I just heard from Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman, who called to say that he was absolutely staying in the race through the primary and that he would have the required number of signatures needed to petition onto the August ballot.

I wasn’t entirely sure why Holtzman was calling out of the blue until I saw this story from the Rocky Mountain News:

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Bob Martinez today formally asked Marc Holtzman, one of the two GOP candidates for governor, to get out of the race and throw his support behind his rival, Congressman Bob Beauprez.

Two days after Beauprez won 72 percent of the delegates’ votes at the Republican Party assembly, the chair of the party said Beauprez should be the only candidate going forward. Holtzman, who won 28 percent of the delegates’ votes, did not garner enough support to land on the primary ballot automatically but vowed to collect enough signatures to earn a spot that way.

Martinez wishes he would reconsider.

“I believe it would be better for the party if Marc Holtzman would cease his campaign for governor and throw his support behind the clear front-runner and the party’s candidate to defeat Democrats in November,” Martinez said in a statement released Monday.

Let me first say this: Martinez should not be making a public request of a candidate to drop out of the race. I wrote earlier today that I think Holtzman’s campaign is in trouble after his dismal showing at Saturday’s state convention, but that doesn’t justify Martinez’s call for him to drop out of the race. The role of a state party chair, no matter the party, should be to encourage and support all candidates for public office. I don’t think Martinez is completely out of bounds trying to convince Holtzman to drop out of the race privately, because the role of a party chair can also be to help facilitate discussions and problems behind the scenes, but he absolutely should not be making public statements asking for Holtzman to drop out. What happens if Holtzman goes on to win the Republican primary in August? Is Martinez going to refuse to support him in the general election?

Interestingly enough, I think Martinez may have just handed Holtzman a gift. Holtzman’s message throughout his campaign has been that he is the anti-establishment candidate who can help Republicans “take back their party.” Martinez may have just helped Holtzman get more support for that message, especially among Republican voters who think — as I do — that Martinez has no business going public with a request for Holtzman to get out of the race. The sympathy vote can be a powerful campaign tool, and Martinez probably just angered a lot of Republican voters for publicly taking sides.