Tancredo rejoins GOP, is resigned to another Wadhams term

The Colorado Statesman

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who ran for governor of Colorado on the American Constitution Party ticket, is a Republican again.

“I just now, 10 minutes ago, changed my registration to Republican,” Tancredo told The Colorado Statesman in a phone call during the lunch hour on Tuesday.

He said he changed his affiliation at the Secretary of State’s office downtown after an Associated Press reporter called asking for his reaction to news about Dick Wadhams’ plans to seek a third term as Colorado Republican Party chairman. “I said, good thing you called, that reminds me I have to change that.”

Tancredo — who left the Republican Party in late July to launch a third-party gubernatorial bid after candidates Dan Maes and Scott McInnis refused to step down — said he’d always intended to return to the GOP. “I’d not done it because I was trying to avoid it or wondering if I should,” Tancredo said. “I just hadn’t gotten around to it.”

Wadhams branded Tancredo a spoiler and engaged in high-profile arguments with the former five-term congressman. But Tancredo went on to pull more than three times the votes won by Maes, the eventual Republican nominee, though both lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper. With a hair over 11 percent of the vote, Maes cleared the 10-percent threshold required for the Colorado GOP to keep major-party status until the next election for governor.

Tancredo described himself as a life-long Republican when he changed his affiliation last summer but reiterated Tuesday that political parties are “losing their relevance” because of changes to campaign finance laws. He said the federal McCain-Feingold law and a state ballot measure affecting campaign finance have stripped political parties of their traditional roles and handed power to shadowy groups.

“What they did — unwittingly, perhaps — is to simply allow the entire process now to fall into the hands of 527s and other groups that have much less transparency. Again, the irony,” Tancredo added. “I’m sure they were doing it because they wanted to reduce corruption — that was at least the stated purpose, but it’s idiotic, they are idiots.”

He said reformers were to blame for making campaign financing more secretive and for sidelining political parties.

“I hope they’re satisfied, because all they have done is drive it into the hands of Jared Polis, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker” — three liberal donors who have poured millions into electing Democrats over the past decade — “who can essentially establish a shadow party, put all the money they want to into it,” Tancredo said.

Republicans and conservatives can’t easily compete, Tancredo said.

“We could do the same if we had any dedicated heterosexuals who were so completely devoted to heterosexuality,” he said, claiming that, “the motivation for Gill and Polis was to advance the homosexual agenda. We don’t have anything like that — we conservatives — so we are at a distinct disadvantage.”

Gill and Polis, who won a second term representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District this fall, are both gay and Gill has made little secret of his intention to elect lawmakers nationwide who are friendly toward gay rights.

As for Tancredo’s choice to run the state Republican Party?

“I would not support Dick,” Tancredo said, noting that there was nothing personal about it.

“Even though we had our differences, certainly, he eventually came around and understood what I was trying to do (in the governor’s race). It’s not because I have any animosity toward him — I really and truly don’t, I mean that entirely.

“In politics, the ultimate goal is, for me, conservative victory. And if I thought Dick Wadhams was the best we had to ensure conservative victories in Colorado, I would absolutely be supporting him 100 percent, regardless of the names he called me. But I don’t think he is the person who can deliver that.”

Tancredo said he would support state Sen. Ted Harvey if the Douglas County Republican gets into the race, but he also acknowledged that Wadhams wouldn’t have announced a bid for a third term if he wasn’t confident he could win.

“I’m disappointed because I don’t think it’s the best thing for the Republican Party or conservatives because I don’t believe Dick bridges the gap between, let’s call them Liberty groups and traditional Republicans,” Tancredo said. “And as a result, you’ll have an ongoing insurgency that just will not be helpful to conservatives.”

Nonetheless, Tancredo surmised, the die is cast.

“I know Dick, and he’s a good vote counter,” Tancredo said. “I’m positive he looked carefully at the numbers before he made this decision. There’s no way Dick Wadhams wants to go into whatever will be his next career as a losing candidate for party chairman.”

The reason the poor showing by Maes at the polls ensures Wadhams’ reelection, Tancredo said, is because the state GOP allots so-called bonus delegates to the state central committee based on how well counties turn out votes for the governor’s race. Since Tancredo swamped Maes in most counties, that means only a scant 18 bonus delegates — presumably up for grabs by Republicans outside the rank-and-file — will be created this year, meaning activists who have operated apart from the party structure won’t have a vote for party chairman.

Tancredo couldn’t stop laughing about what he called “the greatest irony of all time” in his conversation with The Statesman.

“The disaster we call the Republican governor’s election, the disaster that was for the Republican Party — and to whatever extent Dick Wadhams has any responsibility there is up for debate — will almost certainly ensure Dick Wadhams’ re-election,” he said.

“The insurgents were responsible for putting Dan Maes on the ballot, and that, in turn — his candidacy was a disaster for the Republican party — means they cannot do anything to change it. It’s hilarious, really, when you think of it.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com