InnerView

InnerView with Scott McInnis

By Jason Kosena and Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

When it comes to running campaigns, Republican Scott McInnis isn’t new to the game.

McInnis, who was elected to the Statehouse in 1982 before moving his way up to the United States Congress, has been in politics for decades. Indeed, there was no surprise in Colorado circles this summer when he announced his intent to run against Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010.

That chance to challenge Ritter will not come easy though. McInnis will first have to win a primary that includes one of his former staffers, state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes. And, more recently, he’ll have to better explain what has been viewed by some as erratic behavior while answering questions from the media, including an exchange in a taped interview with AM talk radio hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman that turned ugly after the six-term congressman accused the two DJs of asking unfair questions and “tag-teaming” him.

Caplis and Silverman were asking about unused campaign funds that McInnis staffers told reporters in 2004 would be used for breast cancer research — but have since been used to instead fund Republican outreach and political campaigns in Colorado. Some of the nearly $1 million has been given to charity since McInnis left office in 2004 but a majority of the funds, $750,000 of it, is still sitting in his Political Action Committee bank account.

But what does McInnis think about state issues such as the budget, the death penalty and the economy? How does he feel about his primary challenger? About Ritter?

And is he thinking about anyone in particular he’d like to see as lieutenant governor?

The Colorado Statesman sat down with McInnis earlier this month for one hour in the back of a coffee shop on the 16th Street Mall for a wide-ranging interview to get at many of these issues.

During the interview, McInnis said that Penry, who has spent weeks trying to portray himself as the GOP’s fresh face who can bring the needed change to a badly bruised party, told him that it was, in fact, McInnis’ turn to run for governor, not Penry’s.

Colorado Statesman: “Josh has been out there saying he doesn’t buy into an argument that ‘it’s your turn, quote unquote’. What’s your response to that specific comment from Josh?

Scott McInnis: “It’s ironic because that’s exactly what he told me. That was that conversation several months ago. That’s exactly what he said. Josh and I talked about this. I went to his office and we had a nice conversation, a good conversation and that’s what he felt, that’s what he told me.”

McInnis had nothing good to say about Ritter during the hour-long conversation. When asked by The Statesman to name something good that Ritter had accomplished in the last three years, McInnis couldn’t name one example of policy.

“Well, he showed up for work. He’s got a good work ethic, I guess,” McInnis said. “I mean, he’s a nice guy and in good times maybe there’s not quite the demand on leadership. These aren’t good times.”

McInnis said he believes Ritter has failed the state by not promoting the expansion of the Fort Carson Military Base in Piñon Canyon and for imposing strict rules and regulations on the oil and gas industry.

When asked if he agreed with Ritter’s two vetoes of pro-union bills this year — something Republicans cheered and Democrats despised, McInnis was less than complimentary.

Colorado Statesman: “Just to follow up on the question of whether Ritter done anything good, did you agree with his vetoes of the labor bills?

McInnis: “He’s a nice guy, keep in mind, he’s a nice guy.”

Colorado Statesman: “Sure. Policy wise, though, did you agree with his vetoes of the labor bills this year? Would you have vetoed those as well?”

McInnis: “We didn’t have a labor problem. You know, once in a while the grocery stores go on strike for three or four (weeks). But this is not a state that’s known for labor problems. Why stir it up? Why is one of the very first things (he came) in and did is say, “Okay, we’re going to unionize (state workers)?”

Below is the full transcript of The Statesman’s Q&A with McInnis. The transcript has been edited for clarity:

Colorado Statesman (CS): How do you think the press in Colorado has treated Bill Ritter so far? Do you feel there’s been a favorable or unfavorable bias?

Scott McInnis (SM): I think the tradition you see when somebody first takes office is they give him a honeymoon, a little time off and to see if (he) can perform. At some point, they hold the leader accountable, as they should, and that’s when it starts getting a little tougher, especially if you’re not able to perform (up to) the expectations that you laid out for the people. Clearly, that’s the case with Bill Ritter. He has not met the expectations of leadership. He has not met the expectations of excitement in the office, leadership in the office. I think the newspaper coverage evolved with that.

