CO Gov Race: Who's the Third Party Candidate?

Often political candidates do their best to portray an air of graciousness about their standings in the polls (even as they attempt to rip their opponents reputations to shreds in campaign ads). Tom Tancredo doesn't even try to fake it. We interviewed the former Republican congressman in the back of a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver, following a forum with his opponents in the race for Colorado governor. Tancredo is now a member of the American Constitution Party, having defected from the GOP to enter the gubernatorial race. Upon his entry the in late July, many analysts joked his chances were close to nil. But that was then. A recent Rasmussen Reports Poll, has Tancredo trailing Denver Mayor, Democrat John Hickenlooper by 4 points, a statistical tie. The Republican nominee, Dan Maes, received a nod from only 12% of those polled. It's talk of polls like this one, that, during our interview, prompted Tancredo to put his hands to his mouth like a megaphone and emphatically say, "You're not going to win, hello! Hello?! You're not going to make it, you know? So what's the purpose? Uh, if you stay in, what is the purpose? What are you trying to accomplish?" The "you" Tancredo is referencing is Maes, who's time as the Republican nominee has been rough, to put it mildly.

Dan Maes made it to the November ballot in part, analysts say, because his Republican primary opponent's problems outsized his own. Former congressman, Scott McInnis, Maes's primary race rival, was beating Maes in the polls up and until news broke that McInnis accepted large sums of money as salary for writings on water issues in the West. Problem was, McInnis lifted directly from items authored by a Colorado judge, something the candidate later admitted. With the plagiarism scandal in full swing, Maes beat out the competition. Even though Maes himself had to pay $17,500 in fines for campaign finance law violations during the primary. And despite frequent public statements that caused many to pause, like the time he announced opposition to Denver's Bike Share program because the cycles must be part of a U.N. conspiracy to exert control.

Polls taken shortly after primary night showed Maes being trounced by his Democratic opponent John Hickenlooper. But worse news for his campaign was just around the corner. Disgusted by the antics of both Maes and McInnis in the primary, Tancredo changed his party affiliation and entered the race. And with that move, changed its landscape. Seth Masket, associate professor with University of Denver's school of political science, tells Fox News, Tancredo isn't just any third party candidate, "He has enormous name recognition throughout Colorado," Masket says, "...and that gave him the ability to really pull a lot of support from Dan Maes. Masket explains that much of the Republican establishment was very uncomfortable with Maes and resisted supporting him or endorsing him. "Now a lot of those folks are backing Tancredo and in effect, the real Republican in the race, even though he's not running as a Republican."

But Maes's bag of problems is not solely filled with Tancredo for Governor campaign signs. There are multiple reports he and wife have turned his campaign warchest into a mess. Former staffers coming forward accuse Maes of mishandling money and failing to keep track of basic campaign expenses. And just this weekend, The Denver Post revealed an e-mail sent to Maes by a high ranking Colorado Republican, admonishing him for a 1989 bankruptcy filing when he was single. The Post also reports that some among the GOP are "brainstorming" on ways to get Maes to drop out.

The push to get Maes to leave the race, is less about saving face and more about maintaining the GOP's status in Colorado. Under election law in this state, a party must receive at least 10% of the vote in the last gubernatorial election in order to be legally defined as a "major" party. With Maes dancing around the 12% mark, according to polls, the Republican party would have to wait two more election cycles before making it back to the top of the ballot and being allowed to collect certain donations in primaries. When asked about this, Maes told Fox News, "That makes for good media to say, 'oh my gosh, the Republican party could drop below 10%'. I don't see any possibility of that."

Neither do most political insiders we talked to. Dick Wadhams, the Chair of the Colorado Republican Party told us, "By every stretch of the imagination, Colorado Republican Party is a major party. And what I think will happen after this election, if Dan Maes falls under 10%, the legislature and the governor, whoever they are, will change the law to more accurately describe what defines a political party."

Aside from the state of the gubernatorial debacle, Wadhams says he is assured by the showing of other GOP candidates other races. Even if, Wadhams, says, with a look of resignation, "The governor's race went off the rails."


Alicia Acuna joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as a general assignment reporter based in the network's Denver bureau.