Tom Tancredo's headquarters boosted a rocking party Tuesday night, with line-dancing and a country-western band playing cover tunes, but the enthusiasm for his insurgent, third-party campaign was not enough to pull ahead of the Democratic candidate, John Hickenlooper, in the race for Colorado governor.
Hickenlooper ended the night with a safe margin, pulling ahead of Tancredo, who ran on the American Constitution Party ticket. Tancredo's hard-line views on illegal immigration, his suggestion that non-Christian immigrants should leave the country, and his ruminations about Mexicans plotting a cross-border terrorist attack might not have won over a majority of Colorado voters, but his numbers certainly said a lot about how people here were feeling about the state's Republican Party and its candidate, Dan Maes.
In Maes, Colorado Republicans managed to find a candidate whose personal history and views drove voters away—right to Tancredo. Maes' claims that the state capitol's plan to encourage bicycling amounted to "converting Denver into a United Nations community" possibly measured as one of the least-bizarre things he said over the course of the election. Maes ended the night with just 8 percent of the vote.
When I talked to voters at his party headquarters, the Stampede Dance Hall, on Tuesday, most weren't particularly pleased with the state GOP. "The Republicans have let me down lately," said Vinny Rozanskas, a 63-year-old retired airline worker from Aurora. While he's registered GOP, he said he probably leans more libertarian, and has a tea party sign at his townhouse. "Either party could go down the tubes and it wouldn't bother me in the least."
Jan Wilson, 58 of Denver, initially backed Maes—and frequently "liked" his Facebook posts, she told me—but felt he should have dropped out of the race when it became clear that he had little chance of winning. Maes staying in the race cost Tancredo the governorship, she said. "Why didn't he just pull out?" she asked. "Now the Republicans are going to be the minority party. That's bullshit."