Skip to comments.TARGET: Tom Tancredo (Warned "never to darken the door of the White House again.")
Posted on 11/18/2002 6:23:24 PM PST by Mark Felton
November 18, 2002
Target: Tom Tancredo
Some Say GOPPrimary Challenge Likely
By Josh Kurtz He represents one of the most conservative districts in the nation. He just trounced his Democratic challenger by 37 points. Yet Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) may be one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the 2004 election cycle.
Tancredo, a controversial, outspoken voice for the Republican right who is entering his third term, has angered leading Republicans back home and in the White House.
The House Member's criticisms of President Bush's immigration policy bought him a 40-minute rebuke earlier this year from Bush adviser Karl Rove, who, in the Congressman's own words, warned him "never to darken the door of the White House again." And his decision to renounce his pledge to serve only three terms has infuriated powerful Colorado Republicans, including his political patron, former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R).
"I'll be surprised if he doesn't have a primary [in 2004]," said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Colorado pollster.
Several Republicans, including popular state Treasurer Mike Coffman, who just won a landslide re-election of his own, are considering taking on Tancredo in the '04 primary.
Other potential candidates include state Sen. Jim Dyer (R) and former Arapahoe County Commissioner Steve Ward. "It's a given" that someone will run against the 56-year-old lawmaker, Coffman said. "There are questions about his term-limit pledge. When you have someone like Senator Armstrong, who was his mentor, backing away from him - I think that resonates."
Armstrong was instrumental in getting Tancredo elected in the first place, endorsing him over four strong opponents in a competitive GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Dan Schaefer (R) in 1998. By Tancredo's reckoning, Armstrong's blessing was worth 3 points at the polls - which just happened to be his margin of victory in the primary.
Even though he may not seek re-election in 2004 - and would consider running for Senate if Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) retires - he has chucked the term-limit promise nevertheless.
"The term-limit pledge in and of itself is not the deciding factor if he will run again," said Tancredo spokeswoman Lara Kennedy.
Like all Members who change their minds on term limits, Tancredo has cast his decision as being in the best interests of his district and pet causes. Tancredo wants to preserve his seniority for his suburban district south of Denver and angle for better committee assignments. Plus, he does not want to lose the momentum he has built fighting the government's open immigration policies, Kennedy said. Tancredo is the founder of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.
While plenty of politicians have broken their term-limit pledges before, including Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.), Tancredo's decision is more noteworthy because he once headed Colorado's term-limit organization.
"All too often you have terrific candidates who come to Washington with the best of intentions, but they get too comfortable, and when the time comes, they don't want to go home," lamented Stacie Rumenap, a spokeswoman for U.S.Term Limits.
Whether Tancredo suffers any political damage remains to be seen. So far, the handful of Members who have broken their pledges, including McInnis, have not suffered any consequences at the polls, Rumenap conceded. And U.S.Term Limits is not in the business of recruiting challengers to incumbents who have broken the pledge.
Tancredo has promised to return campaign contributions to donors who are dismayed at his decision to ignore the term-limits pledge. But Armstrong - who did not respond to several messages left at his Denver law office - called the refund offer "hollow," according to The Rocky Mountain News.
Armstrong, meanwhile, has offered some kind words about Coffman.
"Mike Coffman is someone the Republican Party and the people of Colorado will rally around,"he told the News. "There is no doubt in my mind that he will be on the short list for whatever comes along - it could be governor, it could be Senator, it could be Congress."
Coffman, in fact, began running for Congress last year - in the new 7th district, which adjoins Tancredo's. But when the final district lines were drawn, Coffman found himself in Tancredo's 6th district, just a few blocks from the 7th, and chose not to move or run.
Coffman said that while he has not given much thought to the 2004 election yet, he believes that Tancredo will be vulnerable. The three Republicans most frequently mentioned as challengers are all military veterans, while Tancredo is not, and that could make a difference in a district that values military service, political insiders said.
