The Mesa County Republicans thought they had a “dream team.” With State Senator Ron Teck retiring from the Senate 7 District because of term limits, the Republicans figured former representative Matt Smith would move up to Teck’s seat and Josh Penry would run for his second term in the 54th.
The Republicans were tripped by one obstacle: Penry decided to run for Senate 7, too. Old allegiances have been forgotten and even former Congressman Scott McInnis and Governor Bill Owens have been dragged into this contested Republican primary race. Perhaps enough ill will has been traded between the two candidates that opportunities may open for the Democratic opponent, Dana Barker.
Republicans in the Grand Junction area are hard pressed to make a prediction on who will win the primary. Penry has been described as “ambitious” for seeking a higher office after only one term as state representative. Smith has been accused of being unfaithful to the party for not actively supporting Greg Walcher against John Salazar during the 2004 congressional race.
Penry has claimed that he did more in two years in the minority party than Matt Smith accomplished in eight in the majority party in the state legislature. However, Penry has also aligned his ideology towards the Conservative Right, a position that crippled Walcher’s race against centrist Salazar.
One thing for sure, one promising Republican leader will fall on August 8th. If it is Matt Smith, the Democratic Senate Majority Project may take another look at Dana Barker’s race. Penry may appeal to the Republican activists for the primary, but as Democrat Bernie Buescher’s win in the 55th proved in 2004, Mesa County voters on a whole may be leaning more towards the center.