(CNN) – The leading Republican gubernatorial candidate in Colorado apologized Tuesday for lifting passages from the writings of a state Supreme Court justice without attribution and is now staving off calls to quit the race.
Republican candidate and prominent Colorado lawyer Scott McInnis privately apologized to Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Tuesday for using several passages of Hobbs' work in producing a series of essays for which he was paid $300,000 to write, according to the Associated Press.
A spokesman for McInnis called the plagiarism a "serious mistake" and "completely regrettable."
But speaking to Denver television station 9News Tuesday, McInnis called the story a non-issue.
"Voters don't really care about this issue. They care about jobs, getting back to work," he said. "We're going to fix it and move on. These things happen."
According to the Denver Post, McInnis submitted the plagiarized documents - reports on Colorado water rights - in 2005 and 2006 as part of a two-year fellowship with the Hasan Family Foundation for which he was paid the massive six-figure sum.
The reports numbered more than 150 pages in 23 installments and lack any form of attribution, the post also reported, despite including several passages that mirror word-for-word a 1984 essay from Justice Hobbs entitled, "Green Mountain Reservoir: Lock or Key?"
When the Denver Post first reported the instances of plagiarism earlier this week, McInnis, a former U.S. congressman and current partner of the international law firm Hogan Lovells, said the error was primarily the fault of his then-research assistant Rolly Fischer.
"This is a guy I've known all my life," McInnis said. "He…was head of the water district. I think a reasonable person would have relied on that, and I think Rolly felt that he thought it was in the public domain, he wasn't required to footnote the thing."
But speaking to the Glenwood Post Independent, Fischer said that "Scott's responsible for it." He declined to speak further on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Hasan foundation is pledging to launch an investigation into the charge and possibly demand McInnis return the $300,000 he was paid.
"The Hasan Family Foundation takes the issue of plagiarism extremely seriously," foundation chairwoman Seeme Hasan said in a statement. "We will conduct an independent, internal investigation and if the allegations are proven to be true, we will demand Mr. McInnis return all monies paid to him."
McInnis's GOP opponent, local businessman Dan Maes, took aim at McInnis Tuesday, saying, "You can't point fingers, you can't blame others, you have to take responsibility for something you put your name on and take $300,000 for."
But Maes is facing his own political troubles, agreeing earlier this weak to pay more than $17,000 in a fine for campaign finance violations.
The primary election is set for August 10. The winner will face Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Hickenlooper declined to comment on the charges beyond telling the Denver Post that it "create[s] a cloud."
But several state Democrats are calling on McInnis to quit the race, as is the Denver Post in an editorial Wednesday.
"The lifted work, examined in The Denver Post, constitutes inexcusable intellectual thievery. It is so damaging that we believe McInnis ought to drop out of the race," the Denver Post's editorial states. "Colorado's next governor should be a person of integrity, a trusted hand to lead the state through difficult times."