Polls in Colorado suggest a close race for governor between Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, that's if McInnis gets past the impending primary. Recent polls show McInnis leading Hickenlooper by three to five percentage points.
Which is why it's worth paying attention to plagiarism charges against McInnis since they could have an impact on such a close race.
As the Associated Press reports, McInnis has been tagged with plagiarism in at least two instances.
A column and speech of McInnis' dating back to 1994 when he was in Congress contained language from a Washington Post column co-authored by Richard Allen, for a time President Ronald Reagan's national security advisor.
Meanwhile, writings by McInnis on water rights had whole passages that were nearly identical to the work of a judge, the AP said.
McInnis blamed aides for both instances of copying but said he was ultimately responsible.
An AP excerpt:
Parts of a newspaper column Scott McInnis wrote in 1994 and a subsequent speech he made resembled a column that appeared six weeks earlier in The Washington Post.
The earlier column was written by Richard V. Allen, a former national security adviser, and Daryl Plunk of the Heritage Foundation.
McInnis said he isn't sure who on his staff wrote the parts of the column and speech that are apparently lifted from the previous newspaper column.
"In Congress, you have lots of staff. I had hundreds of pages a day go out of my congressional office with my signature on it. We have no idea of the base material," McInnis told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Of course I had assistants writing that."
The similarities were first reported Wednesday by The Denver Post.
McInnis apologized Tuesday for lifting part of a judge's work for a series of essays on water rights, but blamed research assistant Rolly Fischer for the alleged plagiarism.
Whole sections of McInnis' "Musings On Water" about the history of Colorado water rights were identical to a 1984 piece written by Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. McInnis' essays were accompanied by a 2005 letter stating the essays were original.
"It's unacceptable, it's inexcusable, but it was also unintentional," McInnis said in a statement. "I made a mistake."
Dan Maes, who is challenging McInnis for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 10 primary, has been all to willing to use the plagiarism incidents to raise questions about his rival for the nomination.
An excerpt from Politico, which interviewed Maes:
"The apology is unacceptable because he attempts to blame someone else for it and still isn't taking responsibility for it. As a future executive in Colorado, we must take personal responsibility for what happens under our watch," Maes told POLITICO. "If a staff member makes a mistake under my watch, that's my responsibility."
While the Democrat Hickenlooper has mostly followed the political axiom of not interfering when opponents are doing a good job of damaging themselves, he has taken his shots more obliquely.
For the most part the mayor didn't take the bait. He's sticking to his plan of keeping his campaign "focused on the positives."
But he offered a touch of criticism. Hickenlooper said that while questions remain about just what McInnis did or didn't do, the details as we have them now "create a cloud."
Asked if he were governor and appointing the leaders of his administration, would he hire a known plagiarist, Hickenlooper instantly answered, "No."