Tancredo, Curry give boost to third-party candidacies

By David O. Williams
Real AspenNovember 22, 2010
Third-party campaigning gained ground in 2010.
Trussell & Trussell '10

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams is plenty worried about the precedent set by former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo’s high profile gubernatorial run as a candidate for the American Constitution Party (ACP).

According to the Durango Herald, Wadhams last week again decried the September ruling by a Denver district judge allowing minor-party vacancy committees to pick any candidate they choose as long as they’re a registered voter of the party.

The decision allowed the ACP to select Tancredo after the August primary in a last-minute bid to undercut Republican primary winner Dan Maes and take on eventual winner John Hickenlooper.

Wadhams and Republican attorney Richard Westfall, who sued to try to get Tancredo off the ballot, told the Herald they think third-party candidates should have to switch parties by Jan. 1 of the election year, with no exceptions for vacancy committees.

“We are already seeing the slow destruction of political parties through these stupid campaign-finance referendums,” Wadhams told the Herald, referring to restrictions on large donations to political parties. He added third parties can now pluck major party candidates who don’t want to face a primary.

“I happen to think that strong political parties are essential to a healthy political process,” Wadhams said. His counterpart, Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak, said she isn’t as concerned, pointing out Tancredo and three-term state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a defector from the Democratic Party who made a strong state House run as an independent, are both well-known to voters – unlike most third-party candidates.

“I think these are two very unusual circumstances,” Waak told the Herald. “I just don’t see this as something that sets a new standard.” But other observers argue it’s now easier to run as an unaffiliated candidate.

Curry managed to get the State Legislature to change the deadline for defecting from a major party and running as an independent candidate to Jan. 1 of election year, and she’s still legally challenging the fact that major party candidates can raise twice as much campaign cash because of primaries.

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