From Elitch's to Aspen: Party-switching Tancredo seeks to demonize Maes, legalize marijuana
Colorado gubernatorial candidate tied knot in Aspen in 1977
He only had one mission in mind and that was to force his GOP opponents to take a stance on illegal immigration.
But his run for governor of Colorado is different.
“The difference is when I was running for president, I really thought we had candidates who were competent,” Tancredo told Real Aspen in an interview Friday. “That's not the case in this race.”
So undesirable is Maes to Tancredo that he decided to run for governor at the eleventh hour, dropping his decades' long affiliation with the Republican Party to join the American Constitution Party.
Tancredo told Real Aspen he is convinced Maes recently asked GOP supporter Freda Poundstone for money saying he needed it because he was a couple of months behind on his mortgage and that now Maes is lying about it. (At first Maes told The Denver Post he wasn't sure whether Poundstone's money was a gift or a campaign contribution, but now says it was the latter. He also claims Poundstone gave him $300. Poundstone claims Maes is lying and that the sum she gave him is greater than $300.)
“The Republican party fielded a candidate for this office that is completely wrong,” Tancredo said in an interview Friday with Aspen resident Mike McGarry that will be airing on GrassRoots Community TV next week.
In the beginning, Tancredo had a horse in the race, Josh Penry — “a young dynamic, I thought up-and-coming star in the Republican party,” he said — but his horse dropped out. When the GOP was left with just Maes and former Western Slope congressman Scott McInnis, who became immersed in a plagiarism scandal, Tancredo said he grew concerned for his party and started thinking about running.
“At the time Scott McInnis was a much better pick and in fact today he is,” Tancredo said. “I recognize all of Scott's problem but I'm telling you, in comparison to what we've got … When they were the last two standing and we became aware of the problems Scott had, and I was certainly aware of the problems Maes had, I said just make a public statement that on Aug. 10 if you're not ahead of Mayor Hickenlooper (the Democratic gubernatorial candidate), you will resign and we'll put someone in who will win. They chose not to, so when it came time I thought to myself there is no way I can possibly sit here and watch this shipwreck occur.”
“The odds are not great. Historically that's been the case for third-party candidates,” Tancredo told Real Aspen. “But this has been a strange year for politics in Colorado.”
Born in Denver, Tancredo has come a long way in his political career. At the age of 16, he was hired to sweep the park at Elitch Gardens, where he returned when the weather warmed year after year, and was soon promoted as summer manager. He stayed with Elitch's for 10 years. Working at an amusement park was fun and it helped him pay his way through college: two years at a junior college in Sterling and then another two years at what was then called Colorado State College but is now University of Northern Colorado in Greeley where he studied education. In 1970, he became a junior high school civics teacher at the highest-paying school district in the state, Jefferson County, where in nine months he said he made $6,000, which he laughed is the exact same as he made in three months at Elitch's.
But it was in the classroom that Tancredo launched his political career.
One day he gave his civics class an assignment: If they were to get involved in a political race or campaign, he would run for office. He thought it might motivate 10 students. But it motivated all 32.
So he put a list on the chalkboard of various offices he could run for: city council, mayor, county commissioner and so forth. Ultimately he and his students decided on state legislature. He ran and won.
After two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, in 1981 then-President Ronald Reagan appointed Tancredo head of the regional office of the U.S. Department of Education in Denver where he stayed on through 1992 with the first Bush administration. He went on to serve five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives where he rose to national prominence for opposing illegal immigration.
That he sat down with McGarry in Aspen reinforces the old saying that “politics make strange bedfellows.” McGarry is a friend of former Gov. Richard Lamm, and both are on the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform advisory board, along with former Aspen City Councilman Terry Paulson. Tancredo and Lamm, a Democrat, have been fierce political foes in Colorado dating back to the 1970s.
One of the more candid moments in McGarry's interview with Tancredo was when he asked him about legalizing marijuana. Tancredo said he is opposed to the drug war — a position he took up last year.
“Do you want to?” McGarry interjected.
“Not really. I take about two glasses of wine almost every night with dinner. That's as far as I go,” Tancredo laughed. “The reality is this: The war is lost. I don't know that anyone out there can say to me let's just keep doing what we're doing. If you want to deal with this problem, take the money for the cartels out of it. You legalize it, you tax it, you make it a horrendous penalty to sell to children and, all of a sudden, the ratio of profitability to risk becomes too great. If someone has a better idea, let me know. I'm happy to listen but what we're doing does not work.”
Tancredo also revealed that he and his wife, Jackie, who taught at the same junior high school when they met, were married in Aspen in 1977. So he's fond of Aspen even if he's not sure of its politics.
Tancredo mentioned Aspen in his discussion of “sanctuary cities,” which by his definition are ones where local law enforcement doesn't report all illegal immigrants they contact to federal authorities.
“We have lots (of sanctuary cities) in Colorado and this may be one, I can't remember for sure,” Tancredo said. “It is against the law – against the federal law and the state law – for a city to actually tell your police force or sheriff's department that if you have contact with a person who is here illegally, you will not report that to ICE. That's a sanctuary city. … There is a law. Enforce that law.”
He disputed a recent Colorado Independent report that challenged his view that Denver is a sanctuary city. He said that it is the practice of the police there not to report all illegal immigrants they come in contact with, which, in his mind, makes Denver a sanctuary city. The Colorado Independent reasoned differently. Tancredo called the Colorado Independent article “hilarious” and said he has sent a letter to the website, which he noted is funded by left-leaning donors, and he hopes that it will get printed.
The last message Tancredo put out in Aspen is that he is for “less government” and “more freedom.”
“There will be no taxes without the vote of the people — you can call them fees, it doesn't matter, they're taxes. No more fees or taxes imposed on the people of this state without their vote,” he said.
That mantra is the first item in Tancredo's proposed Contract with Colorado. Read more about it here.
You can also read his recent editorial calling for President Obama's impeachment here.
The election is Nov. 2.
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