Former Congressman Scott McInnis has begun chipping away at Mayor John Hickenlooper in the race for governor. The main question is whether the Grand Junction Republican can turn seemingly non-issues into issues.

Earlier this week, during a gathering of tea party activists in Estes Park, McInnis (pictured right) accused the Denver Democrat of being a flip-flopper: “Two weeks ago, [Hickenlooper] said in front of the oil-and-gas folks, ‘Folks, those rules have overreached, those rules are too extreme.’ … Guess what he did on Saturday? ‘Oh, I guess you must have misunderstood me…we shouldn’t do anything with those rules'” (via The Colorado Independent).

Indeed, The Durango Herald reports that Hickenlooper (pictured left), in a move to ease concerns by environmentalists, recently told oil-and-gas executives he would not roll back controversial rules, which Governor Bill Ritter supports, on the industry.

But Hick says he stands by earlier statements that he does not support all the new rules—or the heated atmosphere in which they were written. He adds that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission could consider changes, but he would not call for changes himself.

Meanwhile, in other gubernatorial-race news, Dan Maes, the other Republican candidate vying for the top job, is explaining to his supporters that roughly $27,000 in fines he has agreed to pay for various campaign-finance violations is like paying off parking tickets (via Grand Junction’s Sentinel).