Former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R), who finished second in the 2010 Colorado gubernatorial race as an American Constitution Party candidate, said Wednesday that he will seek the Republican nomination for governor in the 2014 election. The unsuccessful 2008 presidential hopeful said the “last straw” driving him into the race was Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) decision to grant a temporary reprieve to an inmate on Death Row.
Over his five terms in Congress, his single-issue anti-immigrant White House bid, and various other political campaigns, Tancredo has earned a reputation as one of America’s most extreme nativist politicians. Among his career highlights:
1. Proposed that the U.S. bomb Mecca. In 2007, Tancredo suggested that as a “deterent” to terrorism, “If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina.” Despite widespread criticism of the comments, he reiterated the view during his 2010 campaign: “I think is quite defensible. I still do, and I still would say it. It is just that I would have absolutely no reason to say it as the governor of the state of Colorado.”
2. Called for impeachment of President Obama because people illegally immigrate. In an error-riddled 2010 Washington Times op-ed, Tancredo wrote that President Obama was “a more serious threat to America than al Qaeda.” Citing a false claim by then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), he added, “Mr. Obama’s most egregious and brazen betrayal of our Constitution was his statement to Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, that the administration will not enforce security on our southern border because that would remove Republicans’ desire to negotiate a ‘comprehensive’ immigration bill. That is, to put it plainly, a decision that by any reasonable standard constitutes an impeachable offense against the Constitution.”
3. Smeared the first Hispanic-American Supreme Court Justice as a “racist.” When President Obama nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Tancredo went ballistic. Calling her “Sonia Mayor,” he said, “I do not know if he has a hatred for white people. I can say that [Obama’s] statements and his appointment of someone I do believe to be a racist, ‘Sonia Mayer,’ for her racial views by the way — that is an indication.” He added “I’m telling you she appears to be a racist. She said things that are racist in any other context. That’s exactly how we would portray it and there’s no one who would get on the Supreme Court saying a thing like that except for a Hispanic woman and you’re going to say it doesn’t matter!” ‘’Why is it, in order to speak to [Hispanics], you have to speak to them in Spanish, or you have to be translated to them in Spanish?’’ Tancredo said on CNN. “If you are going to vote in this country, you should be a citizen. To be a citzen in this country you should know English.’’
4. Does not believe candidates in the USA should speak Spanish. As he boycotted a December 2007 presidential debate on Univision, Tancredo wrote in a press release, “It is the law that to become a naturalized citizen of this country you must have knowledge and understanding of English, including a basic ability to read, write, and speak the language… So what may I ask are our presidential candidates doing participating in a Spanish speaking debate? Pandering comes to mind.” Embracing assimilation, he added, “Bilingualism is a great asset for any individual but it has perilous consequences for a nation. As such, a Spanish debate has no place in a presidential campaign.” On CNN, he elaborated, “If you are going to vote in this country, you should be a citizen. To be a citizen in this country you should know English.’’
5. Demonized illegal immigrants as violent gangsters and “jihadist” terrorists. In campaign ad for his 2008 presidential run, he showed bloody images of terrorist attacks, warning that open borders means “[Islamic] jihadists who froth with hate” will launch terrorist attacks like those in London, Spain, and Russia and “vicious central American gangs” who are “pushing drugs, raping kids, [and] destroying lives.” In 2004, he warned that some undocumented immigrants are “coming here to kill you and to kill me and our families.”
6. Bashed Miami for its diversity. In a 2009 interview, Tancredo said Miami does not feel like America because so many people there speak Spanish: ‘”Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country.” When criticized for the remarks, he shot back, “I knew speaking your mind could be dangerous in Havana. I guess it’s equally dangerous to do so in Miami. Apparently, there isn’t much of a difference between the two anymore.”
7. Even opposed legal immigration. In 2003, Tancredo proposed the “Mass Immigration Reduction Act.” The bill would have put a five-year moratorium on all legal immigration to the United States.
8. Wants to reinstate literacy tests for voting. Tancredo proposed a “civics literacy test” to prevent non-English speakers from voting. Lamenting that President Obama won with the support of what he called “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English,” he blamed the election of a “committed socialist ideologue” on the fact that “we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”
As the national Republican party seeks to shed its reputation as anti-immigrant, Tancredo’s candidacy presents an interesting challenge. Former House Republican Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), an influential figure in the Tea Party movement, once called his former colleague a “cheerleader of jerkiness in the immigration debate.”