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Dan Maes, maverick gubernatorial candidate, on Peter Boyles, Cory Voorhis, Scott McInnis and winning tonight's preference poll

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For Dan Maes, who's running for governor with more support from Tea Party groups than the Republican Party, it's a very important day. This evening, caucuses will be held in homes, schools and churches all over the area, and Maes isn't just hoping to make a respectable showing against presumptive Republican nominee Scott McInnis. He thinks he can beat him.

"We're very positive about the preference poll that will take place," Maes says. "I'm shooting for over 50 percent, and we're confident we'll get that."

Thanks to the grassroots nature of the event, which plays to the strength of his Tea Party boosters, Maes's statement isn't as delusional as it might seem at first blush. It's an indication of how competitive the race is that McInnis rushed to embrace the cause of embattled former ICE agent Cory Voorhis, and to call for an investigation into his case, immediately after Maes had done the same thing -- and even used the same venue, Peter Boyles's KHOW talk show.

Last week, Maes had an extended conversation with Voorhis, who's still waiting to find out if he'll be reinstated to his ICE job. Last month, Voorhis testified at a two-day hearing last month dealing in part with information from a restricted criminal database he provided to 2006 gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez -- an action that eventually had an impact on the withdrawn nomination of Stephanie Villafuerte, Governor Bill Ritter's choice for U.S. Attorney. (Read J. David McSwane's account of the Voorhis court sessions here and here.) At this writing, a decision is still pending.

"Cory Voorhis and I have spoken in the past about his situation, and shared some war stories," Maes notes. "But the other night, we spoke more at length regarding the specifics -- and then, the next day, I spoke on Peter Boyles's show regarding the issue. And I clearly stated that I believe a formal investigation should be launched into this situation.

"The truth must be discovered -- and if anything illegal did occur, then people need to be held to the equal justice that Cory Voorhis was held to" -- including, Maes says, possible subpoenas for the likes of Ritter and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

These statements cheered Boyles, who's been Voorhis's most persistent defender. The exchange convinced at least one Tea Party group that the host had formally endorsed Maes for governor. Maes doesn't go that far, however.

"I need to circle back with Peter and confirm whether or not there's been a formal endorsement," he concedes. "He has made very positive comments about me being governor, but I have not heard that officially."

Whatever the case, the broadcast clearly got McInnis's attention -- because yesterday, he appeared on Boyles's show, too, talking about his determination following his election to launch an investigation into the Voorhis matter, too. Granted, McInnis stopped short of promising to call a grand jury, arguing that the offenses might fall under federal, rather than state, jurisdiction. However, he stressed that the Voorhis matter, which has hardly been one of his primary talking points, was a priority for him.

In Maes's view, the timing of McInnis's remarks is suspect.

"I can't judge whether his comments were legitimate or not," he says. "The more important focus is that my opponent had the chance to speak about this and rejected the opportunity -- and after I received full exposure on it, he then decided it was an important issue."

Maes sees a corollary between this situation and McInnis's attempts to embrace the Tea Party demographic after members of such organizations had begun drifting toward his rival. This effort backfired to some degree when Fox News declared McInnis the Tea Party candidate in Colorado, prompting members of such organizations to insist otherwise. McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy said that Fox News, not McInnis, was responsible for this slant -- but in some quarters, the damage was already done.

"I believe he is trying to play catch-up," Maes maintains about McInnis. "He didn't understand the broad support we have in all the grassroots organizations -- not just the Tea Party -- and now he's trying to catch up to the twelve months of hard work we've performed.

"I paid serious attention to all the Colorado grassroots groups very early on, and worked very hard to gain their support. And now that this support is coming to fruition, my opponents are trying to catch up with us."

Of course, McInnis has an enormous lead in fundraising, but Maes insists he's improving on this score: "In approximately the first eight weeks of the year, we tripled our highest previous quarter," he boasts. With that in mind, he insists that he won't be surrendering even if he fails to register a preference-poll majority at tonight's caucuses.

"We'll just keep doing what we've always done, which is execute our campaign plan," he says. "Nothing changes. If it's working, why change it?"

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