By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
part 2 of 2
Tom Tancredo has been stirring the political pot in Colorado for two decades. In the Seventies, he and other freshman legislators who hated environmental laws and other government mandates were dubbed the "House Crazies." They were successful in installing a new speaker, rancher Bob Burford. When Ronald Reagan became president, he gave them--and like-minded Westerners such as James Watt--national authority. One of them, Anne Gorsuch, became director of the Environmental Protection Agency. (She later quit amid a scandal.) Her boyfriend--and later husband--Burford took over the Bureau of Land Management. Tancredo became regional director of the U.S. Department of Education. (One of his bosses was deputy secretary Gary Bauer, now D.C. lobbyist for Focus on the Family.)
In early 1985 the liberal group People for the American Way charged that "the evidence is mounting of a direct pipeline from Mr. Tancredo's desk to radical religious zealots who interpret their self-styled biblical mandate as a license to act as a `religious KGB,' harassing anyone who dares to speak out against their vision of a Christian nation." ("You talk about conspiratorial," says Tancredo, who notes that he didn't become an active Christian until two and a half years ago. "The conspiracy was in the minds of people pushing this issue.") Tancredo kept his job for twelve years, until the Clinton administration ousted him almost immediately upon taking over.
These days, Tancredo continues to crank out ideas; he's pushing for a "civil rights" initiative for the 1996 ballot in Colorado that would ban affirmative-action programs. And he insists that the current schism in the local GOP has existed for years. "Only it wasn't called the `religious right' back then," he says. "The liberal side of the party has seen this as an epithet they can throw around: `conservative Christian.' This thing with the fundamental Christians is completely overblown. They're conservative Christians. So what? That implies a certain type of character. It's bound to improve the quality of the people in public service."
Whatever the cause, GOP politics in the area are more than slightly schizoid. Last spring the Boulder County Republican Party chairman, moderate ex-Longmont mayor Bill Swenson, hosted a precinct caucus at his own home and couldn't even get elected as a voting delegate to the party's county convention. He did wind up squeaking out a win in the primary for Colorado House District 12.
But Republican moderates took a crushing blow when Sharon Klusman, a party chairwoman in Clear Creek County, breezed into the congressional primary as a favorite to take on Skaggs--and then was trounced by Miller. Of the four candidates in the primary, only Miller was opposed to abortion. Her three opponents split the pro-choice votes, while Miller won with 38 percent of the vote. She spent less than $10,000 and didn't even put up any yard signs. Klusman put $20,000 of her own money into her campaign.
It was the second straight bitter defeat for Klusman. A late entry into the 1992 GOP congressional primary race after another moderate Republican was ruled ineligible to run, Klusman lost to Bryan Day, the Southern Baptist minister from Arvada who then was overwhelmed by Skaggs.
Miller and her allies simply outsmarted everyone else in '94. Fearing that moderate Republicans would try to sabotage her bid at the party caucus, she petitioned her way onto the ballot and turned in her signatures even before the caucus met. Rumor had it that her forces then voted for pro-choice Ted Engel at the caucus, ensuring him a place on the ballot with Klusman. Miller says it was the Christian Coalition, not her campaign, that orchestrated that canny move. "I had nothing to do with it," she says. "I can't be responsible for what other people do." A third pro-choice candidate, Michelle Lawrence, later petitioned her way onto the ballot, further fragmenting the vote.
"Bryan was not a savvy player," says Klusman. "Pat is. Look at what she did to me." But Klusman says that by putting Miller on the ballot in the general election, GOP voters probably handed another term to Skaggs.
That's not a given, says Diane Dillingham, president-elect of Colorado Republicans for Choice. "I can't say that moderate Republicans are particularly inspired or driven," she adds. "If David Skaggs thinks that just because of the abortion issue they'll listen to him, he'll wake up out of office."
Still, says Dillingham, Miller has some of her own problems--mainly her perceived link to wacko Patriots. "It's not just the abortion issue," Dillingham says. "It's the black helicopters, the U.N., the Trilateral Commission thing."
Pat Miller has a habit of sharing conspiratorial winks and stories with those she perceives as comrades up in arms. In mid-August, for example, she was one of several candidates--along with Tom Tancredo--speaking at a meeting off Colorado Boulevard sponsored by Guardians of American Liberties, a self-described "national coalition of American patriots and citizens" headquartered in Boulder.
Emceed by Marty Nalitz, the gathering drew only a smattering of noncandidates. When Miller's turn came, she told the crowd exactly where she stood by relating a letter she had received from an unnamed "congressperson."