Happy coincidence or strategic tipping of his campaign hand? That’s what Garfield County Democrats must be wondering after the “surprise” appearance of Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis at the local GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night in Glenwood Springs.
McInnis, a former six-term U.S. congressman born and raised in Glenwood, showed up among a bevy of statewide candidates and GOP political strategists, but he also was there for the announcement by former Glenwood Springs City Councilman David Merritt that he’ll run for the Garfield Board of County Commissioners in November.
Merritt will square off against Sunlight Mountain Resort ski area manager Tom Jankovsky in a primary, with the winner taking on entrenched Democrat Trési Houpt, who is running again after deciding last month not to seek the local state House seat after Gunnison’s Kathleen Curry switched from Democrat to independent late last year.
Houpt, appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and a strong backer of environmental and public health regulations, is often the lone dissenting vote on the three-member board of county commissioners in gas-rich GarCo.
McInnis, in fact, donated a cool 10 grand to a political nonprofit called Western Heritage that campaigned in favor of Houpt’s two Republican co-commissioners, John Martin and Mike Samson, in 2008. The head of Denver-based Antero Resources also chipped in for that cause.
Houpt has said all along she expects to have a double bull’s eye on her back because of her position on the COGCC and the GarCo board, although McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy told the Colorado Independent in January that the county commissioner race was not on the McInnis campaign radar at that point.
After Saturday’s dinner, it may have just jumped on their screen.