Coffman, a 47-year-old Marine Corps vet who served in Operation Desert Storm, said Tancredo's military deferments during the Vietnam War would hurt him as America prepares to attack Iraq, and could be linked to his decision to ignore the term-limit pledge.
"Here's a guy ordering young men off to war and he himself didn't serve," he said. "I think in this conservative district, something like that could resonate."
Certainly, Tancredo's record would contrast with Coffman's, or Dyer's, who is an Air Force veteran, or Ward's, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves and is on active duty in Florida.
Dyer called it "highly unlikely" that he would challenge Tancredo, but said somebody else might, and predicted that the term-limit issue would sting the incumbent.
"I think a number of people that support Tom are not going to support him if he breaks the term-limit pledge,"said Dyer, who was a surrogate for Tancredo at a candidate forum this fall. "We can't say that situational ethics is bad for party A but not for party B."
Ward, a former mayor of suburban Glendale, could not be reached for comment, but is expected to return to Colorado next year. In an interview with the News after completing his one term on the Arapahoe County Commission, Ward made his opinion of politicians who stay in office too long perfectly clear.
"Any politician who can't find the bathrooms in the first week doesn't deserve to be in public office," he said.
It is unclear whether the White House would try to get involved in a primary challenge to Tancredo.
But it is fair to say that Tancredo is not one of the president's favorite people. Earlier this year, the Congressman accused Bush of pandering to Hispanic voters and trying to prop up Mexican President Vicente Fox by offering amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants. That declaration brought an angry 40-minute phone call from Rove, and Bush pointedly failed to introduce Tancredo to the crowd during a political rally in Colorado in September.
With his hard-line views on immigration, Tancredo is no stranger to controversy. In 1999, he gained publicity for reaffirming his support for gun owners' rights just days after the massacre at Columbine High School, which is six blocks from his house.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report last summer linking Tancredo to extremist groups, which the Congressman dismissed as "McCarthyism."
And he was embarrassed earlier this year when it was revealed that undocumented workers had been hired to do some construction work on his Littleton home.
But pollster Ciruli said Tancredo's views on immigration are in line with his constituents'.
"Nobody who's going to argue the soft side of immigration is going to beat him in the Republican primary, or even in the general," he said.
After seeing two fairly viable opponents get wiped out by Tancredo in 1998 and 2000, Democrats appear to have abandoned the 6th district - leaving Republicans there to decide whether they want him to remain in office.
For 40 years Democrat voters had the idea that the Democrat party stood for the values they believed in from the 1940's, 50' and 60's. They became attached to the name of the party and overlooked the true modern socialist values of the Democrat party.
Modern Republicans must be wary that the party of Reagan continues to truly hold the values of Reagan.
Classical conservatives (pro-liberty conservatives) must ask themselves if the modern Republican party truly stands for classical, traditional conservative values.
Who are they, and who expelled them? Trancredo is ineffective because he is strident. His style gets in the way of his message. If he was more measured and thoughtful, and calm in presenting his evidence, he would not so easily be sluffed off.
That is a riot. He is going down. He sounds like that idiot James Traficant.
The Republican and Democratic party are teams. If you are not on the team you are off it.
If he keeps screwing with the power structure the DOJ will get him an all expense paid trip to join James Traficant in making license plates. Scottie can beam them both up.
I think this pretty much says it all as to what Bush's politics on sucuring our borders are, and therefor what his position is on seeing that the American people are secure.
You think this says it all?
Well, you're easy--if you have a predisposed opinion, that is.
Tom Coburn from Oklahoma kept his promise. Tancredo can't keep his because his "supporters" have turned him into a showboater who thinks he's "indispensable."
If Armstrong and Karl Rove oppose him in 2004, he's dead meat.
You have a peculiar concept of how things should be in a free country.
Lying to your constituents over your length of service is not a "Reagan value."
He is the only poltician that I have considered for monetary support.
I'll definitely donate to his campaign in 2004 if he is challenged in the primary.
They don't.... period. End of story. The ones that do get castigated and ridiculed.
No, but lying about not raising taxes is a Bush value.