Tom Tancredo. File photo
BY PETER JONES
Tom Tancredo likens his decision last week to exit the Republican gubernatorial primary to knowing when to cut losses in an all-or-nothing poker game.
“The stakes are going to be really, really high, and you don’t have much of a hand,” he said. “The problem is you’re not the only one that’s going to lose your pot.”
The former 6th District congressman who had been the controversial primary-frontrunner in Republican polling for governor, announced Jan. 30 that he would end his bid for the GOP nomination, saying he had not been able to raise the funds necessary to run a credible campaign against the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.
Tancredo, a longtime lightning rod on illegal immigration, says he also feared that a Republican loss to Polis—one of the wealthiest members of Congress, who has pledged $30 million to his own campaign—could signal more than forfeiture of the governor’s office.
“What about all the statewide races? What about the state Senate, which we are in desperate need of holding when redistricting is coming up? There’s so much at risk,” the Republican said.
Tancredo acknowledges the irony of a candidate who is by far tops in his party’s polls to leave a race voluntarily—for lack of funding as the reason, no less.
“I know it seems sort of counterintuitive that a frontrunner would drop out, but I do not intend to just win a primary and end up losing a general,” the former congressman said. “It really is a huge dilemma. Here you are, probably going to win a primary election—you’ll be on the stage thanking everybody and not having two nickels in the bank to rub together.”
Tancredo has vied for governor twice before, including the strange 2010 run as nominee of the American Constitution Party, taking second place in a three-way contest against Democrat John Hickenlooper and little-known Republican Dan Maes, who virtually fell into the nomination after the campaign of U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, the perceived frontrunner, imploded.
Four years later, Tancredo returned to the Republican fold, this time losing that party’s multi-candidate primary nomination to former U.S. Rep Bob Beauprez after the Republican Attorney General’s Association bankrolled a $250,000 campaign against Tancredo.
Given his experience, the former congressman says he and his team were committed to the idea that the campaign would need a bare minimum of $150,000 in the bank by Jan. 15, but by then had only raised half of an amount the candidate considered modest to begin with.
According to Tancredo’s reading of the political tealeaves, the Republican establishment, as he calls it, would rather see a Democrat in the governor’s chair than the former congressman, who has sparred with his own party on everything from immigration to legalized marijuana.
Tancredo says his decision to step aside was influenced by his belief that there are still two or three in the remaining Republican stable—he mentions State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman by name—that he says could defeat the well-funded Polis.
“I think he is beatable. You just need the right resources,” the former candidate said, noting he would endorse any of the current hopefuls as the party’s nominee.
Tancredo says he has no particular plans to re-enter politics as a candidate. In addition to his decade representing the once-Republican-safe 6th District and his three gubernatorial runs, the firebrand immigration activist sought his party’s nomination for president in 2008, a campaign he concedes was quixotic in nature and was only designed to highlight his signature issue.
For the time being, Tancredo plans to spend more time with his wife, grandchildren and dog.
“Being in politics is enjoyable to me for the most part. I do enjoy the arena,” he said. “It is possible I can do something like that without running for governor again. In four years, I’ll be 76 years old—although hopefully just spry and eager to get at it—but I doubt that will happen.”
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