CS: What do you think has been his biggest failing so far?

SM: In this state, with this economy, we’ve got to have leadership at the top when it comes to jobs. And I think the transition from the DA’s office to a legislative body where he’s never cast a vote in his life was too tough for him.

He’s a nice guy, but there’s a big difference between a nice guy and a good governor.

CS: What would you do differently?

SM: If I’m privileged — and I’m being presumptuous — but, if I’m privileged to be the governor of the state, we will do everything we can to encourage the expansion of Fort Carson military base.

The military is the state’s second largest employer.

This is a big deal.

(Ritter) ought to be doing whatever he needs to do to encourage them to come here and not go to the state of Texas or anywhere else.

If I was him, I’d immediately admit that I made a mistake by opposing the expansion. Now they’re backtracking. So is my opponent, Josh (Penry, who voted against Fort Carson’s expansion into Piñon Canyon).

That bill was not about property rights. That bill was (to oppose) expansion of the base.

The fact is, that bill is a slap in the face of the Army. It was not necessary. It was poorly timed.

The message it sends was pretty much reflected by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (who) went to the secretary of the Army and said, “Why do you put up with this from the people in the north? Come to us! We’ll expand the base. We understand what military dollars mean. We understand what a military complex means to a local economy.”

In a time when we don’t have jobs, in a time that we need every job we can get — and here are great jobs, great industries. And we’ve got a governor saying to the U.S. Army, “Here you go! Try this!”

That was Failing Number One.

You want to talk about Failing Number Two?

Why does Colorado need to have the toughest natural gas regulations in the United States? Why is that?

I mean, where’s the balance on this thing?

He never thought they’d leave. Somebody needs to ring him up and say, “Governor, they’ve left.”

I’d like to take him by the ear and show him Wagner Equipment in Grand Junction. There’s 200, 300 pieces of equipment sitting down there idle, nothing happening.

You can go to the West Rifle Exit. Ever see a drill rig with a “For Sale” sign on it? (There’s one) right there at the West Rifle Exit.

Look, of course we have to have rules and regulations — but to have the strictest in the country? Which, in turn, takes us from (being) one of the top states (to encourage the energy business), to the bottom?

Those are good jobs. Those are jobs that have full medical benefits. That’s an industry that provides a lot of local tax revenue for our roads, for our schools, for our sewer plants.

It’s an important industry for us, on top of the fact that it’s an important fuel for the future, including the green future.

Natural gas is a great product for us.

It’s a big mistake on his part.

Our leader ought to be out there saying, “Colorado’s open for business. We’ve got quality of life, folks. We’re going to have quality of jobs.”

CS: Do you buy the argument that some of those rigs are vacant more because of the price of natural gas and oil in the world market than because of regulations?

SM: Price always plays into it — price and supply. That’s kind of the key here, governor.

When the big push was on, say, seven years ago, we thought we had peaked at natural gas. We thought (our supply was) going down.

Now the good news for us is, they’ve discovered massive supplies.

There have been massive advances in technology, unlike eight years ago, when they didn’t really have a lot of options.

Colorado was seen as the second largest natural gas reserve that hadn’t been drained — the Roan Plateau.

I’ve got a lot of years of experience — chaired the energy committee up here at the Statehouse. Nobody thought they had many options. They come out here, and, then, all of a sudden, big discoveries are made. So that plays into it.

But, at some point, Colorado’s going to become competitive again. And at that point, (the energy industry is) going to say, “Oh, gees! Unlike nine or 10 or 15 years ago, when we didn’t think we had an option, we have an option. We can go to Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wyoming, Texas, the Dakotas — you name it. So what do we do? We go to Wyoming. ¬Just cross this imaginary line that’s drawn up there, and we don’t have this kind of harassment.”

This is seen as harassment. It’s not seen as good policy. Good policy would be tough regulations that are fair. This goes beyond that. It’s punitive.

I don’t know where he got off on the wrong side against natural gas.

