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Tom Tancredo Interview

09/01/2010 03:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This was a surprising interview. I expected to mostly be discussing illegal immigration and why that was the key issue in the race. Instead I found Congressman Tancredo to be primarily concerned with the lack of integrity in Dan Maes and secondarily concerned with the state of our public schools. And yet, Tom's instinct is to discuss illegal immigration to the exclusion of most everything else.

So I started off by asking him why he choose to enter the race. He started off by saying that he is a strong believer in working within the party and that he was very comfortable supporting first Josh Penry, and then Scott McInnis. Tom then discussed the last couple of months.

He first discussed Dan Maes saying that he found him an unacceptable candidate early on because in his initial discussions with Dan; Dan told him he supported immigration reform with amnesty and therefore he could not support him. He then discussed how over time he (and all of us actually) found that more and more of Dan's background as he listed it was untrue. But this was also not a big deal at the time as he was not going to win.

Tom then discussed Scott McInnis and his concern that he was "not grounded in conservative governance." I pointed out that the core issue was Scott could appeal to people like me and Tome replied "yes and we had to do something about that." So Tom & Josh came up with the Contract for Colorado, Scott signed off on it, and life was good. Tom further listed how he worked hard to support Scott, h ow Scott had the money, the votes, etc.

He then discussed how, when the "allegations of plagiarism came out" it was impossible for Scott to win. And Dan was unacceptable. So that is what lead to Tom's deciding to run. This is key to Tom's purpose in the election now, that "Dan shouldn't win." I then asked what if the Republicans had a candidate that could not win, but who did not have questionable integrity and who was very conservative - what then. Tom replied that he would strongly support them. I then flipped it and said still had personal integrity, but they were a RINO. Tom in that case said he would "stay out of it," but would vote for them.

My $0.02: The key point of this is Tom Tancredo's primary goal in running is to be a spoiler. To split the vote and insure that Dan Maes does not win. And he is doing so because he believes that Dan Maes lacks the integrity to be governor. First off, this means Tom is not dropping out unless Dan does first. Second, it means Tom will hammer Dan on his personal integrity and that could not only put Tom ahead of Dan in the final vote, but could give Tom a shot at winning.

I next asked what would be the major item he would concentrate on as Governor. He first discussed how the big money is the federal money. And at the state, as well as the federal level, the discretionary funding was a very small part of the total and therefore you can't effect much change there. Therefore he says real change requires structural change and "that will require going to the ballot, going to the people." Tom brought up the specific cases of union contracts and PERA. And to address them will require going to the courts and to the ballot. He then discussed the mandates backed into the constitution, such as Amendment 23.

He next brought up illegal immigration. Congressman Tancredo went on for a bit about the costs to the state, primarily in educating their children, and the reduction in available jobs for citizens. The main action he would take as Governor is to mandate eVerify by employers. And with those jobs opened up to citizens only, he believes the market will adjust to make the jobs of interest to citizens.

Skipping this part: There has been boatloads of interviews with Congressman Tancredo on this issue and even if the whole hour was devoted to this subject, nothing new would be learned. So go to those other interviews for his thoughts on this, and the counter arguments.

I then asked what else he would do. Tom said the next issue is that the state is not welcoming to business. He first discussed a poll of oil and gas executives that ranked Colorado the best place to do business in 2008 and then ranked us worst in 2010. He then said "something happened there." He then talked about the recent legislation that has split the oil from the gas guys and he termed that "divide and conquer."

He talked about making Colorado a place where "if you come here and do things the right way, if you play by the rules, We're not going to give you any special exemptions, but on the other hand we're not going to focus on you and pull you out and say this is not the kind of development we want in our state." He then went on to say "it's not I want a green economy, I want a thriving economy."

He then brought up the example of Colorado Springs where they asked the major employers what are the problems they see in the city. And the businesses told them what concerned them, and they were mostly very mundane things. Tom would like to see the state do the same thing. He then discussed the permit processes that exist for so many businesses, and working to make that process as smooth and quick as possible. In all of this he never discussed removing or changing the rules, he discussed making them as easy and straightforward in practice as possible.

Tom then suggested offering cash bonuses to state employees who come up with ways to streamline the process in their departments.

My $0.02: This is a message the business community will find very compelling. The state of Colorado at present is very antagonistic toward business. And that impacts jobs because time spent trying to figure out what the state wants is time not spent growing a company.

Congressman Tancredo next brought up a superb idea. His question is "why is Indiana, a rust belt state, why are they better off than we are?" He wants to look at what the differences are that explain Indiana's economy doing better, find out which are government related (he thinks it's a lot) and address those items. He wants to figure out what we need to do to become attractive to business and industry.

One interesting point as Tom went through the problems we face attracting businesses, and that corporate headquarters have left Colorado, is that he did not take cheap political shots at Ritter and Hickenlooper. Instead he discussed how we have a problem and he wants to find out what the real causes are, and fix them.

I next asked who are the top 5 people he will bring in in his administration to help him accomplish all this. His reply was "I have absolutely no idea." He then went on to say that he only got in to this race 3 weeks ago. He then followed on to say they will be conservatives and they will mostly be Republicans. He then did say that John Tipton is one of the first people he will ask to serve.

