Editor’s Note: The following commentary was written by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, who lost the June 24 primary to Bob Beauprez. It was first published at WorldNetDaily.com Inc. on July 11, 2014 and reprinted in The Colorado Statesman with the expressed permission of Tom Tancredo.
The contemptible tactics of the Mississippi Republican Party establishment in fighting off a challenge to incumbent Sen. Cochran were much in the headlines lately. What is clear is that in the Mississippi Republican primary, no lie was too grotesque if it helped smear a tea party challenger and protect the party establishment.
Unfortunately, the Mississippi story is not unique. When challenged, all too often the GOP establishment will use outright lies and even play the “race card” to defeat liberty movement candidates and hold onto the reins of power.
In Colorado as well, the Republican gubernatorial primary picture was not pretty.
On June 24 the GOP establishment won a narrow victory — less than 14,000 votes (or 3 percent) separated first and second place. They won by pursuing a scorched-earth policy against the liberty movement’s leading challenger to the status quo — Tom Tancredo. I think it important to share the main outlines of this story so the liberty movement can learn from this experience.
I have run 10 ten elections in my life and was successful in eight of the 10. Needless to say, it’s a lot more fun to win. However, I believe totally in the need to enter into the public arena, regardless of the difficulty or the outcome. Also, when one gets in this game and recognizes that there are only two possible outcomes, either victory or defeat, one must be ready emotionally to accept either.
And indeed, on June 24, I was certainly disappointed in my loss in the Colorado Republican primary for governor but not devastated by it. The aspect that needs exposure, even at the risk of sounding like sour grapes on my part, was the role in my defeat played by the Republican Party establishment.
Unlike Mississippi, in Colorado, the establishment could not openly or easily mobilize Democratic voters to cross over and vote for my opponent. But they could and did use lies and ugly distortions and the desperate tactic of “independent expenditure committees” to finance the nastiest media attacks.
The chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, Ryan Call, sent out two blast emails that essentially begged Republicans to vote for the party establishment’s preferred candidate. I’ve never seen anything like that before. The party chairman also suggested to his Executive Committee that if Tancredo ended up the nominee of the party, funds would not be forthcoming for the race. The state party scheduled a “unity tour” for the week after the election, but when it looked as though I was going to win, it was canceled — only to be hurriedly rescheduled when I narrowly lost.
And perhaps the most bizarre twist of all, a massive buy of attack ads was purchased through a Massachusetts campaign group called Red Curve. It turned out the group was a Mitt Romney creation run by his former staffers. A blast email was then sent out by Romney for President Inc. with the same attack theme. More to the point, there is evidence that the motivation for this package of attack ads originated with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others at the Republican Governors Association, although the RGA likely did not put any of its own money into the project. Christie and his RGA friends simply used the Romney-created group as the vehicle for funding the Colorado attack ads against me.
When the fiction of me being a one-issue candidate failed to gain traction, the party establishment resorted to inventing things out of whole cloth. They created a new and dishonest issue by claiming I wanted to legalize hard, addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine on top of the legal marijuana that Colorado voters had approved by a 55-45 margin in the 2012 election. This was a complete distortion of a speech I made five years ago saying the “war on drugs” was a failure. I still believe that, but I never advocated legalizing hard drugs in the same fashion as marijuana.
It was impossible to counter the barrage of lies when my campaign was outspent 8-to-1 on radio-TV advertisements, most of that coming from the “independent” groups, not candidate committees.
In effect, the establishment GOP reversed its position on Tom Tancredo 180 degrees in order to defeat me. They started by saying that while I was popular among the Republican base, I could not win over moderate and independent voters because of my “extreme” stand on illegal immigration. But in the closing weeks of the campaign, they abandoned that argument in favor of the opposite theme, using an issue where I was clearly more in tune with the majority of Colorado voters than my primary opponents. Instead of being “too extreme,” I was now too mainstream.
When I announced a year ago that I would be a candidate for governor of Colorado, I knew the campaign would be no picnic. We always knew that unseating incumbent Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper would be a steep uphill climb. He has access to lots of money, both within Colorado and nationally through the network of left-wing groups that make up the Democracy Alliance. He is popular in the segments of the business community that are quite happy with Colorado being a sanctuary state for illegal aliens.
At the end of May, I was leading my three opponents in all the polls. We had raised more money than any other candidate, and we had more donors than all the other candidates combined. Most important of all, we had demonstrated that my candidacy had more support among independent voters than any other Republican candidate — an achievement that pointed toward success in November because in Colorado, unaffiliated voters outnumber both Republican and Democrats.
I believe it was, in fact, the growing likelihood that I would win in November that spooked the establishment. In the end, the Republican establishment — in Denver, Washington, New York and New Jersey — decided four more years of progressive Democrat John Hickenlooper is preferable to four years of conservative Gov. Tancredo.
That is the main lesson of the 2014 election season thus far. The Republican establishment fears the liberty movement more than it fears continued Democratic control of government.