Again, he’s backpedaling. It’s an election year.

He’s trying to make friends with the people who, in my opinion, he has kicked in the bottom.

But the reality is, we’ve lost a lot of jobs. And you can lay a portion of that, certainly, at his feet.

And when they come back here, if we haven’t done something with those regulations, if we haven’t instilled more common sense and more balance into the decision-making process, we’re going to lose big time.

CS: Do you think we lost some of those jobs before the rules went into effect? Or do you think the knowledge that they were going to be going into effect steered people away?

SM: I think the rules took away the incentive for any expansion, that’s for sure. That’s the key part. And then, supply and price in the markets also are in that mix.

But for the governor to deny that (Colorado having) the toughest rules in the country had anything to do with the decision-making process in these corporate offices is a mistake. He knows darn right it had something to do with it.

In my opinion, internally, he probably regrets what he’s done. He needs to admit he’s made a mistake and back off, bring them in. It’s overkill. And, unfortunately, we’re all suffering as a result.

CS: If you’re elected governor, what do you propose doing? The rules passed. The General Assembly approved them.

SM: Well, of course, it depends on the makeup of the Legislature.

The reality is, we have to go out there and determine which rules are punitive, which rules really prevent that industry from coming back or are preventing expansion.

You look and say, “Okay. Do we have an unnecessary delay between the time a permit is applied for and the time the permit is processed?” We have the rules. We have a couple of years of experience. Now let’s do the adjustment. I’d do it very quickly.

The same thing with the Fort Carson military base. I’d be there in a heartbeat. I’d be saying to the Army, “Look, that bill was passed by this governor a couple of years ago. Throw it in the trash. This is a state that wants your business. This is a state that welcomes the military with open arms. This is a state that cares about jobs.”

The assumption that some people make is that we have a luxury that others don’t — a quality of life. Well, that’s great. We do have a quality of life. But when it comes down to quality of life and not a quality job, it doesn’t cut it.

People just can’t afford it. They’d love to live here, but they have to make a living. You have to combine the two to be a strength for the future of the state. This state has a great future, but you have to have that combination. You can’t go without it.

CS: How would you balance the needs of the environment (with the needs of development)?

SM: I talked to a person from the Nature Conservancy who said, “Hey, realistically we’d rather have one owner out there. We’ve had excellent working relationships with the Army. We think the Army is very responsible environmentally. If they expand down there, we think it’s fine. We think it’s an area that will be managed as it should be.”

Look, we’ve got to have jobs, and, of course, we need reasonable rules.

(There was my involvement in) the creation of Sand Dunes (National Park), expanding the Spanish Peak Wilderness Area, the canyons out west of Grand Junction, the Black Canyon…

I know what balance is — balance is having a good environment and a good job. But you’ve got to have a little give on both.

We’re not saying, “The gates are open, come in and do whatever kind of business you want.”

We’re saying, “Under reasonable rules, provide us good jobs. We’re all happy. This is a win-win solution.”

A lot of states don’t have the quality of life to offer that we do, so they’re at a disadvantage. We do have quality, so we’re ahead of them.

That’s one positive about the future. But, man, there are a lot of people out there right now (asking), “Did I lose a job I didn’t have to lose from the person I elected as my leader? The person that I thought was leading us as a state in a positive direction?”

CS: Speaking of leadership, you’ve served in the state Legislature and you’ve served in Congress as a legislator. A governor is the CEO of the state. How would you view the transition to becoming the state’s CEO versus being one of 435 who vote?

SM: Colorado is a $19 billion, multidiversified, very complex enterprise. You can’t go out and find a $19 billion company that’s like this.

A $19 billion company may make skis, or it may make ski tow lifts. But it doesn’t have a state patrol or a department of higher ed, or a department of prisons, or water projects, or hospitals.

My experience in any one year — compared to the experience of Ritter or the cumulative experience of my opponents — is the last thing they want to debate me about.

Capability of leadership in the state? (It’s an issue) they don’t want to debate me on. They’re trying to look for any subject they can bring up other than experience.

