By the numbers
Early Republican primary poll results for governor's race*
Opinion: Scott McInnis - Josh Penry
Favorable: 53 percent - 40 percent
Unfavorable: 9 percent - 7 percent
Unsure: 38 percent - 53 percent
* Poll only includes Republican voters
Source: Public Policy Polling
Steamboat Springs Moderate state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, has thrown his weight behind Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, in the race to win the Republican primary and take on Gov. Bill Ritter in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
"I sat neutral for several months and watched the candidates handle themselves in various situations," White said Tuesday, "and I just thought Josh showed me more than any of the other candidates."
White is the 25th state legislator to endorse Penry, who trails former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis in early primary polls. Greeley businessman Dan Maes also is vying for the Republican nomination. White represents Senate District 8, which includes all or parts of Garfield, Eagle, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt and Jackson counties.
White said Penry has the youthful energy and invigoration necessary to do what many Republicans have called for after poor election results recently: recast the party.
"Josh represents a new look and a new direction for the Republican Party," White said. "The status quo has not been working for us."
Penry, 33, is the youngest member of the state Legislature.
McInnis is leading Penry by 21 points among Republicans, according to an August poll by Public Policy Polling, but the pollsters note that the result probably reflects "initial name recognition more than anything else."
"The numbers : will develop a lot over time as Republican voters become more familiar with the candidates," Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a news release.
The poll also showed Ritter vulnerable with an approval rating of just 40 percent. The poll showed McInnis beating Ritter 46 percent to 38 percent and Penry matching Ritter with 40 percent of the vote.
White said that while working with Penry in the Legislature, he has found the young senator to be intelligent, eloquent and quick on his feet. More recently, White said Penry has shown him he is a diplomatic campaigner who could win the primary and general elections.
"When he had opportunities to bash Scott McInnis, he didn't," White said. "He was very gracious and statesman-like."
White was referring to some recent actions by McInnis that have drawn criticism, including his protest of a straw poll to be conducted later this month at a Republican gathering in Keystone and his on-air clash with the hosts of a right-leaning talk radio show. White said McInnis' behavior, and Penry's decision not to jump on it, were deciding factors in his endorsement decision.
"I appreciate the way Josh handled that as opposed to seizing an opportunity to bash his opponent," White said.
Penry is a self-described "reform-minded conservative" who believes the Republican Party has lost its fiscal discipline. McInnis also is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism and says he wants to enact economic policies that promote new jobs.