Tom Tancredo is making his third run for Colorado governor.
Tom Tancredo is making his third run for Colorado governor.
CBS4 via YouTube

Tom Tancredo on Why He's Confident He Can Win Colorado Governor's Race

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo is running for governor of Colorado in 2018. It's Tancredo's third bid for the office, and he remains as outspoken as ever on topics such as immigration, education, health care, marijuana and more, as he demonstrates in this frank and wide-ranging question-and-answer session.

There is no shortage of prominent challengers for the gig. On the Republican side, candidates who've participated in our gubernatorial-candidate interview series to date include 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler (who recently switched his focus to seek the office of Colorado Attorney General), businessman (and nephew of Mitt Romney) Doug Robinson, 2016 Denver for Trump co-chair Steve Barlock and entrepreneur and onetime state legislator Victor Mitchell.

We've also made a slew of interview requests to the campaign of Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Our invitations have not yet resulted in Q&As — but we're going to keep trying.

Among the declared Democrats who've chatted with us thus far are former state senator Mike Johnston, onetime Colorado treasurer Cary Kennedy and Congressman Jared Polis, plus entrepreneurs Noel Ginsburg and Erik Underwood and, most recently, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne. (Representative Ed Perlmutter briefly threw his hat into the ring before dropping out of the governor's race — and after a change of mind, he's now running for re-election in the 7th Congressional District.)

During our conversation with Tancredo, which took place shortly before Brauchler withdrew from the governor's contest, he discussed the nasty tone of politics today — a situation he refuses to pin on President Donald Trump, whom he consistently defends. He also talks about how polls showing him besting his Republican competitors influenced his decision to enter the fray, a meeting with onetime Trump aide Steve Bannon, the challenge presented by Polis's willingness to spend a large chunk of his personal wealth on his campaign, the biggest issues before Colorado, his feeling that America should be more homogeneous (at least in terms of a shared concept about the country and a common language) and his firm belief that he could actually win this time around.

In addition, Tancredo mentions fines the City of Denver can impose on employees who cooperate with ICE agents in ways that violate policy. We previously wrote about this issue in a post headlined "City of Denver Staffers Who Cooperate With ICE Could Be Fired, Jailed, Fined."

Here's what else Tancredo had to say.

Westword: Why should voters elect you to be the next governor of Colorado?

Tom Tancredo: They should elect me because I have an independent mind about how government works. And that is shown from, now, almost forty years in politics. I've had as many problems with Republican administrations as I've had with Democrat administrations. I'm a guy who looks at problems and tries to think about solutions that frankly may be out of the box sometimes and may not fit a particular model. But I think that's what Colorado needs — and that is what I can provide.

When candidates started announcing for governor earlier this year, it didn't initially seem that you had much interest. What changed your mind?

You're right. This is the third time around, and despite the old adage about the third time being the charm, politics has gotten so much uglier and nastier and even more dangerous. Really. I cut my own lawn, for heaven's sake, and I don't think I should have to carry my Glock at the same time. But it's amazing what's happening in the country. I know it and I've known it for some time — and that makes politics less attractive.

When you say it didn't seem like I was too interested, well, I have been here before. But two things happened to change my mind and made me think this is something I probably should do — two polls, more than anything. One of the polls was done by someone who's apparently done some stuff for Donald Trump. I thought, hey, that's a pretty good thing, since nobody trusted anybody else's polls. That poll showed me ahead of every Republican candidate in the primary by 15 or 16 points. And then it showed I was tied with Jared Polis. Now, we were both in the 20s, with 40-some percent undecided. But the fact was, I wasn't in the race! I hadn't even announced, and I was tied with Jared Polis. That seemed to me to be a pretty good indicator that I do have a chance and perhaps I've got the best chance against a guy like Polis.