This country experimented with no experience a couple of years ago, and it didn’t work then.

Experience comes with time. And in the legislative process, obviously, you deal with the executive branch all the time, and you get a lot of ideas. Having that legislative experience gives me a huge leg up, because it’s not a dictatorship, it’s a governorship. You’ve got a board of directors in Colorado with 100 members. You have to know how to deal with that board, and there is a chance that the board’s going to remain Democratic. So you’ve got the opposition as your board of directors. And you’ve got to understand that process.

At the same time, the advantage that (only) I bring to the table is that I understand how the congressional system works. I understand how the congressional delegation interplays with the state legislative process. I understand how that interplays with the federal budget. I understand the state budget.

Now, clearly, I’m not using this (run for governor) as a launching pad for another office. That’s not the purpose here. The purpose here is to put (the state) back on the tracks. There are a lot of good things to look forward to, but we have a leadership gap that needs to be filled.

CS: You mentioned experience, and Josh Penry, in a sense, has been trying to use that against you. He’s saying you’re a member of the old GOP guard that turned people away from the party. And he’s the new face without all that baggage. How do you respond to that?

SM: He was a good staffer. If he’s to be believed, he wrote me very nice letters about what I’d done for him. He asked me to give his announcement speech (when he first ran for the Legislature).

Take a look at his first brochure. If this is such a bad deal, why does he have me plastered all over his first brochure when he ran for office?

The fact is this: Experience comes with time.

I think he’s got a good future, but I think experience helps.

If you’re ever in a car accident, when they rush you to the hospital as they’re wheeling you in (and you’re) in critical condition… Well, the state is in pretty tough shape right now. It is in critical condition from the fiscal point of view. As you’re being rushed into the emergency room, you be sure and say, “Give me the new guy, the guy just out of medical school.” (Laughs.)

By the way, remember Dan Maes? You’ve got other people out there besides Josh.

CS: Does it bother you that this young Turk who used to work for you is challenging you?

SM: I’ve seen a lot of the people who work for me go on to successful things, so I’m proud of the fact. Obviously, I gave a speech (for him) in the beginning. I gave him permission to use my pictures in his brochure. I wanted him to succeed.

The higher priority here is getting the state back on the tracks. We have a leadership deficit.

You can go out and you can talk to Democrats — and I think you probably know as well as I do that the excitement that was in existence three years ago about the election of Bill Ritter is missing. And there’s a reason for that…. Now, for this period of time, we need experience to get it back on the tracks.

CS: Josh has been saying he doesn’t buy into an argument he claims you’re making that ‘it’s your turn, quote unquote.’ What’s your response to that specific comment from Josh?

SM: It’s ironic, because that’s exactly what he told me. That was that conversation several months ago. That’s exactly what he said… Josh and I talked about this. I went to his office, and we had a nice conversation, a good conversation, and that’s what he felt, that’s what he told me.

You can talk about Josh, but the focus here is Ritter. My big disagreement is with him. It’s not with (Josh).

If you look at the issues, my guess is — with Dan (Maes) and Josh and whoever else is on the Republican side — we’re probably almost identical on the issues with the exception of Piñon Canyon, on which we deeply disagree. Other than that, I think there’s a lot of agreement.

But I do have deep disagreements with management.

I’m not going to be drawn off with somebody (such as Josh) whom I agree with 99 percent of the time.

My focus is right here with Ritter, who I don’t agree with even close to 99 percent of the time.

You need a decision-maker. You need somebody who has the experience, who understands about the related bodies (like the federal government), someone (who understands) being in private business or in small business in the state. Experience brings a lot of that stuff.

CS: Let’s move to a state-specific issue — the budget. Obviously, you’re very familiar with the upcoming budget shortfall. They’re going to scramble next year to close that. What would you do if you were governor coming into this next session?

SM: For one, you can’t raise taxes. This is not the time. People can’t afford it. You’d break their backs. You can’t do it. So put that option off the table.

