Tom Tancredo is busy these days. He just wrote the April Fools' edition of Ask a Mexican. He has a real new job, as a marketing exec with a local investment company, so that others won't lose their nest eggs to a Bernie Madoff character, as he did. He's repairing the damage done by an e-mail hacker (who had Tancredo and his wife held hostage in Wales). But even if Tancredo weren't so busy, he wouldn't have gone to the State Republican Party Convention this past weekend.
Yes, the five-term congressman is again a Republican, after his quixotic run for governor of Colorado on the American Constitution Party ticket -- a run that wound up with Tancredo getting 36 percent of the vote, and Republican nominee Dan Maes barely squeaking past the major-party requirement of 10 percent.
And even until early September, Tancredo had been willing to drop out of the race so the Republicans could nominate a potential winner -- but Maes refused to do the same -- as outgoing party chair Dick Wadhams revealed in a recent interview with Jon Caldara.
But that doesn't mean Tancredo is enough of a team player to sit through the convention (although Maes was there). "I keep thinking about how irrelevant the party is," he says. "That's one reason I didn't go. I can't get excited about it... because of the status quo results of this election, they still have people like Bill Owens, those folks, pulling the strings."
He did support one of the five people running to replace Wadhams -- state senator Ted Harvey (who neglected to list Tancredo on his roster of supporters). But Ryan Call, the legal counsel for the party, won the spot on the first round of voting. If he'd known it would be that easy for a party insider to get the seat, Tancredo wonders, would Wadhams would have gone for another term? Wadhams had complained about the nuts in the party, but there have always been nuts, Tancredo says -- and he should know.
"They pretend like it's the Tea Party: Baloney," he notes. "This division has been there since I can remember."
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Then again, he acknowledges that he's had a "spotty, rocky" relationship with the party even back in the mid-'70s, when he first decided to run for the state legislature. "From the day I got into politics, this battle has been going on," he says. "Nothing has changed." At one point in 1976, Tancredo and the other so-called "House Crazies' decided to try to oust the House speaker, an old-school party member. "This is my first party fight, and we thought we had it... we thought we had it by one vote," he remembers. "The night of the election, we're waiting and waiting, and no one would call it to order." Then a couple of party hacks carried in a dead-drunk legislator -- "they had to raise his hand" -- and the rebellion was quashed
Thirty-five years later, Tancredo isn't relying on the party to make the difference in this country. "From the standpoint of all the things I'd like to see accomplished, I see that as coming from individuals," he says. "They become political stars based on their own abilities, own personalities... The party becomes less and less relevant from a personal standpoint."
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "James Mejia is at home in the Denver mayor's race -- maybe your home."