A vintage shot of Tom Tancredo astride his motorcycle.
A vintage shot of Tom Tancredo astride his motorcycle.
Twitter

Was the cancellation of the VDARE event in Colorado Springs any kind of motivation? [VDARE has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "an anti-immigration hate website." A 2018 VDARE conference in Colorado Springs, at which Tancredo had pledged to appear, was canceled in August.]

I can tell you, I was furious with Republicans after that. I don't know if I can tell you it was a catalyst, but it certainly got my blood boiling. You had a situation where an organization simply scheduled an event — a conference, mind you. Not a march. Not a riot. Not a parade. A conference, to be held next April in Colorado Springs. And the mayor of Colorado Springs [Republican John Suthers], along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is the ultimate nut squad, declared this group to be white supremacist and said Colorado Springs won't provide any city services.

Well, first of all, who was asking for services? This was a conference at a private venue. Nobody needed police protection, but they made it into an issue. The venue itself said, "What's this about? We don't understand. There's going to be a riot and we're not going to get any city services? We're going to have to cancel." And they canceled the event.

Now, let's assume this group is as terrible as anyone wants to make them — and they're not, by the way. But even if they were, what right does a city mayor have to say they won't provide city services? This is so absolutely egregious. An egregious violation of the First Amendment. I couldn't care less what people say who want to march and protest. If you do it lawfully and say things I despise...like, if you're Antifa, for example. I can tell you that as governor, I will make sure Antifa and any other group that wants to march and do so peacefully will have the support of the state in doing so. That's my job, to provide those sorts of assurances and security for people who want to express their opinions.

You don't need the First Amendment for things you like to hear. So I'm surprised that the media didn't come down on this as hard as I would and did, and I'm surprised that no Republican defended the First Amendment. I don't care one whit if they defend me or this organization — because I was supposed to speak there. But it seemed to me that there was something much bigger at stake: the First Amendment. And if nobody speaks out about these things, all of a sudden you can have an erosion of the Constitution.

If you ask millennials now, more than 30 percent of them think it's perfectly okay to abolish free speech if that speech makes somebody uncomfortable. Oh, my God. This is horrible, truly horrible. So I was really frosted about [the VDARE cancellation]. To what extent it played into the whole idea of running, I don't know. I was thinking about it and then these polls came out — so there you go.

Prior to announcing your decision to run for governor, you met with Steve Bannon, whom you've called your boss at Breitbart. [Tancredo regularly writes posts for the controversial website.] How would you describe that meeting?

Talking to Steve is in some ways like talking to a whirlwind. His brain is going very, very quickly. He would ask me a question, and before I was done answering, he was asking another question. We met at the Broadmoor [in Colorado Springs], and I told the people there afterward, "If this place wasn't so expensive, I'd get a room, because I'm exhausted." [Laughs.] He wanted simply to know the lay of the land politically in Colorado. I told him about it. He asked if I'd been thinking about running for governor. I told him, "Yeah, I'm thinking about it." He wanted to know the other people involved, and I told him about them — and that was it. I wish I could tell you that he said, "Tom, if you get in, we're going to have millions of dollars for you." He didn't say he would support me. He didn't say he wouldn't. He just said, "That's interesting," and that was the end of it.

If he'd told me he'd help me finance the campaign...well, look at who we almost certainly will be running against — a guy who says he'll put in $30 million [Polis]. I'm not sure if the interest on my checking account balance is at that $30 million mark, but I don't think so.

I'm going to need to have financial support. I don't have it personally, and I'm never going to get it from the Republican establishment. And I'm sure not going to get it from the Democrat establishment. So I've got to get it from somewhere.

We always have the highest percentage of small donors, and I'm very proud of that. But it's also very difficult to raise lots of money, especially in a state where the most you can give is $1,150 [due to campaign finance limits]. And you're talking about millions being raised on the other side. So I need help, and I'd be happy if someone helped. Steve didn't promise that, and I've not spoken to him about that issue since.

Tom Tancredo with commentator Michelle Malkin, who hosted a fundraiser for him on November 18 at a Colorado Springs gun range.
Tom Tancredo with commentator Michelle Malkin, who hosted a fundraiser for him on November 18 at a Colorado Springs gun range.
Facebook

Do you feel that your name recognition, combined with the way candidates can use free media these days, can compensate for any funding shortfall?

As I've said, the good thing is that I have great name recognition. The bad thing is that I have great name recognition. [Laughs.] There are a lot of people out there who just hear the word "Tancredo" and they start pulling their hair out. But it's worth millions. Somebody tried to calculate it a while back and it came up to something like a $5 million cost if I was starting from scratch. Polis has some name recognition — not much, but some. Again, though, money is no object for him.

Was another factor in your decision to run for governor a dissatisfaction with the current Republican field?

Yeah — because I didn't think they could do it. When I looked at the polls, many of the other candidates had been in the race for a long time, and they were nowhere.

So it wasn't a matter of you disagreeing with them from a policy standpoint? It was more about whether you felt they had a reasonable chance to win?

Well, I can't say that's entirely the case, because I don't know what their policies are on certain things. They had been up until that point in time relatively quiet about a lot of things. It was more, "I'm a good guy. Vote for me." But they're good and honorable people. I don't think I've met all of them, but the ones I have met — George and Walker — are good people. George Brauchler is the smartest guy and the smoothest guy in the race, and now that I'm in, that hasn't changed one bit.

You mentioned earlier your problems with the Republican establishment over the years. We've got two candidates who represent ties to the Bush and Romney political dynasties. Is this perhaps the wrong time for candidates to be connected to what some might perceive as the politics of the past, as opposed to the politics of the future?

I think there's plenty of evidence that those types of candidates never do well in Colorado, at least at the statewide level. What the establishment did to me last time [when Tancredo ran for governor in the 2014 election] was they took me out over the issue of immigration. Okay, fine. The Republican Governors Association put a quarter of a million dollars into the last weeks of the campaign. We were watching it happen. They claimed that I wanted to give children access to drugs and wanted to legalize the sales of heroin and all kinds of things. And that certainly hurt in the primaries.

So the guy who got it — well, if you look in the dictionary under "Establishment," you'll find Bob Beauprez. They put him in and we lost one statewide race during that election. We won the secretary of state, the attorney general. But we lost one, and that was governor. And I really think that's because these guys are representing an establishment that has no allure for most Coloradans. That, I think, is a problem for them. And I also think that to the extent we can imagine what it's like to be governed by them, I wonder if they would have a forceful agenda.

What's your view of the Democratic field in terms of how formidable candidates can be?

The Democrat establishment doesn't like Jared Polis very much. They were all behind Perlmutter. And let's face it: Perlmutter would have been a much more acceptable candidate to a lot of people. So all of a sudden, here comes Jared Polis saying, "I'm going to put in $30 million." And I'm going to say it: That scared Perlmutter out of the race. So there's a lot of hard feelings in the Democrat establishment. [Polis has] voted on things that have even ticked off the teachers' union. So it's not like he has this great, solid base. But he's got $30 million that he's willing to put in the race. And believe me, $30 million turns a lot of heads. Some people will say, "I may not like the guy that much, but he can beat any Republican because he's got so much money." So I think he's the most formidable candidate we will face.

I don't know the lieutenant governor that well. I do know the state senator a little better, and I know he's a very competent guy — very articulate and very bright. But I think Polis has a lock on it.

Tom Tancredo and supporters strike a pose.
Tom Tancredo and supporters strike a pose.
Facebook

In one of your runs for governor [in 2010], you represented the American Constitution Party, not the Republican Party. If you get the nomination, do you think the Republican Party will get behind you this time around? Or could there still be some sore feelings?

There'll be sore feelings; there's no two ways around that. But here's what will determine if they get behind me, especially financially: polling. If we're close enough, or if I'm leading, I think we can rely on a substantial amount of financial support. Because even if they don't like my politics, don't like my anti-establishment positions on things, they want to win also. They thought Bob Beauprez could have done it. Maybe they've now come to the conclusion that won't work anymore. I don't know. There will be people who'll certainly hold that against me. But I think if I can make it through the primary, I can show that my chances of beating Jared Polis are better than anyone else's. Of course, if I make it through the primary, I'll be the party nominee.

Let's talk about some of the major issues in the campaign. You've already mentioned immigration. Can you give an overview about what your approach to that issue would be as governor, including what you've described as sanctuary cities?

I would do my best to outlaw sanctuary cities. I can't do that unilaterally, but there are financial disincentives that can be applied, and I would absolutely do that. Here's a for-instance: Denver has declared itself not just a sanctuary city, but it's gone a couple of steps beyond that, saying it will fine up to $1,000 any employee who cooperates with ICE. And I'll tell you right now, I would establish a fund, probably with private money, to defend them if that happens. I would also like to see on the ballot, or see something pass through the legislature, that would outlaw sanctuary cities entirely. I would certainly support that and would work toward that end.

Where do you stand on DACA?

Of course, to tell you the truth, I would have nothing to do with it as a governor. But I think it will probably die, for the reason that nobody could figure out a way to deal it over the past six years since it was instituted. Those reasons still exist. So my guess is, there'll be nothing done and it will die. That sets up a whole bunch of other things in terms of how it's dealt with. I'll tell you frankly, I don't think you'll ever see people rounded up if they're children of people here illegally. That's just never going to happen. Some accommodations will eventually be made, perhaps when doing so isn't as politically controversial. But I think DACA is probably on its last legs.

Does it frustrate you to be perceived as a one-issue candidate — someone who's only interested in immigration? And is that a view you hope to correct over the course of the campaign?

Sure — but the issues that I discuss around immigration, including sanctuary cities, are not insignificant issues. They are very, very important to a lot of people. It's a safety factor, to a large extent. So I think it's a big issue and I will talk about it. But there are, of course, other ones that are important.

Population in this state has far outstripped our infrastructure. Everybody knows that. Everybody will talk about that, and everybody has a plan, which is, "Let's build some more roads" — and I'm fine with that. Unless you're a Democrat, in which case your plan is, "Let's build some more light rail."

There are really only two ways of looking at our growth problem, and I believe that we need to reorient our thinking about what is transportation funding. Higher ed has seen its funding grow. But the fact is, the actual dollars, adjusted for inflation, spent on roads — and we're not talking about bike lanes or that kind of thing — has decreased. And so we have to reorient our thinking about what the state's responsibility is. We have to stop thinking that it's the state or certain cities' responsibility to keep people from driving, because the government doesn't like it when you do. The idea is that we're not going to spend any money on roads, and we're going to force people, because it'll be so damned crowded on the highway, to say, "Oh, my God. Let's build some more light rail, so all of these people I'm in line behind will get on that and I can drive."

People want to get in their vehicle and go to where they want to go at the time they want to go. That's an issue that has failed — trying to change human behavior in terms of people's relationship with their automobiles. So you've got to understand that, deal with it — and that means more roads, not just more light rail or bike lanes.

Are you suggesting that instead of raising taxes to build more roads, you'd take money that might otherwise go into other areas, including education, and use it for that purpose?

Yes, I would. But I'll also tell you I'm not opposed to putting a bonding initiative out there and letting the people decide on that.

Tom Tancredo and Texas Senator Ted Cruz during a 2013 hunting excursion.
Tom Tancredo and Texas Senator Ted Cruz during a 2013 hunting excursion.
Twitter

Many candidates for governor talk about education being underfunded and have talked about looking for increases in funding. What's your opinion about that?

Education is not underfunded. It is underperforming. That is true. But it's not because it's underfunded. The system is the problem. The more we have charter schools that focus on curriculum, solid curriculum, the better education will get. It is is a curriculum-driven thing. I've seen it. I was the regional director for the U.S. Department of Education. I handed out blue-ribbon awards to the best-performing schools in six states, and every time I looked at what there was in common about all the schools I was visiting, I recognized that just because a school is public doesn't mean it's bad from a conservative standpoint, and just because it's private doesn't mean it's good. I've seen lousy schools in both environments. The important thing to do is to be able to choose among them — choose the one that best fits the needs of your child.

I put vouchers on the ballot in 1992 in Colorado. But I think there's a better way to do it. I think education savings accounts are better. They come with fewer restrictions. I like that idea, because it enhances choice. Choice is a good thing that's very positive in the area of education. And by the way, I saw good schools that were in incredibly poor areas — ones that received not nearly the amount of support as ones in more affluent areas — but they had a principal who was an education leader. Every time. High-funded schools, low-funded schools, poor schools, rich schools, private schools, public schools, and every one of the schools that got the award had an extraordinary leader. That leader was an education leader, not a cheerleader, and ran a building in that fashion. But how do you get there? You have to get it as a result of providing choice. Otherwise, when you have the teachers' union, which sort of controls the process, as they do in most public school systems, you are not rewarding the best. You are rewarding people who've gotten a certain number of degrees and taught a certain number of years. There are little things they try to tinker with to try and say, "We're rewarding quality." But in the big picture, quality is not important in the funding process. If you want to improve quality education and you want to use funding to do it, I'm all for it. Fund quality. Punish mediocrity.

Health care is another issue that you wouldn't have a great deal of control over as governor — although whatever happens nationally will have a big impact on Colorado. What could you do in the health-care arena as a governor?

I really think the biggest thing a governor can do is publicize the alternatives that are available. It goes back to the same thing we were talking about in schools. When I was at the Independence Institute, we created a school report card. We tried to gather as much information as we possibly could on every school and then we would give them a grade. It wasn't necessarily objective, because all we could do is use the information available to us in the public domain. Well, that idea's grown. Now I think there's even a state agency that does it. And my purpose for doing it was to provide people with information — because choice alone is not enough if you have no information on which to base a decision.

I think that's the same in health care. There are private alternatives to Obamacare even today that are available if people actually knew a lot about them. I think a governor's role would be to say, "Let's do a lot of education on this topic. Let's hold functions that provide information about what people can do under whatever circumstances we find ourselves as a result of the federal government's action or inaction in regard to Obamacare. And certainly, to the extent you can as a governor, I would want to create a wide-open market in Colorado. If someone in Colorado wanted to buy a policy from some place in Massachusetts, they should be able to do so. Doing that alone would increase the competitiveness, and therefore it would reduce costs to consumers. Also, I would be supportive — and was in Congress — [of letting] people buy their prescription drugs from wherever they wanted, including Canada. It would be kind of a caveat emptor thing. The FDA wouldn't approve these drugs, but if you understand that on the front end and still want to do it, you could — and that would create competition in the marketplace. But that's something a governor couldn't unilaterally do.

You were one of the few politicians to come out in favor of Amendment 64, which legalized limited marijuana sales. Since it passed, a lot of observers feel the state government has kept marijuana and the marijuana industry at arm's length. As governor, would you do more to work with the marijuana industry? Or do you think the current approach makes sense?

I think there are regulations that need to be looked at. I recently spoke to a group at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the marijuana initiative's adoption, and I feel very comfortable with my decision. You say I was one of the few politicians to support it, but I was the only Republican in the primary to support it, and that's one reason I lost. But I know why I did it. I told the group, "Losing's no fun." I think I've run eleven races and I've won nine — and they're more fun to win. But if you lose on the principle, something you actually believe in, it takes the edge off. And I believe in the principle of liberty. I don't take marijuana. I don't use marijuana. I don't want my children to. I don't think it's a benign product. But I will tell you, neither is alcohol, and neither is tobacco — and I have no right as a governor to tell you as an adult that you cannot ingest whatever you want into your body. That decision is yours. It may be a stupid decision. It may be perfectly healthy. But it is not my business as a member of government.

We railed against [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg when he said people shouldn't be able to drink however many ounces of soda. We said, "What the hell right do you have to tell people how much soda they can drink?" And we were right to do so. But the same people who were complaining about that will tell you, "I don't like you taking marijuana and we're going to make a law against it." No, no, no, no, no. That is not conservative. Not in my book.

This little experiment in liberty is working. Now, are there bumps in the road? Absolutely. Will there be more? Absolutely. I believe we have to do far more to make sure children aren't negatively affected by the legalization of marijuana. I don't think anybody thought much about edibles when this whole thing was done, and I think it's incredibly important to regulate this to deal with the temptation when a kid looks at a gummy bear that has a lot of THC in it or things like that....

We need to do a lot more about THC and Delta-9 over the potency issue, too. When we were involved in this, I never heard anybody talk about the possibility that the potency levels would increase dramatically because of legalization. What you're doing, you're doing to yourself. But we have to find out more about this. We don't really have a lot of information on this, and there's all kinds of research that needs to be done.

We also need to look at teenagers getting thousands of medical marijuana cards. I think if you're under 21 and want to get a medical marijuana card, it's got to be for a very specific problem — something well understood that it can be treated by marijuana. I think that's being taken advantage of, and that's another thing the state needs to look at. But I'm certainly not upset that we've begun this experiment in freedom.

There's been a lot of debate about the possibility of Amazon locating its second headquarters in the Denver-Boulder area. What are your thoughts about that?

I would never support and did not support when I was in the state legislature giving companies money or any other sort of advantage to come to Colorado. Not only do I think it's really stupid at this point in time, when our population has outstripped our infrastructure's ability to support it, but I don't like it philosophically. If Colorado is a good place to come for a variety of reasons, come on and you'll be welcome — but not because you'd be bribed to come here.

At the outset of this conversation, you talked about how you expected the race to be ugly and thought your opponents would use any means necessary to try to destroy you. Do you look forward to that kind of fight? Or is it frustrating that the prospect is out there?

It is. I keep thinking about the coarseness of American politics today. People will say, "Tancredo is outspoken and gets a lot of people mad." But even when protesters were throwing rocks at windows when I was trying to speak, as they did when I was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have never attempted to stop anyone else from speaking, no matter how much I don't like it. I would never, ever think it would be appropriate to use violence in order to accomplish a political goal, unless you're living under tyranny. Things have gotten so bad that people are driven to do bad things — like shooting up a baseball practice trying to kill as many Republicans as they can. Or all these threats against Cabinet members who have to have 24/7 protection. That is absolutely ugly, and I certainly don't want to do anything to add to it. But I'm not going to say, "Because of that, I can't run." It's just another hurdle to overcome.

It's a tough one, though. You've got to think of your family, because it's not just you. I have been the subject of so many vile epithets that I've grown a tougher skin. But my grandchildren would hear things on the radio and say to their mom, "Are they talking about Grandpa? How can they say things like that?" And that's hurtful. I told my daughter-in-law, "I never thought I'd say this, but when you're driving them to school, just listen to NPR, because there are no commercials. They still hate me, but they're not as hateful as the commercials run by your opponents."

Tom Tancredo met the press after his latest gubernatorial announcement.
Tom Tancredo met the press after his latest gubernatorial announcement.
CBS4 via YouTube

A lot of people associate the coarseness of politics right now with Donald Trump, whom you've consistently supported. Do you wish he would express himself differently and do more to bring people together rather than dividing them? Or do you see these kinds of charges as talking points for the Democrats that aren't accurate?

I think that's scapegoating. If anyone has done real damage to America from the standpoint of splitting us apart, it's Barack Obama and the Democrat Party, which has worked for years to create victimized groups and classes. Sexual-orientation groups and linguistic groups and ethnic groups. You name it. Their whole playbook is to divide and then go after those groups and say, "We'll take care of you. Everything will be fine. We'll take care of The Man."

