Tancredo proud to be out of step
`Not the traditional Republican candidate'
Over the years, Tom Tancredo has been called an extremist and a racist and countless other pejoratives.
And, most recently, a fellow Republican in a crowded GOP field looking to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said that a Tancredo nomination “spells disaster for Colorado Republicans.”
Tancredo has heard it all before.
“I would like to think that there is a pretty significant chunk of the constituency out there who say they support Tom Tancredo because there's not necessarily an issue as there is an attitude that they happen to like,” Tancredo said during a recent and far-reaching interview with Colorado Community Media.
“I'm not afraid to say the things that I say and do the things I do in terms of public policy and I'm someone who has a well-honed view on these things.”
If there has ever been a lightning rod in Colorado politics, it's Tancredo. A former congressman who represented the state's 6th Congressional District for 10 years, Tancredo has made a political life out of taking polarizing — and sometimes eyebrow-raising — positions on key issues.
And, deciding in 2010 that Dan Maes wasn't an appropriate choice for the Republican nomination for governor, Tancredo waged a third-party candidacy against Hickenlooper and finished in second place, well ahead of Maes.
Tancredo's views on issues may come as a surprise to some. He supported Amendment 64, which legalized retail marijuana sales in the state. And Tancredo said in the interview that he doesn't have a problem with gay marriage, but hopes there is a way to protect those who hold religious convictions against gay marriage from having to perform ceremonies.
“It's not my relationship of choice but ... I don't care what people do,” he said.
Tancredo, a resident of Lakewood, is familiar with the issues that he'll have to deal with as governor. He supports hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” but understands the concerns among certain communities that would like more control over drilling that occurs in their towns.
Tancredo used his support of legalized marijuana as example of that balance.
“I supported Amendment 64, and one of the reasons I did so was the fact that it provided local control,” he said. “Local communities have a right to say no to establishments if they want. I have that same sort of gut-level reaction to this fracking thing. I can support fracking, but I can also support local control, depending on how it looks, how it's framed.”
Tancredo holds the same philosophy when it comes to education. Tancredo, who worked in the U.S. Department of Education during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, doesn't believe in a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to teaching kids.
“The idea of one kind of system, no matter how well-intentioned the people who are in it … the idea that that system can accommodate all the kids in the state is a misinterpretation of the phenomena of education,” he said.
Tancredo doesn't like much of what Hickenlooper has done in office. But he was especially angered by the governor's decision to grant a temporary reprieve to Nathan Dunlap, a death row inmate who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993.
Tancredo entered the governor's race after Hickenlooper's decision, which neither commuted nor went forward with Dunlap's execution.
“I just wish that whatever he did was based on some heartfelt and well-thought-out position on it, based on, I don't know, whatever,” Tancredo said. “To say I don't know what good it would be (to execute Dunlap) ... I think that does not speak well of his integrity.”
But the issue Tancredo is known for here and at the national level is illegal immigration. Tancredo is a hard-liner on this issue and some of positions — such as his support for erecting a fence along the Mexican border — concerns some GOP members who worry that the party is already in trouble with Latino voters.
In a recent op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is also running for governor, said that a Tancredo nomination “spells disaster for Colorado Republicans.”
And a Gazette editorial called on Gessler and Mike Kopp to drop out of the race to make it easier for former Congressman Bob Beauprez to defeat Tancredo.
Tancredo believes that those fears are misplaced. And his views on illegal immigration haven't changed, regardless of the fact that Latinos are growing in electoral strength.
“A Republican candidate, any Republican candidate, no matter how pro-amnesty or moderate they are on the issue, however you want to describe it, will get about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote. That's it,” Tancredo said. “It doesn't change whether it's John McCain or Tom Tancredo.
“I assure you this, that if all those folks who are coming across that southern border were coming in here and voting Republican, there'd be a wall on that southern border 2,500 feet high with broken glass on the top. Because the issue is political. It's political, but it's not racial. That's the thing that's important. There's nothing, absolutely nothing about this issue that has anything to do with race. It is geographic and economic.”
Tancredo is not a run-of-the-mill Republican — and that's exactly why he believes he's the best guy win back the governor's mansion for his party.
“The only reason why I'm doing this is because I think I can win because I am not the typical Republican candidate,” Tancredo said. “If you run a traditional candidate and a traditional campaign, you will have a traditional outcome — and that is we lose.”