Second of all, don’t try to trick people by calling things fees, going to the dictionary and looking up semantics. I paid a $100 fee on my sheep camper to get our plates. I didn’t mind paying the plate fee, but I paid $100 fee, and the thing’s never been on the highway. TABOR does not prohibit tax increases. TABOR says, “We want the voter to participate.” That’s a pretty loud message. We work for the voters. A lot of people forget that.

Third, I know how to line item a budget. Spending has to stay within the budget as well as revenue within a budget. You have two sides of this. In addition to that, the state of Colorado has thousands of financial instruments, whether it’s leases on buildings, whether it’s bonding issues, whether it’s equipment leases, whether it’s the number of phone lines. You know how many phone lines we probably have in Colorado? Whether it’s the travel budget, which is probably $25 million… I can’t even imagine CU’s travel budget, just for example.

That’s the key to a budget. It’s in the fine print and the details. I laugh at TV (when I see members of Congress) trying to explain these new jets.

“Well, they’re more fuel efficient,” (they say). You’d have to fly that thing for the next hundred years to make up the difference between that and the current G5s or G4s they fly. It’s a bunch of baloney.

So don’t try to trick the population on imaginary savings. You know, “Hey, if we buy this today, we’re going to save this in the future.” You need to have people who are very prudent about what you’re really going to save, who don’t just puff up numbers. That’s very important.

(Fourth), you’re going to look at your different functions. You do that with your performance audits and your financial audits. For example, procurement. (State agencies) are big buyers. That means we have some leverage. Are we maximizing the leverage? Probably not.

You also look at accounts payable. What are we paying? Accounts receivable. Who owes us money? You go line by line through the Department of Revenue, which can’t seem to avoid a $13 million embezzlement at a clerk’s level. I want to go through it. How much money do people owe us that they haven’t paid? What’s our collection ratio?

We need to be in best practice matrix.

My fifth would be best practices. That’s how you go in there, like you would a company, just like you would any other nonprofit.

CS: Do you think you could close the budget gap by getting control of those five elements?

SM: Sure you can close the budget gap. And there’s more than that. You go out and you prospect all the time. We have a lot of potential for internal growth in the state, for example, in the IT industry, in software. Do you know how many companies are in Colorado that develop IT? 5,050. That’s a lot of companies.

You need to say, “Okay, here’s what we have.” The state Senator up there, Dan Marostica. He’s got some ideas, and he’s a numbers guy. That’s what you need. Frankly, the governor should have hired that guy the first day he was in office.

Those are the kind of people that I’m going to put in place.

Now, you can’t just do it on those five items alone. You also need to say, “Maybe we ought to stop the Democratic Legislature. We’re going to (send out) a completely different message. And if you don’t like it, I’ll take it to the people.”

My reaction to the Democratic Legislature is that the people in the state of Colorado don’t mind the expansion of Fort Carson military base. My bet is that the people of Colorado want the military in the state. They want us to be aggressively pursuing the military in the state.

My guess is that, as a whole, when you take a look at the jobs, the energy industry is an important player in this state. We can go right down the line. The budget (also has to be considered) in combination with sales. In (the case of the state), sales … create tax revenue (through purchases by) the military or the IT industry or the natural gas industry.

CS: Using that combination — new jobs, practices that bring in new jobs, those five things you mentioned — do you think you could avoid large cuts to higher education or prisons?

SM: You know, I’m not privy to the briefings that the governor gets every day.

CS: The Democrats are saying, “This budget, the gap is so big that we’re going to make large-scale program cuts because the ‘nickel and diming,’ as they call it, isn’t going to work this year. We’re out of cash reserves. There are no more funds available.”

SM: That sounds to me like the textbook language Democrats use to try to justify tax increases. That’s probably exactly what they’re heading for.

I’ve said it, and I’ll make it clear again: That is not the answer. This is the wrong time for a tax increase. I know very few people who can afford — maybe — to pay more taxes. But that’s an exception. That’s not the rule.

Do you think anybody in this restaurant could afford to pay more taxes? They’re hurting out there.

