Scott McInnis wants to bring Arizona immigration law to Colorado: Have your papers ready

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott McInnis has been spending plenty of time on KHOW's airwaves lately.

On Monday, for instance, he attempted to counter suggestions that he's not especially charitable during an appearance on the Caplis & Silverman show by telling how he'd killed an elk and given its meat to a needy family -- a boast that columnist Mike Littwin needled at length in today's Denver Post.

Then, this morning, he guested on Peter Boyles's a.m. program, and when the conversation turned to immigration (as everyone knew it would), he joined Tom Tancredo in talking up Arizona's controversial new law.

Does that include the section that (as described by CNN) "orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally"? McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy says "yes."

"Scott is a former police officer, so he has a pretty good understanding of how the police should intersect with the populace," Duffy says. "If someone's pulled over for a traffic offense, for example, they have to produce a valid driver's license or some identification. That's step one. Obviously, it's not tracking people down. It's a common-sense way to say, 'If you're pulled over and you don't have adequate identification or you're not a legal alien or a citizen, that's a problem.'"

Duffy stresses that "racial profiling is not the idea here. You could be an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, for example, or anywhere else in the world."

If Colorado adopted such a measure, "that would take care of the 'sanctuary city' issue for sure," Duffy notes. "And a point Scott has been making is, look, if Arizona is cracking down, that may present a challenge to neighboring states such as New Mexico and Colorado. I heard a reporter the other day use the term 'squeezing the balloon.'"

This doesn't mean McInnis wants a duplicate of Arizona's bill to be enacted here. "There may be some fine-tuning needed for Colorado," Duffy allows after being asked if McInnis would support supplying local law enforcement with additional resources to take on these chores. "But in general, we've been asked about what Scott thinks of the concept, and he's said the concept is appropriate."

And now to the matter of that elk. In his column, Littwin expressed astonishment that McInnis's handlers may have encouraged him to share this particular tale, particularly in light of the nickname affixed to 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez after he suggested that elk could be taught to walk around oil and gas installations: "The Elk Whisperer."

For his part, Duffy doesn't think "it's something people really focus on. He was asked what kind of charitable activities do you and [his wife] Lori engage in, and he used that as an example. A family was in need, and he provided them quite a bit of elk meat for the winter. It was a lot of food. He was just using that as an example of individual giving that they do, and that's fine -- and on we go."

Turns out McInnis's potential challenger for governor, John Hickenlooper, also once donated an elk -- but Duffy says, laughing, "we're not going to be matching the mayor elk for elk. We'd much rather match him on our record, on our plan on jobs and on avoiding tax increases. We'll stake those issues and happily present them to voters.

"Look, nobody's ever going to think Mike Littwin's in the undecided category in terms of partisan politics. And 99 percent of the questions we get out there on the trail, as I'm sure the mayor does, have to do with 'What are you going to do about the economy? About those tax increases? About how to help businesses get back on their feet?' That's what's going to decide this election."

That and, perhaps, the candidates' takes on immigration. And Duffy leaves no doubt where his guy stands.

"Scott believes this Arizona law is a natural reaction to the federal government having failed to adequately deal with the challenges of illegal immigration," he says. "It's no surprise at all that a state would finally take action. And Scott thinks Colorado should take action, too."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts