By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo introduced his running mate, former state Rep. Pat Miller, to listeners of Peter Boyles KHOW talk radio show on Tuesday, and ended any speculation that the former 6th District Congressman might withdraw from the race.
The message spelled bad news for the Republican Party — and signaled good news for the American Constitution Party. With Tancredo and Miller at the top of the ACP ticket, the third party will likely garner the minimum 10 percent of votes in the governor’s race and be elevated to the status of a major party, much like the GOP and Democratic Party in Colorado.
“After the election, we’ll be one of the major parties in the state,” said Brian X. Scott, an ACP candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
“Tom’s selection of Pat Miller ended any doubts that he might drop out of the race,” said Scott. “They have strong conservative credentials and values that fit most of our party’s platform. In fact, they might be more conservative than the party.”
Tancredo and Miller boasted of being “the most conservative ticket for governor” — a not-so-subtle signal of their intent to capture right wing voters, including Republicans, “tea partiers” and independents. The candidates, who switched their voter affiliations from Republican to ACP, are pro-life, pro-gun, pro-TABOR (Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights) and anti-illegal immigration.
Miller won election from Arvada to the state House in 1989, but lost her re-election bid to Democratic state Rep. Jim Pierson. She ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Democrat David Skaggs in 1994 and 1996. Tancredo’s wife Jackie served as Miller’s campaign treasurer.
Active in pro-life groups since 1998, Miller served as director of the Citizens for Responsible Government and was a co-founder of Colorado Citizens for Life.
If Tancredo’s selection of Miller solidifies his place in the race for governor, it also unsettles Republican candidate Dan Maes in the right wing corner.
Maes, who edged past former 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis to win the Aug. 10 primary, picked former state Rep. Tambor Williams, of Greeley, as his running mate. Williams, however, is perceived as a moderate Republican who voted to kill a bill to ban partial birth abortions and supported Referendums C and D that undermined TABOR.
State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams has fluctuated between blasting Tancredo for entering the race to brokering Tancredo’s offers to withdraw from the race if Maes agrees to drop out. Maes has repeatedly refused to budge.
Wadhams, like other high profile Republicans, denounced Tancredo as the spoiler in the governor’s race against Democratic candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
“In a year that should be the Republican Party’s advantage, we’ve managed to blow our brains out, thanks to Tom Tancredo,” declared state Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs. “Tom Tancredo could have Jesus running with him and I wouldn’t vote for him.”
“In a three-way race, Maes will probably get 35 percent of the vote, more or less, Tancredo will get 12 to 15 percent of the vote, and Hickenlooper will get the rest,” said Liston.
“Hickenlooper is waltzing into the governor’s mansion — it’s being handed to him,” said Liston. “It’s really sad.”
Liston said that votes cast in the governor’s race for Tancredo might put ACP on the map as a major party, but Maes will win enough votes to also maintain the GOP’s status as a major party. According to state statutes governing elections, the designation is based solely on the ballots cast in the governor’s race.
The Republican votes will trickle down from the top of the ticket, said Liston. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck’s bid for the U.S. Senate heads this year’s ballot. The party is concentrating on that race as well as other statewide, legislative and local seats.
Another hurdle for the conservative gubernatorial candidates is raising campaign funds.
Hickenlooper has already paid $1.2 million for television and radio advertising airtime and reported $125,743 cash on hand last month. Without a primary battle, Hickenlooper’s campaign will likely show greater sums on Sept. 7 when the next campaign finance report is filed with the secretary of state’s office.
“The RGA (Republican Governors Association) isn’t going to give Dan Maes any help — and no one in a rational state of mind is going to risk money in a race that he can’t possibly win,” said Liston.
According to his campaign financial report in late July, Maes had $23,596 cash on hand, but that was before he won the primary election. The July tally didn’t include the candidate’s payment of a $17,500 fine for campaign finance violations. During appearances at recent GOP events, Maes has implored folks to contribute to his campaign and criticized heavy hitters who have kept their wallets shut.
Tancredo said Tuesday that he’s raised more than $125,000 over the past couple of weeks. His campaign advisor Bay Buchanan, who was in Denver this week, is concentrating on a nationwide fundraising effort.
In a fundraising letter this week, Buchanan yanked off the gloves and socked both Hickenlooper and Maes.
“For seven years Hickenlooper has run a sanctuary city, which has encouraged hundreds of thousands of illegals to its city limits. He owns a restaurant that hires illegals. He supports full amnesty for illegals!
“And when it comes to responsibility for the consequences of his own awful policies Hickenlooper accepts none!” alleged Buchanan.
Of Maes, Buchanan asserted, “Maes is a man with no discernible credentials to be a candidate, much less a Governor,” she said.
Buchanan concluded that there is only one hope for conservatives in Colorado — Tancredo. “Candidate for governor Tom Tancredo is justifiably leading the Republican Party back to the right,” said state Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Colorado Springs. “I believe it is well deserved and appreciated by many after four years of heavily left leaning policies from Governor (Bill) Ritter’s office and the Democrats.”
Liston, however, contends that Tancredo has made it impossible for Republicans to win the governor’s race and threatens to undermine candidates running for statewide and legislative seats.
“It’s been a disaster for the past four years of one-party rule,” said Liston of Ritter and the Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate. “Colorado voters need to realize that if this continues we’ll become like California with its massive debt.”