Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

American Constitution Party faces major headaches as a major Colorado party

The Colorado Republicans held their caucuses last month. The Colorado Democrats have launched a caucus locator to help members find their caucus sites tonight. And the American Constitution Party, the state's third major party? "We're going to do the best job we can," says Doug Campbell. "Let the chips fall where they may."

The American Constitution Party didn't set out to become a major party in Colorado. That honor was thrust upon it after Tom Tancredo made a run for governor on the ACP ticket (Campbell, who had been the party's lieutenant governor candidate, stepped aside so that Tancredo could bring on his own running mate, Pat Miller) and wound up getting 36 percent of the vote in the race against John Hickenlooper and Dan Maes.

According to Section 1-1-104(22), Colorado Revised Statutes, a major political party is "any political party...whose candidate at the last preceding gubernatorial election received at least 10 percent of the total gubernatorial votes cast." By dint of Tancredo's total, the Colorado Secretary of State's office informed American Constitution Party officials last year that "the American Constitution Party is now a major party and subject to the rights and responsibilities of major parties in Colorado."

Those "rights and responsibilities" include holding caucuses today across the state, in precincts where the ACP may not have any members. With fewer than 4,000 members, it doesn't have money for fancy locator systems, or even a major e-mail blast. "All of a sudden, we have to run our party the way the two other parties say we have to run our party," Campbell points out. "We had a perfectly fair system, the way we ran our party."

And the work won't be done once the caucuses are over. After that, the ACP is charged with holding county assemblies, and then a state assembly, even though no one from the party is currently running for the single state-wide office that's open. "In a couple of counties, we only know of one precinct caucus," Campbell says. "We were thinking of adjourning from that right into the county assembly." But they decided against that, because they wouldn't be able to give all members advance notice, and they didn't want to set up any obstacles to participating in party activities.

To smooth things in the figure, Campbell plans to talk to a few legislators, to see if they'll push for changes in the statute that would designate major parties based on the size of their membership -- say, 10,000 or 12,000 -- rather than on the number of gubernatorial votes. "At that point, we could decide whether we wanted to be a major party or not," he says. "Do we have a choice, or are we going to have greatness thrust upon us? That's the way the statute reads.... You must become a major party, whether you want to or not."

Colorado's Republican Party barely kept its major-party status when Maes squeaked past 10 percent of the vote in that 2010 election. As for Tancredo? He's changed his registration back to Republican.

Where Tom Tancredo goes, trouble -- usually for someone else -- follows. Read about an example in "Tom Tancredo offers his endorsement in the Denver mayor's race: Viva Chris Romer!"

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun