Dick Wadhams: If Tom Tancredo files to run for governor, it's Republicans' "worst nightmare"

Dick Wadhams, head of Colorado's Republican Party, doesn't mince words when it comes to Tom Tancredo's ultimatum to Scott McInnis and Dan Maes.

Instead, he slices, dices and purées the very notion of a Tancredo candidacy in stronger language than he usually deploys against Democrats.

"If it plays out with Tancredo going ahead and filing as an American Constitution Party candidate and he stays in the race, it's the worst nightmare," Wadhams says. "It'll affect our entire ticket, and I think he needs to comes to grips with it."

In Wadhams' view, "Tancredo has been very dishonest in how he's presenting this. He's creating a false choice: 'These candidates have to get out right now or I have no choice but to get in.' But what we need to do is allow this primary to go forward, to have a winner on August 10 -- and then that winner will have to decide whether they're a valid, strong candidate against John Hickenlooper or not."

In regard to McInnis and Maes, Wadhams gives neither of them a ringing endorsement.

"Both of these candidates have been severely damaged in the last two weeks," he concedes.

Does that mean Wadhams agrees with Tancredo that both McInnis and Maes have no shot to top Hickenlooper?

"That's the question," Wadhams maintains, "and I don't think we can answer that until we get through the primary. We need to see what happens the next eighteen days, and then we'll have the winner decide how viable they are, and let the candidate's supporters weigh in on that decision as well. But the notion that somehow this has to be done right now is just wrong."

What's Tancredo's motivation? Wadhams doesn't hesitate to speculate.

"I can come to no other conclusion than that he's intent on becoming a candidate," he says. "He relishes the attention he got during the [2008] presidential campaign, and at all costs, he wants to get that national attention again as a third-party candidate. But he's being dishonest with the people of Colorado and with Republicans when he says he has no choice to get in if they won't get out. There's a clear mechanism to put another candidate on the ballot if a vacancy occurs without a third party siphoning off votes in November. It doesn't take Tom Tancredo to force this issue now, so we can find some excuse to get on the ballot."

Last November, Tancredo said he fully intended to run for governor. But before he could pull the campaign trigger, he signed on to McInnis's unity platform and headed to the sidelines. Although this move could be seen as selfless, Wadhams characterizes it very differently.

"Guess what, Tom," he says. "You could have gotten in this race in 2010. You could have put yourself in front of hundreds of thousands of voters -- but you didn't have the guts to do it. And then you waited until the last minute and cut a deal with a party with 2,000 members to get yourself on the ballot."

That's not all. Wadhams says Tancredo knows his entry into the governor's race would split the vote, pointing to a December 2009 open letter to Tea Party and 9.12 Project members in which he urged them to stay true to the Republican cause rather than launching a third party of their own. He wrote:

Some patriots are tempted to launch a third political party or back one of the existing small parties that never attract more than one or two percent of the vote in state races. I strongly believe that such a course is suicidal and would only result in splitting the conservative vote and guaranteeing the re-election of liberals and socialists.

"I find that terribly ironic," Wadhams maintains, adding, "if he was sincere about what his goal was, which is to defeat John Hickenlooper, he wouldn't be doing what he's doing. To suddenly enter this thing and create a false, dishonest choice of either 'You pull out now or I'm getting in' is only furthering Tom Tancredo's ambitions, and it does nothing but help elect John Hickenlooper in November."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts