American Constitution Party feels majorly scorned by Tancredo

The Colorado Statesman

The leader of the Arvada-based American Constitution Party says it has seen little benefit to becoming a major party in Colorado following former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2010.

Doug “Dayhorse” Campbell, state chairman of the American Constitution Party (ACN), says Tancredo may have propelled his political organization to major party status by running on their ticket, but he is disappointed that the former congressman so quickly abandoned ship.

Tancredo registered with ACN to challenge Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes. Tancredo received 36 percent of the vote that year, coming in second to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who totaled 51 percent of the vote. Maes earned 11 percent of the vote.

Tancredo’s impressive showing was more than enough to earn ACN major party status in Colorado. It takes a showing of more than 10 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial race to become a major party.

Tancredo only ran after Maes had become embroiled in controversy over his questionable law enforcement career, campaign-finance violations and his views on an alleged United Nations conspiracy to control Denver through the city’s bike-sharing program, known as B-Cycle. Maes won the Republican Party’s nomination after former Congressman Scott McInnis of Grand Junction found himself embattled over allegations of plagiarism, which effectively ended his gubernatorial bid and political career.

Tancredo felt his candidacy would be well received, especially among Republicans dissatisfied with the controversial Maes. But by the time he wanted to join the race in July 2010, the deadline for running in the Republican Party primary had expired. He had issued an ultimatum to the GOP candidates to drop out of the race or face his wrath as a third-party candidate, but neither McInnis nor Maes backed down. That’s when Tancredo decided to affiliate with the ACN.

Campbell said that when the dust settled and the former congressman had returned to the Republican Party just two months after the election, ACN had little to show for the highly publicized campaign.

“The only benefit of being a major party, that I have seen so far, is the fact that we are in the top group on the ballot, and we have the opportunity as being part of that top group for some of our candidates to end up on the top line [of the ballot,]” said Campbell.

That said, ACN watched as its membership climbed from 1,781 registered voters in January 2010, to 6,128 registered voters as of September. Campbell believes that had Tancredo stayed with the party, it would be witnessing even greater growth.

“Part of the problem with that is that as soon as the election was over, Tom — who had promised that he was going to stick with our party — went back to the Republican Party…” lamented Campbell. “I had a little more faith in Tom’s word than that.”

Tancredo insists he never intended to remain with ACN, and he says he made that clear to leadership when he negotiated terms for his gubernatorial bid.

“That was the deal from the beginning. I told them that that was the way it was going to be. When they asked if I was going to be a loyal Constitution Party member forever, I said, ‘No,’” claims Tancredo.

He added that the only purpose for his run was to prevent Maes from “getting anywhere,” and that the thought of winning “never crossed my mind.”

“When I first met him, I thought, ‘This guy can’t possibly win,’” explained Tancredo. “When I became more acquainted with him, I thought, “This guy had better not win.’”

As for ACN’s concerns, Tancredo says that the party should have thought about all possible outcomes — including his departure — before agreeing to the gubernatorial run.

“That’s something that they should have tried to consider at the beginning,” he said. “I think that their problem is that they don’t have enough people to actually maintain the [major party] status. That’s what they’re so worried about.”

The outspoken conservative acknowledges that his run left him at odds with not only members of ACN, but also with members of his own Republican Party. Republicans had become angry with him for splitting the Republican vote and essentially handing the election to Hickenlooper.

“Certainly there are individuals in the [Republican] party who I am sure are still pissed,” he said.

ACN charges on

But Campbell says his party is still focused on the future, fielding three candidates this year for Congress in Colorado, and another 15 candidates in races throughout the state.

In addition to the congressional candidates, ACN has two candidates running for University of Colorado regent, two candidates running for state Senate, eight candidates running for the state House, and three candidates running for county commissioner seats.

The party is also running former U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode, Jr. of Virginia for president and Jim Clymer, the former chairman of the Constitution Party, for vice president.

Campbell, who in addition to his role as party chair is also running for Congress in the 7th Congressional District, says his campaign comes down to offering choice. He is competing against incumbent Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, and Republican challenger Joe Coors. Also running is Libertarian Party candidate Buck Bailey.

“This year, you can vote for good instead of the lesser of two evils…What’s good for America is what’s good for the constitution,” Campbell said, pointing out that his philosophy is really a summation of American Constitution Party values of preserving America based on the tenets of religion and the U.S. Constitution.

“Our republic is a nation governed by a constitution rooted in Biblical law… the sole legitimate function of government is to secure these rights through the preservation of domestic tranquility, the maintenance of a strong national defense, and the promotion of equal justice for all,” states ACN’s platform.

Kenneth Harvell, ACN candidate for the 5th Congressional District and the senior pastor at Southeast Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, chose to enter the race based on his party’s platform.

He is competing against incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. The district is so heavily Republican that Democrats are not even running a challenger this year. Also in the race, however, are unaffiliated candidate Dave Anderson, Green Party candidate Misha Luzov and Libertarian Party candidate James Pirtle.

Harvell believes God wants him to run in CD 5. Before entering the race, he explained, he prayed for a sign that he should run. Harvell says he received that sign.

“I felt like I really didn’t want to do this, but I honestly believe that God had something to do with it,” said Harvell.

“I believe that he did put me in this position and that he has some purpose for it,” Harvell continued. “Maybe it’s just to make me a little sharper and more aware of things, and to think things through, and to pray more… I don’t totally know what his reasons are.”

Beyond the religious component, Harvell is also running because he is looking for progress in the Middle East. He would like to create a congressional committee that works to predict future violent uprisings in the Middle East and come up with solutions to defend against it without offending people.

“There’s a polarization in part because there’s a left media and a right media going on, and I think real strong conservatives don’t feel like they have a first class… group that speaks for them, and I’m thinking that perhaps that’s something that can come in the future, is more communications about how Christians interact concerning various important issues,” said Harvell.

ACN’s final congressional candidate is Doug Aden, who is running in the 4th Congressional District. He is competing against incumbent Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and state Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont. Also running in the race is Libertarian candidate Josh Gilliland.

Aden said he decided to run because he hasn’t been happy with Gardner and his vote in favor of extending the PATRIOT Act, which included authorizing roving wiretaps. Aden said that vote went against his principles and the values of ACN.

“My campaign is about protecting our endowed and unalienable rights, and that’s where my focus is at,” said Aden.

He understands that defeating Gardner and Shaffer is an uphill battle, but Aden believes his campaign is a fight worth waging in the name of freedom and liberty.

“It’s definitely about the messaging,” said Aden. “It gives you a forum in which you can try to get people to think a little bit and bring up the issues of how important our constitution is, and how important our heritage is, and how they do provide solutions to some of the problems we’re having.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com