My next question was his view on 60, 61, & 101. Tom's reply was that he fully supports them. His reply was "the first two came about because people were being taxed without their permission." He discussed how the government kept working to use the word fees instead of the word tax to get around TABOR. And if 60, 61, & 101 pass, you can then put together a tax increase proposal and present it to the people in the '11 election. And that it is an important lesson for the state to learn, that they need to ask first.

He does see the cuts they would force as being dramatic. But he does not see them as destroying civilization as we know it. He does think it will force the state to make some major decisions and to address core cost issues that have been avoided. It will force the state to address state salaries that have climbed much faster than inflation. He thinks the result will mostly be salary cuts. He also thinks that a lot of the decisions forced will be changes that will be better for the state long-term.

My $0.02: I think Tom is right that the state has done everything it can to dance around TABOR rather than bringing tax proposals to a vote of the people. And I think he's right that the state has avoided addressing cost issues that drastic cuts would force it to address. But I also think 60, 61, & 101 would have a brutal impact on the state.

I next asked Tom about my idea that we replace TABOR, Amendment 23, etc. with an amendment that says total receipts to the state cannot exceed X% of the state's GDP averaged over the previous 3 years. This is taxes, fees, everything. But the legislature is then free to adjust and tax, fee, etc. without a vote as long as the total stays under the limit. He said "that's quite interesting... I like it."

Next up was what I think would be the easiest question - name a program he would end. He talked about how when Colorado passed the tobacco tax it increased Medicaid eligibility from 250,000 to 480,000. He would undo that extension.

I then asked the flip side, to name one he would create or significantly extend. His reply was "creating a new program is not really on my agenda." So nothing new added (which is a fair answer).

Ok, so my next question was what will he do to fix K-12. At this point Tom Tancredo became more impassioned than at any other part of the conversation (including illegal immigration). He started off by saying "I would take my magic wand..." So I then asked, ok let's say you do have a magic wand, and you get one use - do you use it to fix K-12 or to eliminate illegal immigration. (An interesting thing about a question like this - most candidates love it because the idea of being able to truly fix a big problem is so compelling to them.)

Congressman Tancredo thought about it for a bit and then said K-12. He then discussed his background, as a teacher, the education bills he had carried in the legislature, and his work for the Department of Education. He has a lot of history in this area. He wants to bring in full choice, public schools, charter schools, and vouchers. He sees the marketplace of multiple schools competing for students will force an improvement in schools. He also wants to see schools do a better job teaching children civics, giving them a better understanding of our government and what it means. (Of course, then they'll all be Democrats.)

I asked about SB-191 and he does not think that will help much, because it is still a centrally controlled top-down single system. He comes back to giving each parent the freedom to determine what school works best for their child. He is fine if we can just get vouchers for children in poor districts (where the schools tend to be terrible). He brings up the very valid point that a lousy education means that those children will cost society more because they're left in a life of economic poverty.

Next I asked for a vote that hurt his political future. He immediately answered TARP. Tom said that this would harm him in any future run for any office. And the smart move, as many other reps did, was to vote no and hope it passed. He talked to the presidents of 25 banks from 1st Bank to Wells Fargo. You have this highly technical bill that "if it doesn't pass, then all inter-bank lending stops in 24 hours." And you have millions of companies depending on this. He was told by people on all sides of the spectrum that the results would be a collapse of biblical proportions if it didn't pass. He also talked about where people turn when things go this bad, and it's not Democracy and free enterprise.

My $0.02: I think Congressman Tancredo's vote here shows strong moral character in that he voted what he thought was necessary over what was in his own political interest. And he did so voting the opposite of what his political philosophy is. And to those who are upset with him on this vote - he was right. We did face a complete economic collapse and that vote was key to avoiding the collapse. None of us liked giving the banks all that money, especially when they responded by giving all of us the middle finger by watering down the financial reform bill and bringing back even larger bonuses. But it had to be done.

For my last questions I asked him, if he's elected, then 8 years from now what will be his biggest accomplishment. His reply was that the majority of people in this state will say they are better off than they were 8 years earlier.

Conclusion

Tom Tancredo is an interesting guy. I don't agree with him on much, but I think he comes at his decisions and policies in a thoughtful way and tries to do what is right. He comes at the question of Governor with a very good big picture approach and some very interesting ideas. He's very conservative, but is not a drown the government in a bathtub type - his support of 60, 61, 101 is grounded in respect for the rule of law, but also that he thinks the impact would be manageable until a tax increase could be put on the ballot.

And then there's immigration... I think Tom Tancredo is his own worst enemy on this, because he gravitates to discussing it exclusively, which then hides all those other facets of him and labels him by this one issue. So can Tom win as Governor? Maybe, but only if he STFU on immigration and instead talks on these other points. (I'm not saying he hides from immigration, but that if he focuses on the rest.) And if he stays Mr. Immigration, he still guarantees a loss for Dan Maes, and that is his primary goal.

And if Dan drops out then I'm guessing Tom will drop out the next day. And that would be a shame because he makes the discussion between the candidates a lot more interesting. On the flip side, if he's in to the end, I'm guessing he'll easily beat Dan Maes and may give Hick a run for his money.

Audio of interview at Tom Tancredo Interview