What they’re telling you right now is the preamble for a tax increase. It ain’t going to sail with me. It isn’t going anywhere. It’s out. That’s not happening.

Of course we’re going to have to have a spending budget, which means spending reductions. There’s no free lunch.

But it will come. We will stabilize. These things will have big payoffs for us. The IT Industry will have a big payoff, expansion in the military complex in the state will have a big payoff.

You want to talk about investment in the future? Get jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s how you invest in the future.

Not taxes, taxes, taxes. And that’s certainly the difference between the Democrats and myself, between Bill Ritter and myself.

CS: You’ve mentioned the Democratic Legislature or the Democratic point of view several times. As governor, how would you deal with Democrats?

SM: I’ve built great friendships on both sides of the aisles. I know how to build coalitions. You have to. That’s part of the process, and the people expect it.

They don’t expect that if the Republicans hold the majority that everything’s going to be their way or no way. They expect them to have legitimate, adult conversations and discussions: How do we work this out?

There are some areas where we won’t compromise. The tax increases. It’s just not happening, not in this environment.

I doubt (former Democratic state Rep.) Ruth Wright and I ever voted the same, but she and I had a very close, cordial relationship.

Sure, absolutely. The Democratic Legislature — we’re going to knock heads. Not with all of them — but (we’ll) knock heads (over) the expansion of the military base. We’ll knock heads maybe on the tax increase. But most of the time, it is a team hired on behalf of the people of Colorado for the people of Colorado. And they expect us to act like adults.

CS: Is there one area where you agree with Governor Ritter? Where you thought he was heading the state in the right direction?

SM: Well, he showed up for work. He’s got a good work ethic, I guess.

I mean, he’s a nice guy, and in good times, maybe there’s not (so much) demand on leadership. These aren’t good times.

CS: How about the new energy economy? Do you buy into that?

SM: Certainly I buy into the fact that the whole world has to move to more efficient energy. But I also buy into the fact that it doesn’t happen tomorrow. And I don’t buy into his statistics (that it will create) 90,000 new jobs, or whatever his famous quote was.

Come on, governor. If you want to do something for energy, get out there and get natural gas. That’s real energy. That’s today. That’s what this state has to offer.

I’ve worked on a wind project. I’ve done consulting on that in Wyoming. But you have to have transmission lines. You have to have a lot of things that fall in line.

Solar? Some day. My sheep camp has (new) solar power on the side, which, by the way, doesn’t use direct sunlight.

New solar uses light so you can have a cloudy day and you’re still energizing your batteries. So there’s a great future for it.

This governor has grossly overstated the number of jobs he’s created in the state. In fact, we’ve lost jobs, and that’s pretty clear. We’ve lost a lot of jobs in the state. He needs to set that aside.

When he was back in Washington D.C., just in the last month, giving some speech on global warming to the world — as if they care about what the Colorado governor says.

In the meantime, he’s got a breakdown with his executives at the Department of Labor. The management can’t seem to get a check out to somebody who doesn’t have a job.

The people (in management) are getting their checks….The director of the department gets his check, guaranteed.

(But the people who don’t get checks) are hurting. They’re hurting.

What does that governor do?

He comes back. The first thing that we see (is a fundraising letter) Ritter wrote.

(He’s saying,) “Oh, I got picked on in Washington. This is partisan. Please help me, contribute so my feelings aren’t hurt.”

I would have gone straight from the airport to the director’s office in the Department of Labor and said, “You and I and everybody out there is staying here until those checks go out. Give your employees time to go home and get a pillow and a blanket. We’ll supply the pizza and water. We’ll work until we get those checks out the door. Get them out the door!”

A year ago, the four of us could have sat down and said, “Okay, if you were to bet on a sure thing, you could bet — and I think we’d all agree — unemployment’s going to go up. Not today, but we know it’s going to go up.

So you’d say, “Okay. Well, what we’ve done over time, we have this pool reserved for the rainy day unemployment.”

