Is Tancredo’s dallying with 2014 guv’s race more than Tomfoolery?

The Colorado Statesman

Former Congressman and conservative stalwart Tom Tancredo says he hasn’t decided whether he will run for governor in 2014 on the Republican ticket challenging popular Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper. In fact, he’s not even comfortable talking about whether he’s seriously considering it.

“The problem I have in discussing this is that anything I say beyond what has been reported, it becomes problematic because the definition of what is an announcement and what isn’t is fairly vague,” Tancredo explained to The Colorado Statesman on Wednesday, referring to campaign filing rules and regulations. “If it appears as though I have indeed made an announcement… then I’m subject to all kinds of regulatory [guidelines], and I can’t do it…

“It’s not my modus operandi to play coy. I don’t do it…” Tancredo continued. “But I’m really constrained by things over which I have no control.”

Indeed, Tancredo is anything but shy. He is perhaps best known for his controversial and candid disgust with illegal immigration. But his rabble-rouser mentality crosses many lines.

Tom Tancredo

The laundry list of eyebrow-raising comments from Tancredo is difficult to compile, as there have been quite a few over the years since he was first elected to the Statehouse in 1976. He later worked in the U.S. Department of Education under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush before he was elected to Congress where he served Congressional District 6 for five terms. He became a household name when he ran for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2008.

The political troublemaker has added racial references to comments from President Barack Obama; suggested that America could respond to an attack by Islamic terrorists by bombing Muslim holy sites; ran a campaign ad depicting a hypothetical terrorist attack, blaming open borders; and compared Miami to a Third World country. That’s just naming a few.

But — much like an onion — there are many layers to Tancredo’s personality. While he is usually remembered for his hardliner stance on illegal immigration and overall contentious comments, he has earned great respect amongst both Democrats and Republicans for always speaking his mind — no matter how disagreeable those thoughts might be.

There was an odd pairing between Tancredo and marijuana activists last year when his libertarian ideologies brought him to support Amendment 64, thereby endorsing legalization of cannabis. It was not the first time Tancredo supported marijuana legalization. During the campaign, he made a bet with a documentary filmmaker that he would smoke a joint with the filmmaker if Amendment 64 passed. But when voters backed the initiative, reality set in and Tancredo backed out, worried that honoring the wager would send the wrong message to kids.

Further demonstrating his multiple layers, Tancredo has always maintained that one of his greatest accomplishments was his work to end genocide in Sudan. He launched a bipartisan effort to cosponsor legislation targeting genocide in the Darfur region.

Will ‘The Tanc’ be back?

Whether Colorado voters will get another chance to see the complicated mind of Tancredo at work during another gubernatorial campaign remains to be seen. He had not filed any paperwork as of Thursday.

The last time Coloradans got a taste of the conservative nectar that Tancredo squeezes on anyone willing to taste was in 2010 when he ran an unsuccessful, but impressive last-minute third-party gubernatorial campaign.

Tancredo registered with the conservative-leaning American Constitution Party to challenge Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, and perhaps give then-Denver Mayor Hickenlooper a run for his money. Tancredo received 36 percent of the vote that year, coming in second to Hickenlooper, even though he didn’t join the race until the July before the election. Maes ended up with 11 percent of the vote as the GOP’s standard-bearer.

Tancredo only ran after Maes became embroiled in controversy. The other Republican candidate, former Congressman Scott McInnis, added to the schism when he was accused of plagiarism.

Tancredo issued an ultimatum to the GOP candidates to drop out of the race or face his wrath as a third-party candidate. After the election, Tancredo switched his affiliation back to the Republican Party.

But Colorado political scientist Bob Loevy believes Tancredo’s actions in 2010 could come back to haunt him if he runs for governor in 2014.

“He left the party and he’s come back to the party. People who do that usually don’t do very well,” opined Loevy.

More importantly, Loevy believes Coloradans have become much more moderate in their political views, as evidenced by Democrats sweeping statewide elections this past November and Obama winning the state. Some have argued that Colorado has in fact become a blue state.

“The biggest problem is that his political philosophy is just way to the right, where most Coloradans are more moderate in the middle,” added Loevy. “His identity with far right wing positions is certainly laudable, but does not give good prospects for his chances to win the governorship.”

Taking on CoDA

Tancredo, however, does not believe Republicans have a problem with messaging. He feels the GOP has a problem with the Colorado Democracy Alliance, or CoDA.

The mysterious group of progressives established campaign strategies so impressive that even Republicans have called their tactics “brilliant.”

An umbrella of dozens of loosely affiliated organizations makes up CoDA. Because the group is made up of nonprofits, advocacy groups and 527 committees, CoDA has discovered a way to bypass certain federal regulations that prohibit coordination between candidate campaigns and issue groups.

The alliance acts as a taxable nonprofit and does not directly deal with campaign contributions. In so doing, it is not constrained by many disclosure requirements and restrictions on coordinated communications.

Since its legendary and curious inception, CoDA has watched as Colorado Democrats regained full control of the state legislature and won races across the state and several seats in Congress.

“I would take people back to nine years ago… when we had five Republican members of the House out of seven, two U.S. senators, Republican, a Republican governor, a Republican House, a Republican Senate and most of the statewide elected officials, Republican,” advised Tancredo. “And then two election cycles… it switched …”

Tancredo suggested that the alliance began in an effort to advance gay rights. He believes that out of that agenda came a well-coordinated push for Democratic control, and he is encouraging Republicans to come up with a strategy to balance the effort.

“I guarantee you that didn’t happen because of my position on immigration or messaging,” declared Tancredo. “It happened because of a group called CoDA. They put together a brilliant strategy to advance a homosexual agenda… they knew that they could not do it as a straight initiative for gay marriage… but they knew they had to change the entire political structure in Colorado… and they did it. They were brilliant.”

Tancredo declined to comment on whether he thinks he, or any Republican candidate, has a good shot against Hickenlooper, who maintains high popularity, even after controversial support for gun control and the oil and gas industry.

The state party offered only this statement about a potential Tancredo run: “There are several candidates who have expressed interest in seeking our party’s gubernatorial nomination. We look forward to having a robust primary, and our nominee defeating Gov. Hickenlooper in 2014.”

The party would not disclose who has sought its nomination. But several rumored candidates include Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, Attorney General John Suthers, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, 2006 gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and Treasurer Walker Stapleton, to name a few.

In the meantime, Tancredo says that if he does run, the GOP will need to work on its campaigning.

“The greatest problem for the Republican Party has to do not necessarily with leadership, the problem that is faced by all of us on the right has been an organization called CoDA,” remarked Tancredo. “It is by far the most influential and powerful entity in the state of Colorado politically and there’s nothing on the right to equal it.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com