Keystone straw-poll flap extends McInnis-Penry GOP bickerfest

Former six-term Republican congressman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis continues to feud with Colorado Republican Party leadership -– this time over a Sept. 25 GOP dinner at Keystone ski resort where a straw poll on the gov’s race will be conducted.

McInnis sent a letter to state GOP leaders last week, according to the Denver Post, saying the straw poll, which only ticket holders at $50 a pop can participate in, will be divisive for the party at a time when the focus should be on defeating Gov. Bill Ritter next year.

Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, offered that McInnis is “dead wrong” on the poll and that there’s no “conceivable, legitimate rationale” for not attending an event most Republicans are all atwitter about.

But Mike Britt, campaign manager for state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry -– a former McInnis staffer also seeking the governor’s office –- told the Post McInnis was bailing because he’s been losing straw polls all over the state despite his congressional name recognition.

A possible third explanation is McInnis’s clear contempt (and vice versa) for Wadhams and the more conservative wing of the state GOP that unsuccessfully backed Bob Schaffer in last year’s U.S. Senate race. McInnis told the Colorado Independent last fall he would have beaten eventual winner Mark Udall had the party backed him.

McInnis, considered more of a moderate with a strong power base on the Western Slope, should be careful, though, about his characterizations of Colorado’s struggling ski and tourism industry – long a backer of the former Glenwood Springs cop when he represented both the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts.

His spokesman, Sean Duffy, called the Sept. 25 dinner “a paid-for voting exercise at an elite resort.” Most Coloradans know Keystone is a Denver day ski area also popular with Texans skiing in jeans and NFL starter jackets — not exactly the fur-clad fantasylands of Aspen or Vail.

With visitor numbers plummeting due to the global recession, Keystone is likely thrilled to host the GOP confab – straw poll or no straw poll.

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