Tancredo’s giddy-up draws 1,300 GOP riders

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

AURORA — Tom Tancredo faced a rocky ride in late July when he switched political saddle brands — from Republican Party to American Constitution Party — and tossed his hat into the governor’s race. Judging by recent polls and a record-breaking turnout at the “Tancredo Republican Round-up” on Saturday, Oct. 18, the former 6th District Congressman is leaving GOP contender Dan Maes in the dust.

During the ACP candidate’s rally at The Stampede Country Dance Hall, more than 1,300 Republican revelers celebrated a Rasmussen poll showing Tancredo within four points of Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper. According to the survey conducted Oct. 14 of most likely voters, Denver Mayor Hickenlooper has 42 percent and Tancredo, 38 percent. The crowd also cheered erosion of support for Maes — reportedly 12 percent of voters surveyed.

ACP gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo and Arapahoe Republican activists Lynne and Bo Cottrell check the latest tally posted on the screen — Tanc fans contributed more than $3,500 to tempt the candidate into riding the bucking mechanical bull at The Stampede.
Photo by Leslie Jorgensen/The Colorado Statesman

Recalling the fallout on his decision to enter the race, Tancredo said that he needed to win an estimated 65 percent of Republican votes to win the General Election. The campaign also sought 44 percent of independent voters and 8 percent of Democrats, both goals have been surpassed according to the Rasmussen poll.

“We desperately needed some big shot Republican to say, ‘Yes, it’s okay. You can vote for Tom Tancredo — he’s the same guy he was the day before he became a third party candidate,’” he said.

“There was one guy who wasn’t the least bit shy — and when he did it, he broke the dam,” said Tancredo, naming former Congressman Bob Beauprez.

“Bob, I cannot ever thank you enough. God bless you,” declared Tancredo.

Tancredo said that Beauprez’ gutsy move stirred him to tears.

“I’m Italian… I cry over Hallmark cards,” confessed Tancredo.

The hall erupted in thunderous cheers, whistles and applause.

In a speech spiced with personal stories, Tancredo introduced his wife Jackie, talked about his grandsons and recounted his motorcycle spill when a woman’s car hit his Harley motorcycle last month.

“Some guy who was there gave this eyewitness report,” said Tancredo, recalling the statement.

“I saw her hit the bike — the motorcycle. I saw it go flying and I saw him, meaning me, go bounding down the street,” said Tancredo with a chuckle. “I just don’t bounce as well as I used to.”

Tancredo said jokingly that he told his 14-year-old grandson that the driver might have been a Democrat. But the candidate said his grandson replied, “Grandpa, under these circumstances it could just as easily have been a Republican.”

Beauprez was among the high profile GOP posse stumping for Tancredo at the rally in Aurora. Others included Tancredo’s running mate, former state Rep. Pat Miller, 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman, state Senators Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch and Spencer Swalm of Centennial, state Reps. Marsha Looper of Calhan and Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs, KHOW talk show host and attorney Dan Caplis and legendary lobbyist Freda Poundstone, a former Maes supporter who cut an ad touting Tancredo.

Miller confessed that she was flattered when Tancredo asked her to be his running mate, but she didn’t think much would come of the third party ticket.

“I thought, oh this will be fun. No stress — just get in the car and see the countryside,” said Miller, beaming at Tancredo on the stage at The Stampede Hall.

She then described the hectic pace in rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic to get from events in places like Alamosa to Denver. Miller said that she’d received calls from people who switched their support from Maes to Tancredo and declared the ACP ticket has gained traction.

“I think we’re gonna win!” she exclaimed and the crowd roared their agreement.

Tancredo said he’s been getting calls from Republicans who’ve received the GOP bags of candidate materials from volunteers walking precincts.

One man in Aurora, Tancredo said, found a flier in his party bag saying, “Dan Maes can’t win — vote for Tom Tancredo… We’re hearing that kind of thing from people all over the place.”

Former Arapahoe County GOP Chairman Nathan Chambers danced further to encourage Republicans to support Tancredo. He read an excerpt of state party Chair Dick Wadhams’ comment to AP reporter David Espo that was published in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that morning.

“Dick Wadhams, the GOP state party chairman, described Maes in an interview as ‘the worst candidate in Colorado history we’ve ever had for governor and one of the most polarizing,’” said Chambers.

In an e-mail exchange later with a handful of Republicans in Arapahoe County, Wadhams explained, “I can’t officially support Tancredo in my position but I’m perfectly free to assess the quality of the Republican nominee.”

Looper and Lambert, a recent convert to Tancredo from Maes, implored folks to call their friends in El Paso County and convince them to support “the only conservative candidate” for governor — Tancredo. A major stumbling block in the county populated with Republicans and conservatives, Lambert said, has been the influence of The Constitutionalist Today publication that devoted most of its recent monthly issues to bolstering Maes and bashing Wadhams and the so-called Republican Party elite.

Meanwhile, Tancredo appears to be galloping to the finish line like a Pony Express rider speeding past wagon trains and stage coaches in the once Wild West. But folks at The Stampede characterized this race for governor as the “wildest” they’ve ever seen.

“This is just wild!” exclaimed Republican Tom Ready of Pueblo. “I’ve never in my life seen anything like this race.”

The $10-a-head rally raised nearly $22,000 for Tancredo’s gubernatorial campaign. The sales of “Tancredo Wine” — a choice of Chianti or Chardonnay — netted $2,600 and wagers to dare the candidate to ride the mechanical bull topped $3,500. Tancredo took the challenge, mounted the bull and grinned through faster and faster, rougher and rougher spins until he spilled onto the arena’s air-cushioned pillow.

The funds amassed at the rally, organized by Chambers and Arapahoe GOP activists Lynne and Bo Cottrell, will be added to the ticking “Tancredo Money Bomb” on the campaign website that surpassed the $48,000 mark on Monday in this reporting period.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com