Tancredo throws caution to the wind as campaign for governor takes off

By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

ERIE — Perched at the edge of a small airport, within sight of an airplane built by his running mate’s husband, Tom Tancredo officially launched his third-party gubernatorial bid aloft with a promise that his month-old candidacy on the American Constitution Party ticket can land him in the Governor’s Mansion.

Tom Tancredo, right, and Lynn Miller, husband of running mate Pat Miller, at the kick-off party for Tancredo’s third-party gubernatorial bid Sept. 4 at the Millers’ Erie home. Both Lynn and Pat Miller are pilots.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Pat Miller talks about getting back into politics during her running mate’s launch party at her home Saturday night near Erie. Miller served in the state Legislature and is also a former candidate for Congress.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Tancredo with longtime supporter Crista Huff.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Tancredo visits with the family dog, Sasha, at his kick-off party.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Appearing in the spacious garage of his pick for lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Pat Miller — whose husband, Lynn, builds airplanes as a hobby and flies them at the adjacent Erie Municipal Airport — before a crowd of about 100 supporters in a T-shirt and slacks, Tancredo said he gave away his suits when he left Congress nearly two years ago and would have to get some more.

Tancredo and Miller’s official campaign kick-off had a home-made feel to it, including several appearances by the Tancredo’s adoring dog, a 15-month-old GoldenDoodle named Sasha, who vied with the TV cameras and the rapt crowd for the candidate’s attention.

Tancredo allowed that his campaign “is not going to be easy,” and noted that it was unlike any other race he’d run in his five decades in politics. Nonetheless, he told supporters, “We have a better chance of winning in a three-way race than the Republican candidate has of winning a two-way race.”

The specter of that Republican candidate, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, hung over the campaign party like a cartoon ghost. The day before, state Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams sent out a statement endorsing all the major GOP candidates except for Maes, who upset former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis in the August primary but has seen his support from party regulars erode in recent weeks. Tancredo reminded his supporters he only threatened to jump into the race as leverage to force out Maes, whom he views as unelectable, but that he’s in it to win it since Maes has decided to stick it out too.

Tancredo said Maes was “the reason I’m here.” He recalled meeting with the long-shot candidate last summer and concluding,”I was convinced there was absolutely no way I was going to support him. In fact, I said, ‘I can’t even wish you well,’ ”

The more he learned about Maes, Tancredo said, the less he liked. “You know, there’s something here that’s just not right,” he said he decided. “Then it just got worse and worse and worse.”

Recent news stories have questioned the record Maes once touted about his days in law enforcement in Kansas, on top of earlier revelations about campaign finance problems and statements equating Denver’s bicycle-sharing program with a plan for United Nations dominance.

With a look of dismay, Tancredo surveyed the electoral situation.

“Today now the Republican Party says we don’t endorse our governor candidate.” Shaking his head, Tancredo — who changed his 45-year affiliation from Republican to the ACP just over a month ago — said he understood “the angst” solid Republicans feel about voting for a third-party candidate, but urged waverers: “Yeah, you can do it, it’s not that hard.”

After comparing government to the flesh-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors, forever hungry, always saying, “Feed me,” Tancredo vowed to slash the size of government by restricting its nourishment.

“I’m simply a conservative, that’s what I am. And when I see government, I see something that’s got to be trimmed, cut back. And there’s only one way to do it, restrict the money.”

In that vein, Tancredo said he stands solidly behind three statewide ballot measures that aim to cut government revenue. He compared the uproar over Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 to the cries of doom that greeted California’s property-tax curbing Proposition 13 in the 1970s.

“There were claims of the end of the world, the end of civilization if we pass this … its chaos and anarchy,” Tancredo said. “In fact, they passed it and the economy grew. It will grow here. Our economy will grow if we cut taxes.”

Calling his Democratic opponent, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, “a bigger liberal than (Gov. Bill) Ritter,” Tancredo warned that the state’s oil and gas industry “is well aware” what the former petroleum geologist has planned for them in Colorado and doesn’t like it one bit.

Turning his attention back to the electoral math, Tancredo sounded a note of confidence.

“We can win,” he said. “Honestly, I know, you hear all the time: splitting the vote, they won’t get it.” But he was having none of that. Recalling his first race for Congress in a heavily Republican Jefferson County district, Tancredo reminded the crowd he won a five-person primary with 26 percent of the vote.

“Strange things happen with multi-candidate races,” he observed.

Beyond confidence, Tancredo had another request from his supporters. “We need all the support you can give us, financially and otherwise,” Tancredo concluded in his remarks before taking questions. “But we need something more. And everybody can do this. That is, when you look to God for help and guidance and support, please add us to your prayers, and add Colorado and add this nation to your prayer, because we all need it.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com