Citing insufficient resources, Republican Tom Tancredo drops out of Colorado governor’s race

Author: Ernest Luning - January 30, 2018 - Updated: January 31, 2018

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, discusses his campaign at a Capitol Hill restaurant before a visit to the state Capitol in Denver on Jan. 11, 2018, to hear Gov. John Hickenlooper delvier his final State of the State address. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo is ending his bid for the Republican nomination for Colorado governor on Tuesday because he hasn’t raised the money he believes would be necessary to win an expensive election against a wealthy Democrat willing to spend millions on his campaign, Colorado Politics has learned.

“I do not want to win a primary and lose a general, and I fear that was where we were going,” he told Colorado Politics in an interview.

“Even though I’m the front-runner — you make it through a primary, and then all hell breaks loose, you have millions upon millions of dollars spent attacking you, and you can’t respond, you don’t have the resources to respond. It appeared to me the goal — winning the general, that was the main goal — and it does not appear to me to be feasible.”

One of nine announced GOP candidates for governor, Tancredo has led the pack by wide margins in every publicly available poll. He’s run for governor twice before — in 2010 as a third-party candidate, when he lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper but received more than three times as many votes as the Republican nominee, and in 2014, when he came in second in a four-way Republican primary.

Tancredo said he was confident he could win the June primary election but anticipated his campaign would be overwhelmed by Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, one of the wealthiest members of Congress , who has already spent nearly $1.4 million on his campaign.

“The thing is this, when you look at it and you recognize what you’re up against and you realize the lack of resources you have to defend yourself throughout this process, you say the risks are too high,” Tancredo told Colorado Politics.

“I can’t do this and risk taking resources away from other Republican races. i can’t risk doing this and allowing Polis to win as a result of being able to make me into the devil incarnate because he has the resources to do it, and I don’t have the resources to respond. The risks are too high given where we are and given the financial situation that exists in my campaign. I don’t want to do anything that would turn this state over to a Democrat, especially at this point in time.”

Tancredo said he doesn’t plan to make an endorsement in the primary but will back the Republican nominee.

Other Republicans in the race to succeed Hickenlooper, who faces term limits, include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who reported raising nearly $1 million through the end of the year, and Victor Mitchell, a former state lawmaker and entrepreneur, who had about $2 million left in the bank at the end of the year after writing his campaign a $3 million check when he got in the race.

Polis is one of five leading Democrats in the running, also including Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman and civic leader Noel Ginsburg.

Tancredo said his campaign team decided before he announced his run three months ago that he needed to raise $150,000 by the middle of January in order to mount a viable campaign — but when the time came, had fallen far short.

“At the beginning of our effort, two weeks before I ever announced, we had a meeting and talked about my prospects — what we had on my side and what we had going against us. We knew the media — the Denver Post, Channel 9, that group — would be working as hard as any Democrats against me. We knew the Democrats would have a lot of money and that the Republican establishment would not support my effort,” he said. “So we established a threshold  — that we would have $150,000 in contributions by Jan 15 and, if we didn’t, we would recognize the attempt was probably futile. Jan 15 came, and we didn’t have anywhere near $150,000.”

According to campaign finance reports filed earlier this month, Tancredo raised  $74,480 through the end of the year and had $62,996 in the bank. He said his campaign had about $50,000 on hand this week.

“I thought, holy mackerel, this is not going to get any better. I could not see how we could accomplish the goal with the few resources we have,” he said.

Tancredo said he wasn’t sure whether his campaign’s insufficient fundraising was due to his own diminished appeal or could portend problems for Republicans.

“I can only speculate,” he said. “I have to think that there are a lot of people who said — because we heard this over and over again — ‘Tom, great guy, terrific fellow, but can you really do this this time?’ I think there was a sort of reluctance. It could be nobody on our side is doing much fundraising except, God bless him, Walker. He’s got a Rolodex no one else has. It may be just a phenomenon of the Republican brand or it could be, ‘Hey look, guys, I tried and it didn’t work.’

“I do not know exactly why, but I can tell you it’s discouraging, that’s for sure. But there’s no running away from it, there’s no pretending — I just can’t put a bright smiley face on very lackluster fundraising.”

Tancredo said he plans to offer donors a pro-rated share of the remaining funds and will consider distributing what’s left over to other campaigns or conservative causes.

Although he said it wasn’t a factor in his decision to withdraw, the veteran campaigner — Tancredo was elected to his first term in the Colorado Legislature more than 40 years ago, won five congressional races and mounted a short-lived presidential run a decade ago, in addition to his two previous runs for governor — said the political climate feels even nastier than it has in the past.

“Especially in terms of the vitriolic nature of the opposition, I have never — the hate that absolutely spews out of these people,” he said and paused for a moment. “I have always been a controversial figure. Every race I’ve run, there have always been a lot of people calling me names. but nothing compares to this. That’s also a reflection of the state of politics in the nation. That certainly makes the whole process less attractive, undeniably. It is so ugly.
It’s so much more — the hatred is so much deeper. You just wonder what’s happening. You do.”

A firebrand and a lightning rod — because of his outspoken, hardline positions on immigration policy — Tancredo noted he’s no stranger to angry protesters and recalled the time a brick came sailing through a window at an event where he was scheduled to deliver a speech.

“I’m not afraid of that kind of thing. I’m just observing that’s far worse than I’ve ever seen it.”

As for Republicans’ chances of winning the office the GOP has held just two of the last 11 terms, Tancredo said he’s convinced only an unabashed — and well-funded — conservative can pull it off.

“I can see no advantage running as a Democrat-lite,” he said. “If you have enough money to identify someone like Jared Polis, how incredibly liberal he is — this is not just a typical left-wing candidate, he is far beyond that. But it will take resources to get people to understand that. If you can do that, and if Polis is the candidate — I think he’s going to be the candidate — I think he’s beatable, but it would take resources. If the Republican Party and if (independent expenditure committees) get involved in a big way, then I think you’ve got a shot at it.”

Tancredo paused and let out a low chuckle.

“I know Colorado is turning bluer, but I don’t think it’s that blue yet.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.

One comment

  • Etaoin Shrdlu

    January 30, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Insufficient mental and intellectual resources.


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