Did he or didn’t he? The local conservative blog Rocky Mountain Right reports retiring Congressman Tom Tancredo told a Republican group last week he intends to run for governor in 2010. Tancredo’s spokesman told PolitickerCO.com on Sunday night that his boss was joking, but the blog stands by the report and insists the “Tancredo candidacy is no joke.”
Tancredo, who staged a fruitless run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is stepping down after five terms representing the 6th Congressional District in the south suburban Denver area. Speculation is rampant about whether the anti-illegal immigration firebrand plans to challenge Gov. Bill Ritter or Sen. Ken Salazar in 2010. Earlier this month, Rocky Mountain Right cited a series of attacks on Ritter as evidence of Tancredo’s gubernatorial intentions.
At the monthly Mountain Republican Women’s Club dinner on Thursday, Oct. 23, Tancredo joked about running for office with Frances Owens, the ex-wife of former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, but it was just “lighthearted banter,” said Tancredo spokesman T.L. Houlton. “The Congressman said to Mrs. Owens that if she would run for Lieutenant Governor, he would run for Governor,” Houlton wrote in an e-mail to PolitickerCO.com.
Rocky Mountain Right’s Anthony Surace agrees Tancredo joked about running with the former first lady but maintains his report was “not based on the joke but rather on direct questioning (Tancredo) received following his speech when he was ‘working the crowd’.”
Officers of the Mountain Republican Women’s Club did not return phone calls from the Colorado Independent Sunday night.
Surace is no disinterested observer. In fact, he foresees looming disaster for Colorado Republicans if Tancredo challenges Ritter:
He would be running against an incumbent governor who is most vulnerable on fiscal issues, an issue that Tancredo lacks all credibility on following his vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout plan.
An even larger problem is Tancredo’s recent tendency to go beyond merely advocating an end to illegal immigration and call for an end to legal immigration as well. When Tancredo launched his quixotic presidential campaign he tossed his lot in with the Buchanans and fully embraced their “culture war” against all immigrants. McCain and Schaffer are facing an uphill battle in this state largely because droves of hispanics who supported Bush in 2004 have been alienated by Tancredo and his heated rhetoric the last four years, putting him up as a GOP standard-bearer in 2010 would cause conservatives and Republicans to be out of power in Colorado for at least a generation.