Tancredo makes good on threat — he’s running for governor

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

LAKEWOOD — Ending nearly a week of drama and debate, former Republican presidential contender and 6th District Congressman Tom Tancredo tossed his hat into the race for governor as the American Constitution Party candidate last Thursday — and unveiled a campaign platform straight out of the playbook of GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis.

“I’m tanned, rested and ready to go — plus I’ll probably drive my motorcycle all around,” declared Tancredo, who was dressed casually and wearing his trademark “USBP Border Patrol” cap.

Tom Tancredo, with a U.S. Border Control cap at a Tea Party Express rally in Denver last April, is now running for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket.
Photo by Cory Knight/The Colorado Statesman

Tancredo, with his wife Jackie standing beside him and the family puppy Sasha prancing around their legs, announced his campaign on the stone terrace of the swanky Solterra community clubhouse in Rooney Ranch.

“This is Sasha. We’re running her for first puppy,” said Tancredo, sounding lighthearted.

The terrace was crowded with reporters and photographers and a few of the candidate’s supporters, including American Constitution Party members Douglas “Dayhorse” Campbell and Phillip Hendrix, who serve on the party’s executive committee, and Brian X. Scott.

Tancredo talked about the highlights of his 20-point campaign platform and stressed his commitment to fighting illegal immigration, improving the economy and asserting states’ rights over the federal government.

Absent in printed handouts of the platform was Tancredo’s position on legalizing marijuana, however, he told reporters he supports letting the “medicinal marijuana experiment” play out. The amendment was approved by 54 percent of Colorado voters in 2000, but continues to be a divisive issue.

All but two planks of Tancredo’s campaign manifesto mirrored the “Platform for Prosperity” pitched by Republican gubernatorial candidate McInnis in November 2009 at a press conference that drew about 50 prominent party leaders and elected officials in a show of solidarity for McInnis.

Defending his use of the platform, Tancredo said he and former GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Josh Penry had crafted the campaign platform for McInnis. Denver County GOP Chair Ryan Call said that the original draft was prepared by Tancredo and Penry, but the final document was a collaborative effort with McInnis and others.

“Tom is Tom,” said McInnis campaign political consultant Mike Hesse with a laugh. Hesse said he doesn’t have a problem with Tancredo using “McInnis’ platform.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes had not been consulted about the “Platform for Prosperity” last year, much less the press conference to rally the Republican heavyweights for McInnis. Undaunted, Maes forged ahead to the state party assembly and won top line on the primary ballot.

Now, Tancredo said, times have changed.

In recent weeks, Maes and McInnis have been snarled in negative news stories that, Tancredo said, doom the Republican Party’s chances of beating Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper in the November election.

Maes was socked with a $17,500 fine for campaign finance violations and McInnis was accused of plagiarizing water resource articles he’d produced for the Hasan Family Foundation during a 2-year, $300,000 fellowship.

Tancredo said the problems motivated his controversial ultimatum for GOP gubernatorial candidates McInnis and Maes to agree to drop out after the primary if a poll showed the winner trailing Hickenlooper. If they refused, Tancredo declared he’d switch parties and run against the GOP candidate and Hickenlooper.

“I had hoped Republicans would have a viable candidate — I don’t believe that is the case,” said Tancredo. “I want people in the state of Colorado have a choice” for governor.

McInnis and Maes vowed to stay in the game and ignored the “high noon” Monday, July 26, deadline imposed by Tancredo. Within a few hours, Tancredo quietly changed his voter affiliation from Republican to American Constitution Party and close to midnight Benjamin “Big Ben” Goss sent a letter to the American Constitution Party to withdraw his candidacy for governor.

“In this era of ‘Tumble Down Economics’ being driven by an out-of-control Federal Government and a stumbling State Government, I believe that it is of paramount importance that I be willing to surrender my own self-interest, and my own candidacy, to the greater good that can be accomplished by acceding to the expressed desire of Congressman Tancredo to become the gubernatorial nominee of the American Constitution Party,” wrote Goss.

On Tuesday, the American Constitution Party convened and nominated Tancredo. He filed his candidacy affidavit with the Secretary of State’s office and the Tancredo for Governor 2010 campaign committee was registered by Thomas Bjorklund of Grand Junction.

Bjorklund had filed a complaint against Republican U.S. Senate candidate former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who had petitioned onto the primary ballot in her race against GOP contender Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. Bjorklund’s complaint of irregularities in Norton’s petitions was dismissed.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported that Bjorklund, who owns Tactical Data Solutions, had also worked with political consultant Jon Hotaling on 527 committee ads to promote Buck over Norton.

Bjorklund told the newspaper that last year he’d been contacted by Tancredo, who asked him to send data to Walt Klein, Buck’s political consultant. Bjorklund, who is now a Buck campaign volunteer, said that he had been unaware of Tancredo’s endorsement of Buck and Klein’s role on the campaign.

Some Republicans continue to harbor hope that Tom Tancredo will withdraw from the governor’s race. He had talked about running for governor in October 2008 and November 2009, but instead backed McInnis.

“I’m optimistic that Tom Tancredo will not follow through with this campaign,” said state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams.

If Tancredo judges a candidate’s viability by polls, Wadhams hopes the candidate will abide by the same standards of the ultimatum he gave Maes and McInnis.

“Polls will show Tom Tancredo is in third place in a 3-way race — and he’ll withdraw,” predicted Wadhams. “I am hopeful he will not follow through in this race.”

“I am in the race to win,” declared Tancredo.

“We’re leaving this in the hands of the voters,” said Hesse. “They’re looking for leaders — not bomb throwers.” The latter was clearly a reference to Tancredo.

McInnis remains focused on Hickenlooper, Hesse said, “the only person who has benefited from the past week of controversy… Tom’s high mark was this week.”

“We assume that Tom Tancredo and John Hickenlooper will get the same media scrutiny as Scott McInnis,” said Hesse.

“Republicans have a real chance this year to affect a generational change in American politics, away from the failed policies of socialism and toward a new era of conservative governance. There’s no question that Rep. Tancredo has increased the difficulty of that task exponentially,” said Maes.

According to a Denver Post/9 News poll surveyed voters from July 27 – 29, Tancredo had an impact on the race before his announcement hit the news. Regardless of whether Maes or McInnis wins the primary, the Survey USA poll results show Hickenlooper winning over the Republican candidate and Tancredo in a 3-way race.

In the first 3-way race scenario surveyed, Hickenlooper captured 44 percent, Tancredo received 26 percent and McInnis got 25 percent. In a 3-way with Maes, Hickenlooper snared 46 percent, and Tancredo and Maes each received 24 percent.

“Tom Tancredo is demonstrating remarkable strength at the outset of this campaign,” said Bay Buchanan, Tancredo’s campaign manager in a statement.

“Considering the poll was conducted, for the most part, prior to his formal announcement, we are extremely encouraged by the results,” said Buchanan. “It’s time for the Colorado GOP to realize that their scandal plagued candidates have no chance of securing a conservative victory in November and let Tancredo and Hickenlooper battle it out.”

Former state senator and current lobbyist Steve Durham is consulting on Tancredo’s campaign. Volunteer coordinator is Brad Simpkins from Evergreen, and John Wittman, a former intern with Buchanan, is helping out with press relations.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com