Let Tancredo join debate, supporters tell Club 20

Club 20’s ruling that candidate Tom Tancredo can’t participate in the organization’s gubernatorial debate could get one final test today.

Club 20’s board of directors regularly considers organization policy on the Friday preceding Saturday events such as the Club 20 debates.

“I fully expect somebody’s got to” bring up the policy that prevents Tancredo from debating with two other candidates, Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said Thursday. The other candidates are Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Republican nominee Dan Maes.

Tancredo, who left the GOP for the American Constitution Party, joined a party that failed to garner enough votes in the last election cycle to claim a spot on the Club 20 debate lineup.

Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, a Republican who turned on Maes this month, calling him a “fraud,” now supports Tancredo and wants him on the dais.

Club 20’s reasoning left her unpersuaded, Rowland said.

Tancredo is “obviously a viable candidate,” Rowland said. “My hope is that the (Club 20) board will apply common sense” and revise the policy.

It won’t be at the behest of Mesa County, though.

Commissioner Craig Meis, who represents the Mesa County Commission on the Club 20 board, said the policy has strong support on the board.

“It has done a lot more good than in this one case where people are questioning it,” Meis said.

Although Rowland would like to open the issue, he didn’t plan to raise it today, Meis said.

One of the irritants for the pro-Tancredo forces is that Club 20 is staging one three-way debate, in which incumbent Kathleen Curry, a former Democrat now unaffiliated, will have a place on the dais with Democrat Roger Wilson and Republican Luke Korkowski. The Club 20 rules allow incumbents to participate under any circumstances.

Tancredo “should be on stage, especially if Kathleen is there,” said state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, a onetime gubernatorial candidate himself. “I just happen to think that all the major players in the election should be on stage, and Tancredo’s footprint in this race is only growing.”

The Club 20 phone “has been ringing off the hook” with people wanting Tancredo on stage, Brown said. One caller from California said he tracks races in which dark-horse candidates overtake the leaders on Election Day, and he promised to send Brown his study.

It could come in handy when Club 20 considers its policy, which “I’m certain we’ll be reviewing,” Brown said.

The Tancredo campaign has pitched to get on the stage, as well, pointing out that Maes and Hickenlooper scheduled 10 debates. Tancredo has participated in one and is invited to seven others.

“We’re going to be in virtually every debate that they have scheduled between themselves,” Tancredo campaign manager Cliff Dodge said. “We’re going to be in every single one of them except Club 20. It doesn’t make any difference to Reeves. He says they have policies that they have to follow.”

In his letter to Tancredo, Brown conceded the Club 20 policy is not perfect.

“We do not argue that our policy is necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” Brown wrote, “but we rest in the confidence that it is fair and objective.”


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