By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo announced Monday that he is going to run for governor of Colorado on the American Constitution Party ticket. The party’s current nominee is Ben Goss, who told The Colorado Statesman that he plans to withdraw from the race this week so that a vacancy can name a replacement.
The committee will name Tancredo to be the nominee, Goss explained, after Tancredo switched his affiliation to the American Constitution Party within the next couple of days. Tancredo’s name would then appear on the general election ballot along with Democrat John Hickenlooper, the winner of the Republican primary on Aug. 10, and a Libertarian and an unaffiliated candidate.
Goss dropped by The Colorado Statesman office on Monday a few minutes before “high noon,” the deadline Tancredo gave Republican candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes to promise to drop out of the race after the primary if polls showed them trailing Hickenlooper. Goss had been in the building visiting with Colorado Right to Life officials. Goss agreed to an interview before heading to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to find out the exact procedure for withdrawing from the race so that Tancredo could replace him as the nominee for governor. Below is a transcript of the discussion, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): How do you think Tom Tancredo running for governor on the American Constitution Party will play out?
Ben Goss (BG): This is how I see the next month probably unfolding. I think that Mr. Tancredo will follow through and do what he needs to do in order to be considered as a candidate for our party, at which point I’ve already agreed that I’ll step aside. And then our vacancy committee will convene, he’ll be appointed, and then we’ll have a press conference announcing he’s the new candidate. So that gives him a two-week jump on whoever becomes the primary winner. I think that right now it’s more likely that (Scott) McInnis will win, than (Dan) Maes.
I think Maes is hapless and he’s also an inconsistent conservative. He does have some grass roots support, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough for him to overwhelm McInnis’ money at this point. I think McInnis is only staying in because the party elite does not want Maes to be the nominee. There’s already press out that, should McInnis be successful, which I anticipate that he probably will, the party will pressure him to drop.
So then the question becomes, who on earth is going to be willing to run against Tancredo?
And I think that the reality is that at this point, should McInnis win, I think he’ll probably drop out and they’ll probably put someone in that spot that they want to have gain state exposure. And it becomes a resumé-building run, it doesn’t become a real run, in my opinion. I think that the Republicans will probably concede that having Tancredo in the seat will be better than having no conservative at all.
CS: Do you really think Tancredo’s got a good shot at beating Hickenlooper?
BG: I think he’s already within a few percentage points of having what he would need. If you look at the polling, the way the polling’s breaking down right now, he’s already beating any GOP contender by 10 or 12 points and he’s not even in the race. And they’re not really polling independents, and independents typically will break for the true conservative by anywhere from 40 to 60 percent. So the nice thing, if you want to call it that, about Colorado politics is that you only need a simple plurality, you don’t need a majority. Because this is an anti-incumbent year, I could see Tancredo winning with even possibly less than 30 percent. It depends on how strong a showing Libertarians, Green and the other independents make.
I think that the electorate has spoken, that they’re absolutely fed up with the status quo. So I think that we’ll see a significant flow of independent voters as well as the more conservatively minded GOP and Democrats going for a Tancredo ticket.
CS: And you don’t mind stepping aside?
BG: To me it’s a question of principle, not a question of ego, if you will. I certainly can understand, from being in the streets and trying to get noticed, that there’s a significant emotional investment. And I’m sure that at some level both Maes and McInnis, they’ve committed themselves wholeheartedly to the race, so it’s difficult to set that aside. But I think that what Tancredo has done is he’s asked them to pause. It’s cause for pause to really sit down and look at the state of your race and look at the state of where you are and say, “What’s best for the state of Colorado?”
I have five children from the ages of 14 months to 13 years and I’m more concerned about the future of my children than I am about my own personal attempt to build my resumé or, if you will, go off on some quixotic beau geste because, let’s face it, I can’t marshal resources like Tancredo can. I fully expect that Tancredo will raise more money in the next four to five weeks than Maes has in the last 16 months combined.
On the off chance that Maes wins, he’s not going to get the financial support of outside money. He’s going to be fighting an uphill battle and you know, I think he’ll be very, very easily dispatched by Tancredo and Hickenlooper. I think that if Maes wins, he’ll look like a third party candidate.
CS: What about a running mate for Tancredo?
BG: You know, that’s actually an excellent question because a lot of people are like calling this a “backroom deal.” And I think the only way you could call this a backroom deal is if me specifically or the party generically was getting something — like some kind of quid pro quo. And that’s just simply not the case — I’m simply stepping aside. I have not asked Mr. Tancredo for any kind of guarantee, I have not asked to run in the lieutenant governor spot. All I have said is, “Look, if I step aside then we need to put together the most powerful ticket that we possibly can, and that’s not necessarily me.” So is it possible that I could run as lieutenant governor? Sure, it’s possible but honestly, I don’t think it’s likely. I’m sure that there’s an ample reserve of candidates out there that could probably position the ticket more strongly than me personally.
CS: And they’d have to be registered in the party too.
BG: Absolutely, no question. So, I don’t see this as some kind of a backroom deal because nobody’s promised me anything. I’m making this decision based on principle and I’m doing what I think a lot of hard working Colorado families do every day, and that’s what’s the best decision I can make for my family today? What can I do to improve the future for my children? Because you know, I think that in this election season we’re all asking the wrong questions.
I remember in 1980 when Ronald Reagan said, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Well, I think that’s the wrong question. Here’s the question that we should all be asking ourselves, “Will my children be better off tomorrow than I am today?” And for the first time in American history, I don’t think that parents can have the confidence of saying that, “My children’s future will be better than mine.” And that is the question at hand and that’s the reason I’m stepping aside. Because right now I can’t answer that question with confidence.
CS: How long have you known Tom?
BG: A week (laughs). I don’t know Tom personally. Obviously I’ve had some conversations with him. I initiated contact with him, he tried calling our party but my party was very protective of my position as the nominee. But obviously Tom is a lightning rod for attention, so I don’t know how you could even be vaguely aware of politics and not know that he was making a lot of noise. So my intent was, I should talk to the horse if the horse is willing to talk.
CS: Any message to Dick Wadhams, the Chairman of the Republican Party?
BG: Yeah, I think he needs to stop worrying about the American eagle circling his fence and pay attention to the coyotes squabbling in his own henhouse.