It’s kind of like somebody saying, “There is going to be a lightning strike right up on that tree, but you’ve got several months before the lightning season comes. So maybe you ought to see if you can get the fire trucks out of the station.”

The first thing we do after our conversation, all four of us go down and start the fire trucks and see, by the way, do they fit out of the garage?

Come on! (One of the quotes in an article about the failure to deliver unemployment checks said), “It’s just some details.”

Just some details! Just some details! Go out to the people that don’t have jobs. Just some details?

You can see I get emotionally charged, because jobs are a big deal.

And this isn’t the normal times. People are scared. They’re scared about their families. Their pride has been destroyed.

I’ve talked to people that have never been laid off in their life, and the first thing they say is, “You know, I’m scared.”

CS: Just to follow up on the question of whether Ritter has done anything good, did you agree with his vetoes of the labor bills?

SM: He’s a nice guy. Keep in mind, he’s a nice guy.

CS: Sure. But policy wise, though, did you agree with his vetoes of the labor bills this year? Would you have vetoed those as well?

SM: We didn’t have a labor problem. Once in a while, the grocery stores go on strike for three or four (weeks). But this is not a state that’s known for labor problems. Why stir it up?

Why is one of the very first things (he came) in and did is say, “Okay, we’re going to unionize (state workers?)

Obviously, we’ve got to have a good labor force. But that doesn’t mean we need to go out and kick this thing off balance.

We have a good history — a good recent history.

We have a terrible history when we take a look at the labor disputes down in Walsenberg, and the Ludlow massacre [near Trinidad]. (That area) is where my family came from. They were miners, by the way.

Labor relations require a lot of attention. I would not have (changed my mind) like the governor. Of course, I (didn’t) have the briefings he got…. But … people want decision. They want a decisive governor who’s got the experience to give them results.

That’s the beauty of what I tell people. A lot of people have buyer’s remorse about this governor.

(With me), there’s no leap of faith. You have a 22-year record to look at — a 22-year record of results. Whether it’s the economy, whether it’s taxes, wherever you want to look, you’ve got 22 years to look at. It’s not a leap of faith.

CS: Are you campaigning full time?

SM: Pretty much. But I’m still producing work, still producing income.

CS: Do you enjoy campaigning?

SM: I love it. I told somebody the other day, “You don’t want to ever be with me with an empty tank, because for me to fill an empty tank, I only buy $3 or $4 a stop.”

I might stop at six stations on the way through town, (so I can) shake hands. I love it.

Most of the people I talk to over the long run are optimistic, and they want to be a part of the solution.

So you bet I’m excited to be the centrifuge of putting that together and going after this. Three or four years from now, we’re not going to have a conversation about jobs and all of that kind of stuff.

CS: Last fall, it came out that you said you would have been a better Senate candidate than Bob Schaffer, and it kind of ruffled some feathers.

SM: I hate to interrupt you, but that’s not what the article said. The article said — and, really, the headline said…. the question asked of me was whether I would beat Mark Udall.

And, yeah. I was confident I would. But (then) they added (Shaeffer to the headline).

I didn’t say (I would have made a better candidate than Schaeffer), by the way. (But although they did the quotes correctly, you could read it that way.) That’s come up twice, and both times it was the exact same sentence, so it was obviously fed to the people that brought it up. And you can imagine the source it came from.

CS: We’ll take that clarification, thank you. It still kind of rubbed some Republicans the wrong way at the time. Do you feel that that’s water under the bridge?

SM: I think we have a very unified party. The Republicans are hungry. So are a lot of unaffiliated or more conservative (voters). And, frankly, I think conservative Democrats are.

Right now, their primary focus is not how we can nitpick. ...The people I’m talking to are hungry for a victory.

CS: Have you thought about a lieutenant governor? Have you given much thought to who might add a lot to the ticket?

SM: I have, but not a name. I’ll bet you a cup of coffee the first 100 people you talk to cannot tell you the name of the lieutenant governor of Colorado. On top of that, just for a bonus, ask if they’ve ever seen the lieutenant governor of Colorado in person.

