Citing his commitment to end so-called sanctuary cities, Republican Tom Tancredo on Wednesday threw his support behind gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton the day after Stapleton said he was withdrawing his petition and would instead pursue a spot on the primary ballot at Saturday’s GOP state assembly.
Tancredo, an immigration hard-liner and former five-term congressman, had been the leading Republican candidate for governor but dropped out of the race in late January due to lackluster fundraising.
Tancredo told Colorado Politics he decided to endorse Stapleton because the two-term state treasurer was the strongest candidate with the strongest position on sanctuary cities, a signature issue for Tancredo and one that polling shows could be decisive for Republican primary voters.
Stapleton will be competing with seven other Republicans for delegate votes Saturday at the GOP’s state assembly in Boulder, where it will take 30 percent support to win a spot on the June 26 primary ballot.
“You look at the field and you say to yourself, you’ve got some very good and certainly qualified candidates, and some that aren’t,” Tancredo said in an interview.
“From my point of view, there is one thing that can separate a candidate from the others — leadership on sanctuary cities. All the Republican candidates pay lip service in their opposition to it, but no one has been as upfront about it as Walker and put his money where his mouth is, in terms of the ads he’s running, and I believe it when he says it.”
Tancredo, who will be attending the state assembly as a delegate from Jefferson County, said he’s been considering for months whether to make an endorsement in the race and has “met with almost all of (the candidates).”
“Some of the folks running haven’t the slightest chance of winning anything,” Tancredo said. “But of those that are viable, you have to have something that you can use to separate one from another, and for me that’s the issue of sanctuary cities and the ability to win.”
In a letter to Republicans obtained by Colorado Politics, Tancredo described Stapleton as the “candidate who was equally committed to upholding our conservative values and taking the fight to the Democrats.” In addition to his opposition to sanctuary cities, Tancredo said he was impressed with Stapleton’s “commitment to defending our Second Amendment rights (and) fixing our crippling infrastructure.” He also said Stapleton was the only Republican in the field who could defeat presume Democratic frontrunner Jared Polis, a five-term congressman from Boulder.
The other Republicans seeking a berth in the primary through the state assembly include Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, businessman and author Barry Farah, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III and Steve Barlock, who co-chaired the Trump campaign in Denver two years ago. Two candidates have submitted petitions, which are under review by the secretary of state: entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell and former investment banker Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney.
Farah said he decided to jump in the crowded field last month after determining that the departure of Tancredo and prosecutor George Brauchler — who switched to run for attorney general last fall — had left an opening for a conservative candidate.
Before he withdrew from the race at the end of January, Tancredo had the support of roughly 35 percent of Republican primary voters, according to polling data obtained by Colorado Politics. A more recent opinion survey, conducted by GOP polling firm Magellan Strategies, showed Stapleton in the lead with a smaller share among likely primary voters — 26 percent, ahead of Coffman’s 13 percent, with other prominent candidates in single digits. Fully 39 percent were undecided.
In the poll, released in early March, 43 percent of Republicans said enforcing federal immigration laws was the most important issue for a GOP gubernatorial candidate to address, far ahead of other issues like transportation funding, controlling state spending and improving public education.
Stapleton announced Tuesday that his campaign had identified what it termed fraudulent conduct by the firm he hired to collect the 10,500 petition signatures required to get on the ballot. He asked Colorado’s secretary of state to reject the signatures officials had certified and said he would be competing for delegate votes at the state assembly.
A spokesman for Coffman’s campaign scoffed at the notion Tancredo considered Stapleton a stronger opponent of sanctuary cities.
“Walker Stapleton has always been a Bush family insider, something Tom Tancredo has fought against his entire political career,” Roger Hudson told Colorado Politics in a written statement. “Unlike Walker, Attorney General Coffman has actually worked and succeeded to limit illegal immigration and make our communities safer. If Republican delegates want a governor who will end sanctuary cities, they will vote for the candidate who has done more than talk — Cynthia Coffman.”