Former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo made good on his high-noon ultimatum Monday by announcing that he would enter the Colorado governor's contest as a third-party candidate, essentially dashing the GOP's last hopes of winning the race.
"I am going to seek the nomination of the American Constitution Party for Governor of Colorado," said Mr. Tancredo in a statement.
Mr. Tancredo still must file papers with the Colorado secretary of state and register as a member of the American Constitution Party. Even so, the mere announcement of his candidacy appeared to doom any chance of victory for likely Republican nominee Scott McInnis while ensuring victory for the likely Democratic pick, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
"Tancredo's determination to do this pretty much negates the race," said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.
Mr. Tancredo had said he would become a third-party candidate unless Mr. McInnis and businessman Dan Maes agreed to drop out of the race the day after the Aug. 10 primary. If a nominee withdraws after the primary, the party may appoint a replacement.
The frustration simmering among Colorado Republicans was evident Monday morning when state Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams got into a shouting match with Mr. Tancredo on a morning talk show on KOA-AM. Both men hurled accusations and called each other "liars."
Mr. Tancredo said on the air that Mr. Wadhams had previously described Mr. McInnis as "untrustworthy," which the party chairman denied.
Mr. Wadhams blasted Mr. Tancredo's integrity, noting that he had broken a term-limits promise during his congressional tenure. He described the former congressman's political agenda as undisciplined and even radical.
"Whats your agenda? What are you going to talk about? Impeach Obama and bomb Mecca?" Mr. Wadhams asked.
Mr. Tancredo said he is trying to give conservative voters a candidate they can support, unlike the scandal-tainted Mr. McInnis and Mr. Maes.
It's been a long, strange two weeks for Colorado Republicans. In mid-July, Mr. McInnis was leading in the polls and GOP hopes for winning back the governorship were high. Then Mr. McInnis became embroiled in a plagiarism scandal that resulted in at least two newspapers calling for him to withdraw from the race.
Mr. McInnis has refused, saying he's "in it to win it," but political strategists agree that he has little chance of eking out a victory. Meanwhile, Mr. Maes has been fined for campaign-finance violations.
In a statement Monday, Mr. McInnis said little about the Tancredo candidacy but referred to the Monday noon deadline, which was when Mr. Tancredo had asked Mr. McInnis and Mr. Maes to agree to drop out of the race Aug. 11.
"Those looking for a deadline should focus on the only real deadline: August 10 at 7 p.m. This is when the polls close, the people have voted and their votes are counted. That's the way the system works in a free society," Mr. McInnis said. "Colorado Republicans will speak with their votes on that day, and I will abide by their decision."
The state's "tea party" groups, many of which have backed dark-horse candidate Mr. Maes, had urged Mr. Tancredo to rescind his ultimatum and allow the political process to play out.
"You want to impose your personal choice and will over the will of the people. You are subverting the process and our will. This is the opposite of the liberty movement and what we are about," 21 groups said in a July 25 open letter to Mr. Tancredo.
Mr. Ciruli estimated that Mr. Tancredo and the Republican nominee would split the Republican vote, with each taking about 20 percent of the total. That would leave as much as 60 percent for Mr. Hickenlooper.
The additional problem for state Republicans is that even if Mr. Tancredo runs as a third-party candidate, his close association with the party still could affect GOP candidates.
"He won't be on the ticket, but everybody knows who he is and he'll get a lot of coverage," Mr. Ciruli said.
Mr. Wadhams agreed: "He would be a liability for every candidate in the Republican Party," he said Sunday.
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