We've had all of this race-baiting stuff that goes on, and all of the class warfare that's been supported and engendered by Barack Obama. Then along comes Donald Trump, who's certainly been injudicious about some of the things he says. But the divisions were there.

I'd give anything if I could figure out a way to bring people together, as I think we used to be to a greater extent. We've never been perfect. There have always been divisions: economic, cultural and so on. But there's been nothing like we see today. To the extent that you can heal those wounds, I would put that as a very high priority. What a governor can do I don't know. The issue of politics enters into our national discussion at a certain level, and it's totally appropriate. But we've lost a feeling of commonality, of being American.

There are so many things that pull us apart regularly. With massive immigration, you're going to have people from all over the world with different attitudes, opinions, ideas. You have to think: How should we think about this? And you need to have things that encourage assimilation and get rid of this idea that if anybody is of a different color or sexual orientation or anything, other people are naturally going to be against them. The government has one role, and that's to make sure the playing field is even. Or to put it another way, there's no obstacle to anyone, and all the gates will open at the same time.

When you begin to intervene in the process, all kinds of things happen in a negative way, not the least of which is that you encourage this divisiveness and this idea that whatever bad things happen to people, it's because of whatever class you happen to be in.

That's only natural. Look at it this way. If I told you that your particular color or ethnic background or hair color was the cause of every bad thing that happens to you, you'll eventually start looking for scapegoats. It's easier to say, "It's not me. It's because of my color or my race. That's why everything bad is happening to me." Anxiety grows. Animosity grows. Where is the fine line you can draw between what is happening to you because of the actions you take and whatever color or sexual orientation you are? It's hard. But we need to encourage people to think about their own decisions and how they affect what's happening to them. Certainly I've made a lot of bad ones in my life....

It's not a good thing when we encourage people to divide up into classes and groups. We have Balkanized and tribalized America. I think we need a common language. With all the things that drive us apart, we need at least one thing that holds us together, and I believe that should be a common language. I believe children should be introduced to the English language as quickly as possible and they should be immersed in it. So there's another educational goal I would certainly pursue. I have nothing against being bilingual. I wish I was bilingual. But I have a real concern about people who've been here for years and have not developed English-language skills that would help create a successful future for them. And it's also important from the standpoint of bringing us together. I want to do that.

The allegations that I rail against are those brought against me for being divisive. I'd do anything to have a country that's more homogeneous, if you will. And I'm not talking about color. I'm talking about the idea of America. Homogeneous about that — about who we are as a nation and why this place called America is important. It's got warts, but the process of America is to perfect. That's what our history has been. We are better. And we've done that as a result of being the kind of republic that we are. That's the only way this amalgamation of people and people groups have worked — because people did assimilate. That's not happening as much anymore, and that's the kind of thing I worry about.

I don't care if people come out of that assimilation process as Democrats or Republicans or anything else. It's not that. It's just that above it all, we see ourselves as Americans — and then we can argue about the process underneath it. But it's very disconcerting to me about how much we've abandoned the concept of a homogeneous society. It's not a good thing, I don't think....

Over your political career, you've acknowledged when you're a long shot — for example, in 2008, when you ran for president. But this time around, you seem pretty confident. Do you feel like you've got a really good shot in 2018?

I do — and if I didn't, I would never have gotten into this. I don't have a desire to simply win a primary and lose a general.

My motivation is to be governor and to not have Jared Polis as governor. So that's primary.

My 2008 run for president was a beau geste. I talked about it. I said, "I'll never be president. I'm not going to be nominated to be president. I only have one purpose, which is to make the tall guys with good hair on this stage talk about the issue of immigration and border security." That was it. My only purpose. But that's not the same thing that motivates me at this point in my life. I think I have an excellent chance to win the primary and a very good chance to win the general.

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