"I have run quixotic races. This is not one of them," says Tom Tancredo. The Republican, a former Colorado congressman whose crusade against illegal immigration evolved into a gadfly campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 wants you to know he's serious this time: He wants another shot at Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Four years ago, Tancredo mounted a last-minute campaign on the Constitution Party ticket, as Colorado's Republican gubernatorial nominee melted down. In two months, Tancredo scored 36 percent of the vote, three times more than Republican Dan Maes, but 15 points behind Hickenlooper. This time, Tancredo says, there's a lot more work to be done.
"I'm trying my best to get used to a 16-month campaign. This is very odd. We didn't have anything like that even when I was in the House," he said in an interview Wednesday. "It gives you a lot of time to do all that organizational work which we really have not done."
And Tancredo says he has a chance, given poll numbers that show Hickenlooper's approval rating plummeting to new lows. Hickenlooper has taken hits in recent weeks for delaying, but not commuting, the execution of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap, part of what Republicans call a pattern of avoiding tough decisions.
"This guy is imploding," Tancredo said. "He chooses never to make a decision, if he possibly can."
Tancredo doesn't have a clear shot at Hickenlooper, though. He'll have to get through a Republican primary that may get crowded. Secretary of State Scott Gessler has suspended his re-election campaign and opened a gubernatorial account, while Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told the Denver Post he's considering his own bid. Gessler was reprimanded earlier this month by a Colorado ethics board for trips he took to a Republican lawyers conference in Florida, an issue Tancredo said is likely to come up in a primary.
"He's got his problems that he's trying to deal with. I don't think I'm going to have to do much about that, and I don't want to, to tell you the truth," Tancredo said.
Tancredo has hired Harris Media, a Republican advertising firm that worked on digital advetising for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, when they ran for president in 2012, and for Sen. Ted Cruz. Tancredo was in Washington this week with Carlos Espinosa, his former long-time spokesman and now a partner at KAP Strategies, an Alexandria-based firm.
More highlights from our sit-down with Tancredo:
-- On why he's running for office: "Like everybody, I get up in the morning and I want to have a nice peaceful coffee with my wife, and I open the newspaper and there's nothing peaceful about it for the next 15 minutes. I'm ranting, I'm raving. ... If I put out a statement as Tom Tancredo, former member of Congress who's really ticket off about this, who's gonna --? If I put out a statement as a candidate, somebody's going to pay attention! It's worth it just for that."
-- On Hickenlooper's record: "We've got counties who are talking about seceding. I don't know if they really can do it, but I'm going to keep telling them, 'Just wait.' Apres moi, le deluge. ... There does seem to be a, they call it a war on rural Colorado. He agrees to and in fact encourages this mandate for alternative fuel usage that will cost rural Coloradans a fortune, and for what? To satisfy a different constituency that supported fracking. He tries to play these games and that's why he gets into all this trouble."
-- "I don't know what [Hickenlooper's] philosophy is, to tell you the truth. I don't know if he has one. ... The Dunlap decision was almost the straw for a lot of people."
-- On his style as a candidate: "I'm a little bit of a different kind of candidate. I'm a Republican, but you know I did run on a different party ticket last time. ... I'm a little more of a populist, a little more of a libertarian, and I think that it's a constituency that most other Republicans have not been able to actually capture. I'm not sure they've tried, even. And unless you do, it's a big problem in Colorado. You have to have that added dimension, other than just being a Republican."
-- Why not run against Sen. Mark Udall? "Two things could happen, both bad. I could win or lose, and neither has any allure. If I wanted to stay in Washington, I'd have stayed in Washington. I had a safe seat."
Tancredo had a few things to say on immigration reform, too, an issue he thinks Republicans are handling terribly. We'll post those remarks a little later.