By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
We admit the headline over this week’s column might be a tad on the sensational side, but it is also true.
Tambor Williams, selected by Republican Party gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes this week to be his running mate, is indeed a former Democrat and at one time was a member of the more politically liberal Trial Lawyers Association in Colorado.
And state Sen. Ted Harvey? Throw him into the mix, as well! He’s who Tom Tancredo was pushing to replace Maes in his latest offer.
But you’ll have to read through this column before we divulge all the particulars. Hopefully that won’t be too much of a strain, as we’re still staying with the subject of the governor’s race. And is this not an entertaining topic, or what! Anyone with even a sliver of a sense of humor has to be chuckling over the latest developments on the Republican side.
Either that or crying.
I’m sure, for instance, that GOP State Chairman Dick Wadhams isn’t necessarily grinning from ear to ear with the cheery prospects of his party taking over the governor’s office after the November elections. He’s probably tearing up whenever he ponders what might have been a few short months ago. You remember, when likely GOP nominee Scott McInnis hadn’t yet been outed as a plagiarist and was even ahead of Democrat John Hickenlooper in some of the polls.
But that was then, and this is now. Maes is the duly elected Republican Party nominee for governor, and not even a second offer proffered this week by American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo for both of them to withdraw from the race got any serious consideration.
Actually, as we now know from a press release this week from Wadhams, he himself was the go-between for Tancredo’s proposal that would have the former congressman and nominee Maes dropping out of the race so the GOP could annoint — excuse me, appoint — a more formidable candidate to square off against Hickenlooper in the general election.
“I felt it was my responsibility as state chairman to inform Dan of this offer since it held open the possibility of eliminating the current three-way race that gives the Democratic candidate a huge advantage,” Wadhams explained in his release.
“Dan indicated he would remain in the race. I respect and appreciate both Tom’s offer and Dan’s response. I continue to support Dan Maes for governor of Colorado,” Wadhams said.
Well, give credit to Wadhams for agreeing to support the nominee of his own political party, and also to serve as the emissary to Maes. But did he really expect a different response from Maes?
On primary election night, we asked Maes ourselves whether he might be enticed to drop out of the governor’s race for any possible reason.
No, Maes said clearly.
We pushed it.
What, for example, if someone offered him a high-paying job in exchange for dropping out of the race? It’s been reported, afterall, that he has made less money some years than the federal poverty level figure. Would he consider?
No, Maes responded. “That would be called a bribe, I believe. And I think the salary for governor is just fine.”
We can’t say we were surprised in the least that Maes shunned the latest Tancredo-via-Wadhams proposal.
And what, exactly, were the details of this most recent offer by Tancredo? Were he and Maes just supposed to slink away and allow a vacancy committee to select a candidate? What would Tancredo get out of it? What incentive was there for Maes to withdraw?
And come to think of it, after that now infamous and explosive blow-up between Wadhams and Tancredo a few weeks ago on the Caplis & Silverman radio show, we were wondering how Wadhams and Tancredo ever got back to the point of talking to each other, nevermind hatching out some new deal.
Well, lucky us. Just as we were about to go to press on Thursday, the “Tanc” himself poked his head into The Statesman office and was in a chatty, if somewhat rushed, mode. But if he thought he would escape without filling us in on the latest goings-on, he should have known better.
We fired away. He answered.
“I know Dick, God love him, I don’t fault him. When he calls me the day before yesterday he tells me he’s talked to Maes and he’s not going to get out.
“Before that we had these —maybe five — long discussions about the whole thing which started last weekend. I had heard that Dick had had a sort of ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting with Maes on Thursday and said to him, you can’t win this thing, you got no money, the RGA is walking away. And so I thought well, you know, let’s capitalize on that. And if the party is telling him that, then if I say by the way, if the party tells you this, I’ll get out if you get out…
“I made this offer to Dick and he liked it — a lot.
“I don’t know if he was just trying to flim flam me, maybe that was part of it, where he wanted to be involved and do this so I look weak and that sort of thing, but I guarantee you he was enthusiastic about it, at least at first.”
Tancredo continued, saying that Wadhams told him he could probably get former U.S. Senators Hank Brown and Wayne Allard aboard to support the plan.
“…I called Dick and said are you sure you talked to them, and he said he did. He says he called them and they said they would support Maes getting out.
“There were two or three things I asked for,” Tancredo revealed.
“First thing it has to be made public.
“Number two, we must have some sort of veto power over who you pick to replace him. I don’t want to have just another liberal. He agreed, he did.
“We talked about who, and I came in with a name. I said Ted Harvey. That’s the guy I would pick. He said okay, I like that, I like that a lot.
“Dick said a very important big businessman had called him, he didn’t tell me who (it wasn’t real estate tycoon Dave Liniger) but he said he was fed up with all this crap going on and said he wanted to get in the race…
“So this was progressing over the weekend. Calls back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
“And one was, I just saw that Brown and Allard have endorsed Maes. Are you telling me they’d be willing to now say to him, get out?
“Maes called them and they had to (endorse him),” Dick said.
“The next day (Dick) called me and said he was going to be subdued. I totally understand that. What was he going to say, I’m the chairman of the party and I’m telling some guy to get out who has just won the election?
“What he said was, had there been any wiggle room, then the guys (Brown and Allard) would have intervened (with Maes) and said yeah, you should do this.”
Which brings us to Tancredo himself. Is he planning on staying in the race now that Maes is still in?
“Yes maam, we’re raising money, or trying to,” he said.
“This is the hardest part. If we don’t raise enough money to be credible, then this has been a lot of effort.”
The candidate estimated it will take between $500,000 and three quarters of a million dollars to run a bare minimum campaign.
“But at least I don’t have to buy a million dollars worth of name id,” Tancredo said.
Then he returned to the subject of Maes’ candidacy for governor.
“I have a better chance of winning in a three-way than Maes does in a two-way.
“I really believe with all my heart that Dan Maes should never be the candidate. It’s not that he just can’t win — he shouldn’t win. It isn’t as if you can go, well, he’s the Republican candidate, he’s a little soft on this, a little too hard on that, whatever… he could be governor! I certainly don’t want Hickenlooper but I believe in the end that (there would be) a wipeout.
“I really think I have done everything I can possibly do,” Tancredo summed up.
“I supported every Republican. Josh Penry. He got out. I supported Scott McInnis until all hell broke loose and everything fell apart. I have done everything the party has asked me to do in support of these candidates, but sometimes the party asks too much… Asking me to support Dan Maes is too much. I can’t do it.”
Now, about the headline that accompanies this column and our initial mention of Tambor Williams. She was a Democrat, albeit just for awhile. “There was a year in my life when my partner was running for sheriff as a Democrat,” Williams told us as she was about to begin her first term in the state House back in 1997.
“I changed parties to help him out. We lost. I’ve been a Republican all my life except for that year.”
And a member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association.
Yes. Also in our freshman profile of Williams, she listed the organization along with a half dozen others when asked which clubs and organizations she belonged to.