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Dan Maes: "I'm the only conservative candidate left" in race for governor

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Locals curious if yesterday's unity press conference on behalf of gubernatorial hopeful Scott McInnis has weakened the resolve of Dan Maes, McInnis' only remaining Republican challenger, need only to listen to his voicemail-intro messages to get an answer.

On his main office line, Maes says, "I don't care what contract was signed by what elitists in the Republican Party. We are here to fight for conservative Republicans, conservative Democrats and conservative independents... I will be in this fight as you as you want me in it." And on his cell phone, he begins, "Now that I'm the only conservative candidate left..."

In conversation, Maes is every bit as defiant. Consider his take on McInnis' "Platform for Prosperity," a philosophical framework developed with input from state senator Josh Penry and former Congressman Tom Tancredo -- former McInnis rivals who've now decided to back him. "As far as I'm concerned," Maes says, "the document is hardly better than a roll of Charmin tissue because of the genesis of it."

Maes doesn't reject everything about the platform. Although he thinks it falls short of a "true conservative message" at times, he says, "I agree with the majority of the points from a political and technical standpoint." Indeed, he adds, "They could have plagiarized it from my website. I've been saying these things for seven months -- before my competitors even decided if they thought they could beat Bill Ritter or not."

The same goes for the focus on economic matters rather than potentially divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

"Once again, the McInnis campaign has simply plagiarized my public message about this subject," Maes maintains. "We started with a positive message about me being a business executive and having executive skills than can help turn this economy around. We've led with this message. That doesn't mean I'll abandon our traditional platform on social issues. I stand firmly on those conservative social issues. But I've commented that social issues aren't on the front burner for most people right now."

Of course, Maes is hardly the only Republican candidate to reach these conclusions. But he remains upset by the process used to incorporate them into McInnis' platform.

"The entire document is bogus because of its source -- completely selfish political motives," he argues. "It's been spun into a more generally acceptable document in an effort to win support for a single candidate."

Was Maes asked to contribute his ideas to the platform? Hardly.

"At no point have I ever been invited into this dialogue," he says. "I did receive a phone call from a representative of the McInnis campaign yesterday, after it was all done, requesting a meeting with Scott. I advised them clearly that I am not leaving the campaign, so if that was the motive of the meeting, just be aware of that -- and if he'd still like to meet, then I'd be glad to. And I've received no follow-up calls."

Had such outreach taken place before the platform was completed, Maes says he's not sure he would have participated: "I think it would have depended on who the phone call came from and what the motive behind it was."

The platform concept originated with the McInnis camp, not the state Republican office, Maes believes -- and he agrees with a statement Colorado GOP boss Dick Wadhams made last week about competitive primaries sharpening candidates for the general election.

"I can tell you it's certainly made Dan Maes raise the bar, and I think it's already made Scott McInnis raise the bar -- because the McInnis campaign has already recognized the popularity and momentum of our campaign," he says. "And I believe the popularity of our campaign is one reason this [the creation of the platform] took place."

Such esteem hasn't translated into mountains of cash. At present, Maes' war chest is hardly overflowing -- something emphasized by Penry in the Denver Post this morning when he said he's never heard of a candidate "who has no money and won." But Maes insists the perception that the Republican power structure has turned its back on him "has actually made it easier" to raise funds.

"I've received more contributions on a daily basis since, I would say, Tom Tancredo started rattling his sword," Maes continues. "And I've received even more on a daily basis in the last two or three days. As far as the number of online contributions, the grassroots and the real working citizens of Colorado recognize the real thing when they see it, and money doesn't concern them. They believe in principles, character and integrity. That's why they're supporting me."

The perception that the fix for McInnis is in hasn't hurt, either.

"One specific e-mail from one of the tea party groups that's officially endorsed me made that specific point," he says. "They were very angry. And I'm getting more e-mails from people who are saying, 'Hang in there. Don't let them chase you out.'

"We've always run a positive campaign, and that's what people like about us," he allows. "Now I'm being put in a corner and tempted to go negative. But we are going to do our best not to do that. We'll keep factual and we'll stay positive. And we're not going anywhere."

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