also is weighing a gubernatorial bid.But the prospect of running against friends doesn’t do much to diminish McInnis’ love of running for office.”I don’t mind fund-raising at all, and I love to campaign,” he said.And he sounds like someone with an itch to run for governor.When McInnis decided to retire from Congress last year after 12 years in Washington, the reason was to come back to Colorado – not to get out of politics, he said. “Frankly, I was homesick. … I didn’t have politics out of my system at all. I’ve still got a tankful of energy, and there’s a lot of things I find of interest.”McInnis said he didn’t leave Congress specifically with the idea of running for governor. But he did realize that the timing would be good, should he decide to run.”It’s pretty tough to campaign and fulfill your congressional duties,” he said.McInnis said he is talking to people around the state in an effort to decide whether to run.Holtzman has gone further, forming an exploratory committee. He said he did that so he could start collecting campaign contributions under Amendment 27 rules that limit individual contributions to $1,000. He believes the strategy is paying off, with more than $300,000 raised to date, he said.Holtzman became wealthy in investment banking, but said he doesn’t plan to run a self-financed campaign.”I think the people that come in and write checks of their own in some ways really disadvantage their grassroots efforts,” he said.He believes an important measure of a campaign’s viability is whether a candidate can convince people not only to volunteer to help, but also to donate funds.”I think that people vote with their wallets as well.”McInnis said he had around $1 million in campaign funds left over from his time in Congress, but the law prohibits him from using that money if he runs for governor. Still, he said he believes it’s too early to form an exploratory committee for a 2006 race.Holtzman also said he worries about moving too quickly with his candidacy, which is one reason he doesn’t plan to announce his candidacy formally until February.”Most voters tire very easily of the perpetual election cycle,” he said.He said he also doesn’t want to step down yet at DU, where he’s leading a $25 million fund-raising effort within the College of Education.He’s also busy planning an Oct. 7 marriage. But he won’t be dragging his new wife, Kristen Hubbell, into an unfamiliar world when he runs for office. Hubbell is former deputy press secretary to Owens, and now is director of communications for state Attorney General John Suthers. Owens introduced Hubbell to Holtzman.Two of Holtzman’s four major campaign planks involve areas where he has been heavily involved: education and economic development. He also wants to expand affordable health care and promote “a solid conservation vision that’s supportive to the business community,” he said.He said he would like to promote merit pay for teachers, and expanded training for them. At the college level, he wants to see tuition caps relaxed so institutions can better address their financial needs. He thinks public institutions won’t abuse higher caps because they have to remain competitive.Holtzman said it will remain important that tuition be subsidized for in-state students at public institutions.Holtzman has never held elected office. But he ran Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980 at the age of 20. And he ran for Congress in 1986 as a Republican, losing in what was a solidly Democratic district.Holtzman plans to travel to every county in the state this summer.”I want to really understand what the people of Colorado are expecting from their state governor,” he said.Holtzman said McInnis has made significant contributions to the state. To Holtzman, the race for governor will be decided by which eventual candidate has the best vision for the state.McInnis believes the Republican race needs to be decided partly by who can go on to be elected governor.”And from a political standpoint I can win the race,” he said.McInnis cites experience that dates back to 1982, when he was elected to the state House of Representatives, while still a Glenwood resident. He was House majority leader in 1992 when he won his first race for Congress.He said he has particular interest in water, transportation and education issues, and a proven ability to work across party lines.McInnis doesn’t come from the metropolitan Denver area where most of Colorado’s voters live, but he said statewide name recognition would come soon enough during a campaign. And he also believes that in close races for governor, the victor has to win the 3rd Congressional District – the western Colorado region that McInnis represented.”You have to assume this will be a close race,” he said.He think it’s time for another western Coloradan to sit in the governor’s office. Another former Glenwood Springs resident, John Vanderhoof, who now lives in Grand Junction, held the office from 1973-75. Vanderhoof and McInnis’ father, Kohler, were in the banking business together at the former Glenwood Industrial Bank, now part of WestStar Bank.McInnis believes running for governor would be little different from running for Congress.”The key part is being able to have good communication with the average person out there. Being able to travel around, talk and get a good pulse of what’s going on in the state, what’s needed in the state,” he said.For now, McInnis said, he’s enjoying private life, working in the Denver area where his three children all live, while dabbling behind the scenes in politics.He said he enjoys his current work and would be happy to continue doing it if he doesn’t run for governor.”Things are just going great,” he said. “This is one of the few times in my life I’ve faced two great choices.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.