DENVER -- In a move that complicates Republican efforts to take back the Colorado governor's office, former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo said Monday that he plans to change parties and run on the American Constitution Party ticket.
Tancredo issued a terse, one-sentence statement saying he intends to register his new party affiliation with the secretary of state then seek the nomination for governor.
He believes Republican candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes have no chance of beating Democrat John Hickenlooper in November.
Tancredo previously gave Maes and McInnis a deadline of noon Monday to agree to step down if they are trailing in the polls after the Aug. 10 primary. Both men refused.
"It's high noon, and I'm still here," Maes said.
McInnis said he will wait for voters to decide.
"Those looking for a deadline should focus on the only real deadline: Aug. 10 at 7 p.m. This is when the polls close," McInnis said.
Tancredo said there were still legal issues to work out in making a switch. First he has to register with the American Constitution Party. Then, Benjamin Goss, the party's current gubernatorial candidate, has to step down, and a five-member vacancy committee must be appointed to pick a successor.
Tancredo spokeswoman Jennifer Raiffie said the candidate won't actually change his party affiliation until all the legal issues are resolved.
Before announcing his decision, Tancredo got into a testy exchange with Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams, accusing Wadhams of disparaging GOP primary candidates in private and discussing ways to get Tancredo on the ballot.
"You called me about the rules. You dislike them both," Tancredo said Monday in an interview with Wadhams on KHOW-AM.
Wadhams said he noted both candidates had problems but claimed he didn't disparage them.
"I've been very open that these two guys had problems," Wadhams said.
Goss said it was his idea to approach Tancredo to run on the party's ticket because it would give it more clout.
Democrats pounced gleefully on the latest turmoil in Colorado's Republican Party, saying it exposed the growing clout of tea party activists who are pushing for changes in the party. Tea party members have criticized Tancredo for ignoring his own admonitions to work for change within the Republican Party.
"Another front exploded today in the ongoing GOP Civil War that is raging across the country. As we have seen in Florida, California and Colorado, the tea party is on offense and is forcing Republicans further and further to the right," said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.
Tancredo said people have a right to criticize him, but the Republican Party is in dire trouble and he believes this is the only alternative.
Tea party groups sent a petition to Tancredo asking him not to switch parties, saying it would give the election to Hickenlooper. They said Tancredo doesn't have grassroots support.
Tancredo rejected their petitions and said he had no other option for getting on the November ballot.
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