The McInnis Juggernaut

A number of my friends are upset that Josh Penry has withdrawn from the Colorado governor’s race, leaving Scott McInnis as the clear Republican frontrunner.

The word is that a political attack group threatened to hammer Penry if he stayed in the race. Welcome to politics. Such strong-arm tactics are hardly new in the American political arena. They are the norm.

The fact is that Penry trailed in fundraising, name recognition, and polling against Governor Bill Ritter. So, in retrospect, it comes as little surprise that the Republican establishment supported McInnis or that Penry decided to pick a fight he knows he can win.

Some guy named Dan Maes also remains in the race, and he has about the same chance of becoming the next governor of Colorado as I do. There’s also been talk of roping former Congressman Tom Tancredo into the race. I think that would be a disaster for the GOP. There are a lot of things I like about Tancredo (as well as a lot of points of disagreement), but he simply isn’t governor material. He’s too divisive, too polarizing. He always won his conservative district, but he would bomb in the Denver-Boulder corridor.

So that leaves McInnis as the presumptive nominee. Even though McInnis used to serve in Congress, I have little idea what his ideas are.

I find it amazing that his web page features a “Scott on the Issues” button that offers exactly zero direct information on McInnis’s views. Instead, the reader is directed to an page. An “ideas” candidate McInnis is not.

So who is Scott McInnis?

Taking abortion as a good indicator of a candidate’s relationship with the religious right, Lynn Bartels reports for the Denver Post:

Gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, for example, entered Congress as a pro-choice Republican, although he exited in 2004 having received a zero ranking from NARAL Pro-choice America, an abortion-rights advocacy group.

“He makes no bones that he changed his views while in Congress,” said McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy.

Bartels follows up:

He voted against some abortion measures, supported others and once chaired the national Republicans for Choice.

“I personally don’t support abortion,” McInnis said in 1996, “but feel the decision shouldn’t be made between a woman and the government but between a woman and her doctor.”

He said Friday he no longer feels that way, although he has maintained his reputation as a political moderate.

“You grow older and you have kids and grandkids and friends die and you realize how important life is,” said McInnis, 56.

At a November 3 event at Colorado Christian University, McInnis said, “I’m 100 percent pro life. I oppose gay marriage,” Bartels reports.

(Maes, obviously trying to appeal to the state’s social conservatives, added, “Marriage is not a right, it’s a privilege, and it is a privilege that is ordained in the Scripture.”)

Bartels summarizes McInnis’s history with the issue of abortion:

The Rocky Mountain News in 1996 called McInnis a maverick on abortion.

He long had opposed partial-birth abortions and backed parental notification. But he opted to allow for privately funded abortions at overseas U.S. military hospitals, to let federal employees choose health insurance plans to cover abortions and to preserve federal funding for family-planning programs.

In 1995, NARAL tracked 21 roll-call votes. McInnis sided with their issues seven times.

From a civil libertarian perspective, McInnis is mixed, judging from the votes noted by On the Issues. In 2004 he voted against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But thrice he voted for an amendment banning flag desecration in violation of free speech and property rights.

I’ll certainly have some questions for “100 percent pro life” McInnis. Does he want to ban abortion even in cases of risks to the woman’s life, rape, incest, and fetal deformity? Does he want to overturn Roe v. Wade? Does he support the “personhood” measure likely to share the 2010 ballot?

Ritter (for whom I voted) is a tax-and-spend, corporate welfarist bungler, no doubt. Yet, even though Ritter also nominally opposes abortion, I don’t have to worry about him trying to throw my wife in prison should she need to end a medically risky pregnancy.

McInnis couldn’t possibly be any worse than Ritter on economic issues. But, as much as I don’t want Ritter in my wallet, I certainly don’t want McInnis in my bedroom or doctor’s office. It remains to be seen which candidate will least frighten mainstream Colorado voters.