Dan Maes is still the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, much to the dismay of the GOP establishment, numerous rank-and-file Republicans, a significant number of tea-party types who were once Maes supporters, and voters throughout the state who want a competitive gubernatorial race.
We held out some hope, late last week, that as Maes heard from increasing numbers of Republican, tea partiers and other conservative leaders trying to persuade him to drop out of the race, the Evergreen businessman — who seems continuously caught up in scandals of his own making — would realize it would be best for the party that nominated him, and all Colorado, if he dropped out.
But as the 5 p.m. Friday deadline drew near, Maes announced he would stay in the race. In an e-mailed statement Friday, Maes said that after listening to both those who wanted him to withdraw from the race and those who wanted him to stay, he decided, “I’m in it to win it.”
That will be a tall order, given the large advantage Democrat John Hickenlooper now has in the polls and in campaign money. Hickenlooper and Democratic leaders may be the only ones happy with Maes’ decision.
Additionally, Maes must overcome the fact that more and more conservatives say they will vote for American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo, the former Republican congressman who became a third-party candidate just before the GOP primary.
On Friday, Tancredo declared that Maes should now be considered the third-party candidate, not Tancredo. Because of the latest scandal over Maes’ false claim about having once worked undercover for Kansas Bureau of Investigation and his loss of support as a result, Maes is “no longer viable,” Tancredo said.
He has a point. With people like stalwart conservative and Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland urging other Republicans to join her in switching their support from Maes to Tancredo, the man who forged a national reputation based on his fight against illegal immigration probably has the best shot in a gubernatorial race of any alternative-party candidate in Colorado’s history.
We understand Club 20’s rule against not including third-party candidates in their election-year debates unless that party has received 10 percent of the vote in the previous election. In most cases, those candidates attract such a small minority of voters that they can’t be considered a factor in the race.
But that isn’t the case in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. When Club 20 hosts candidate debates next Saturday at its annual autumn meeting, we hope the organization will consider offering Tancredo a spot at the debate table, so voters in this region can listen to his ideas and determine if they want to support him.
From a selfish perspective, perhaps its understandable Maes would stay in the governor’s race, despite his very slim chance for victory. As a writer on the Colorado Pols website said last week: “NEVER in his life will he ever be this close to winning a top-tier race again ... If he ever tried to run again, he would be crushed from the beginning under the weight of his own faulty resume.”
But Maes’ decision to put his own interests above those of his party or the state as a whole doesn’t necessarily mean the campaign for governor is finally settled. True, there are now only 58 days until the Nov. 2 election. But a lot can occur in that time.
Fifty-eight days ago, Scott McInnis — as yet unsullied by a plagiarism scandal — was the leading Republican candidate for governor. He was solidly ahead of Maes in a Denver Post survey, and he polled well in a head-to-head against Hickenlooper. And 58 days ago, Tancredo was still a Republican, nominally supporting McInnis.
Who can say what the next two months will bring?