Tancredo’s Decision

He’ll Reveal Re-election Plans at the Conclusion of the World Series

Posted October 24, 2007 at 6:40pm

Play Ball! While most of Colorado surely is preoccupied with the Colorado Rockies’ first World Series appearance, a subset of fans located in the Centennial State’s 6th district probably is anticipating Major League Baseball’s main event for another reason.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R), who is in the midst of a long-shot presidential bid, will announce the day after the Series ends whether he will run for re-election to his House seat. His retirement could ignite a heated GOP primary in the solidly Republican 6th district between state Sens. Ted Harvey and Tom Wiens and small-business man Wil Armstrong, the son of former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.).

Tancredo spokesman T.Q. Houlton confirmed this week that his boss would reveal his 2008 plans the day after the last Rockies game. That could come as soon as Monday, should either the Rockies or the Boston Red Sox sweep the best-of-seven series, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday night after Roll Call went to press.

The first two games were scheduled to be played in Boston, with games three and four scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Denver.

“People very close to him don’t think he’s going to run,” said one knowledgeable Colorado Republican. “But I still have a hard time thinking he’s going to walk away from everything.”

While stoking his White House ambitions for the past several months, Tancredo has long eyed the 2010 Senate race and a potential matchup against Sen. Ken Salazar (D). Many Colorado insiders have speculated that Tancredo will run for Senate in 2010, retaining his House seat until then.

The younger Armstrong said Wednesday that he is giving serious consideration to running for the 6th district GOP nomination in 2008 — but only if Tancredo retires at the end of his current term, his fifth in the House.

“I care what’s going on in our district and our state and our country, and if he chooses not to run again I will think very hard about it. I’m leaning that way,” Armstrong said. “But frankly, if he stays as my Congressman, I’d be thrilled. He’s done a great job and I have lot of admiration for him.”

Armstrong, Harvey and Wiens each would make a strong candidate, according to Republican strategists, although each has a potential downside. Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman (R) also is seen as a formidable candidate, but GOP activists would prefer he hold off running until 2010, as Gov. Bill Ritter (D) presumably would appoint a Democrat to replace him if he ran for Congress next year and won.

Tancredo mostly is known for his ardent opposition to illegal immigration and his work in Congress to overhaul federal immigration law. Tancredo’s outspokenness on the matter has helped him build a national public profile, and his supporters credit him for the fact that addressing illegal immigration has become a major campaign issue in the presidential race and in many Congressional contests.

Strident remarks Tancredo has made on other subjects — including that dropping a nuclear bomb on Mecca in Saudi Arabia should be a military option in the war on terror — have added to his run of national publicity.

However, Colorado Republicans note that he remains beloved in his district, and they contend that he is known for more than illegal immigration back home. Republicans there say his support for education reform and his opposition to wasteful government spending has earned him a reputation for being a reliable conservative on issues important to Republican voters.

Like Armstrong, Harvey is interested in running for Congress if Tancredo retires. Harvey said most political activists in the district place the odds of Tancredo running again at 50-50, although they are beginning to believe more and more that he will seek a sixth term.

If Tancredo does retire, Harvey predicted a crowded and competitive GOP primary to replace him, as the district leans heavily Republican and the winner of the intraparty contest likely would cruise to victory in the general election. Tancredo’s worst performance since ascending to the House in 1998 occurred in 2000, when he won re-election with 54 percent of the vote.

President Bush won the suburban Denver 6th district with 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 2004.

“I think the primary will be a highly contested race,” Harvey said.

Harvey said he would wait for Tancredo’s decision before figuring out his own plans. The state Senator has two young children, ages 7 and 10, and he said that definitely would factor into his decision.

Wiens could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The state Senate districts held by Harvey and Wiens include separate though significant chunks of the 6th Congressional district. That could give each of them an advantage over other potential primary candidates, although their support does not extend outside of their legislative seats.

Armstrong’s father, the former Senator, is still revered by Colorado Republicans, and that could help the small-business man should he run for Congress. However, he would have to overcome the notion that he is trying to win a political office on his father’s coattails.

“Ted [Harvey] and Tom [Wiens] both are very serious, legitimate candidates,” the knowledgeable Colorado Republican said. “But I think Wil [Armstrong] is the intriguing wild card that could surprise a lot of people. I don’t think there’s a frontrunner in it.”