DENVER (AP) – Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, who quit the party last year to run for governor under the American Constitution Party, is headed back to the Republican Party.
Tancredo said he is coming back “because they’re the only game in town.” He told The Associated Press he plans to rejoin the party this week.
Tancredo said his decision to join the American Constitution Party was “opportunistic,” but he and the party had an understanding that he would not stay with the party.
“It was opportunistic on both of our parts. I needed ballot access and they needed majority party status. We both got what we wanted,” Tancredo said.
Jim Clymer, national chairman of the umbrella Constitution Party, said he was disappointed and surprised that Tancredo has decided to leave the party.
“I guess we both saw an opportunity. There was an opportunity for the Constitution Party to be advanced by his candidacy, and an opportunity for him to get on the ballot. There was not an expectation that he would run for governor and leave. That was not my expectation at all,” Clymer said.
Tancredo said the state Republican Party needs to get rid of the “old guard” and members he believes lack vision, including former Gov. Bill Owens.
Owens said Tancredo failed in his bid for governor and he shouldn’t be welcomed back to the state GOP. He also said Tancredo should stop blaming Owens and other party officials.
“Tom reminds me of a little kid who is always making excuses for his failures. Tom, it’s not my fault you keep losing,” Owens said.
GOP state chairman Dick Wadhams, who clashed publicly with Tancredo over criticism of the Republican Party, said everyone is welcome to join the Colorado GOP. He refused to say whether he thought Tancredo would be welcomed back.
It all began when Tancredo, fed up with what he considered to be two weak GOP primary candidates for governor, left the party and signed on as the ACP gubernatorial candidate. Tancredo lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper on Nov. 2 but finished in second place with 36 percent of the vote, which under state law made the ACP a major party.
Tancredo held no leadership position with the ACP.
The Republican candidate, Dan Maes, got 11 percent of the vote — just above the 10 percent threshold needed to keep the GOP’s status as a major party.
Maes said Tancredo “is a dangerous political figure who needs to be taken very seriously and not underestimated.”
“Tom is free to join any party he wishes, but this is just a continuation of his hypocrisy,” Maes said.
Tancredo said he never got the financial support he expected from the Constitution Party, but he has no other complaints about the party.
“They asked me if I would be a loyal American Constitution Party member and I said no,” Tancredo said.
He said he feels the same way about going back to the GOP.
“I just think they’re the only game in town. Political parties don’t mean that much to me. I don’t have any great allegiance, I have a philosophy. The party is just a mechanism. When I took the oath of office, I took it to the constitution, not to a party,” he said.
Asked if he thought he would be welcomed back by the GOP, Tancredo said he wasn’t sure.
“Some will, some won’t. I never thought about it and I don’t care,” he said.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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