Former Congressman Tom Tancredo considers running for Colorado governor

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Former Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo — most recently known for throwing the 2010 Colorado gubernatorial race into disarray when he dumped the GOP and ran as maverick third-party candidate — is once again considering running for the state’s highest office.

Popular among conservatives because of his strict stances against illegal immigration and for gun rights but blamed by others as being among the factors causing the state GOP to implode, Tancredo’s testing of the waters has been met with mixed reactions.

“I don’t know who’s more concerned about this possibility, the Republicans or the Democrats,” Tancredo quipped on 630 KHOW radio Thursday morning.

In 2010, Tancredo was unhappy with the two Republican candidates competing in the primary, Dan Maes and Scott McInnis. McInnis had been caught up in a plagiarism scandal and Maes was fined $17,500 for campaign finance violations.

Tancredo publicly threatened to quit the party and run as an American Constitution Party candidate if both men didn’t bow out so that the GOP could find someone else to run against then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The threat led to one of the more memorable moments on Colorado talk radio, when Tancredo clashed with then-GOP party chairman Dick Wadhams. Tancredo said Wadhams had told him that McInnis was “untrustworthy” and that Maes’s campaign was “a joke.”

Wadhams denied that characterization of the conversations, but the party’s public meltdown led to handy win for Hickenlooper. Tancredo came in an admirable second place with 36 percent of the vote. Maes, a long-shot Republican even without a vote-splitting candidate on the ballot, earned only 11 percent of the vote.

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had on a campaign,” Tancredo said on the radio Thursday.

Tancredo, who has since switched his affiliation back to Republican, told the Denver Post that he hasn’t yet decided on a 2014 run.

He is probably best known for his hardline stance on immigration, calling for strict enforcement of sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants and involving local police in immigration enforcement, with the goal of encouraging illegal aliens to “self-deport.”

He recently wrote an op-ed revoking his endorsement of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul because of their differences in immigration policy.

He’s also staunchly pro-gun, pro-life and — remaining true to his smaller-government beliefs — pro-legalization for marijuana (Tancredo agreed to smoke a joint if Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed, but he reneged, citing concern about the message it would send to his grandchildren).

Tancredo served five terms in Congress, from 1999 to2009, representing Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. He also sought the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Colorado has turned distinctively blue in the past five months, with Hickenlooper at the head of a Democratic-controlled state government that has passed bills extending in-state tuition to illegal immigrants and making them eligible for special drivers licenses.

Colorado has also passed a slate of tough gun control laws and other progressive legislation. Hickenlooper has said that he doesn’t believe the new gun laws would threaten a re-election bid in 2014.

Although some Republican lawmakers have been mentioned as possible 2014 gubernatorial candidates — such as Attorney General John Suthers, former Congressman Bob Beauprez and Secretary of State Scott Gessler — none have quite the same wattage as Tancredo, for better or worse.

Still, according to early polling done in mid-April, none of the possible GOP candidates, including Tancredo, had statewide appeal.

The poll, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, found Hickenlooper’s approval at 53 percent, with 44 percent disapproving.

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