My guess is they haven’t. The reality of this is the current lieutenant governor is absent. I don’t know where she is.

But that’s a job that I think has great opportunity in a time where there’s great need. The person I would pick would be somebody who is a self-starter, who can take on some programs and really make that a working operation. And they would have my full cooperation.

It’s also got to be somebody that, if I step down, could immediately step in and take the reins.

So certainly (Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder) Nancy Doty, (Arapahoe County Commissioner) Susan Beckman and (El Paso County Commissioner) Sallie Clark are all immensely qualified for a job like that.

I could go through a number of different names that are immensely qualified. But those three. Sally’s a commissioner, Susan’s a commissioner, and Nancy’s a county clerk. They’re all very qualified.

CS: What about (former Colorado First Lady) Frances Owens?

SM: Frances Owens is like a superstar in Colorado.

CS: Would she be someone you would consider?

SM: She’s qualified, there’s no question. She would be eminently qualified. I come from a very strong bias, because I think the world of her. She’s a super star.

CS: You’ve been in the game for a while. How has the Colorado political scene changed between your first election and the one you’re hoping to win next year?

SM: There really are two (changes for the worse).

(There’s) so-called campaign reform, which is a lot of hooey. This state gives more advantage to the wealthy than any other state in the union. If you want to come in and you’ve got wealth, this is the state to do it. That’s obviously seen by what Pat Stryker and the crew have done. That’s a full-time operation, including this “Ethics Watch,” which likes to pretend they’re an arm of the government. But, in fact, they’re fully funded, and won’t disclose anything.

That’s what money does, and campaign finance reform, under (the banner of) “good government,” is a disaster for the state. It has hurt the state immensely.

The second thing is term limits.

It’s like term limiting the surgeon of the local hospital. After you’ve got eight years of experience, you’re out. The basic problem with term limits is it takes away the right to vote.

I’m always interested in a libertarian who supports term limits — they haven’t really thought out the fact that that takes away the right to vote, which they swear they’ll die on.

Those are two changes I think were negative.

(On the positive side), you still see the excitement of people. You’re still proud to serve in (state office).

CS: Mike Huttner and ProgressNow have been trying to brand you as a McLobbyist. Do you have a message to Michael Huttner?

SM: Well, first of all, he’s paid full time to do this. I’d love to meet him on a soapbox in the 16th Street Mall. He’d be shaking in his boots if he ever had to meet me face to face.

Second of all, I’d tell him just a little Basics 101. Before you go using somebody else’s copyright, maybe you ought to call them for permission. Ask him about his letter from the McDonald’s Corporation. (Laughs.)

He put Mc (in front of) whatever he said… So the McDonald’s Corporation said, “Back off, pal. You’re in an arena where you don’t know who you’re playing with.”

So look, this guy — a full-time partisan — in my opinion could care less about governance. He’s a hired gun. That’s exactly what he is.

If it was Aunt Sally calling me that, or Cousin John down there in Durango, that would be a little different.

CS: The campaign season has started early, don’t you think?

SM: Way too early. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, but if I could do something, I would say, “Look, no campaigning before a certain date.”

The problem you have is they say that’s an advantage for the incumbent, and it is, I can see the argument.

I don’t know the answer to it.

CS: Yeah, it just seems like you finish one election and then, instead of having like a break, it just starts so much sooner.

SM: One of the problems we have, to be very frank about it, is we have got so much excitement, we’re afraid it’s going to peak early, because a lot of people think the election’s in November. You’ve got to say, “No, no, we’re here a year and a half out of it.”

We get calls all the time for yard signs. And then they think our opponents are ahead of us because they have bumper stickers.

What’s the saying? “Wait until you see the whites of their eyes…?”

CS: Do you miss the Legislature?

SM: I miss the Legislature. In the Legislature, there’s a lot more congeniality. You establish friends at the state level.

Congress is very partisan.

It takes you a little while to adjust, but it’s the way it is, just the way the system works. When you go back, you have to say, “Look, it’s not going to be congenial, and it’s not going to be warm like it was in the Legislature.”