Fetal ‘Personhood’ Backer Enters Colorado’s GOP Gubernatorial Fray (Updated)

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News Politics

Fetal ‘Personhood’ Backer Enters Colorado’s GOP Gubernatorial Fray (Updated)

Jason Salzman

Tom Tancredo’s anti-abortion stance in a general election would likely work against him in a state that has voted down so-called personhood amendments three times.

UPDATE, January 31, 10:11 a.m.: Tancredo on Tuesday dropped out of the Colorado gubernatorial racetelling media outlets he believes he could prevail in the crowded Republican primary, but he had been unable to raise sufficient funds to mount a winning campaign in November’s general election. 

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who this month jumped into Colorado’s crowded race for governor, is known nationally for his hard line positions on immigration, but he’s also staunchly anti-choice, having supported federal and state fetal “personhood” abortion bans during his political career.

Tancredo’s extreme anti-abortion stance in a general election would likely work against him in a state that has voted down so-called personhood amendments three times. Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected fetal “personhood” amendments in 2008, 2010, and 2014. In 2012, anti-abortion activists fell tens of thousands of signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.

Close to 60 percent of Colorado adults say abortion care should be legal in most or all cases.

Roe has collapsed in Texas, and that's just the beginning.

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But in Colorado’s Republican primary, which attracts the state’s most ardent opponents of abortion rights, Tancredo’s anti-choice stances would work in his favor, said John Straayer, a professor of political science at Colorado State University.

“A lot of people who are drawn to someone who is virulently anti-immigration would share his views on reproductive choice,” Straayer told Rewire. “I think there’s a pretty high level of overlap.”

Anti-choice activists say their issue can propel Republican candidates in the primary.

“I definitely believe his support of personhood will help him with people who are pro-life, and there is a big pro-life base here in Colorado,” said Jennifer Mason, a spokesperson for Personhood USA, which has backed multiple personhood amendments in Colorado. “Personhood is really just an acknowledgment that every human life has value. So I definitely think that will help him.”

Dick Wadhams, a conservative pundit and former leader of Colorado’s Republican Party, said Tancredo, who once ran for president on an anti-immigration platform, has a loyal base of support.

“Tom Tancredo starts off with 20, 23 percent … a rock-hard base of support among Republican primary voters,” Wadhams said on KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Show November 8. “And no one else is even close to that. Everybody else is down at 10 [percent] or below.”

That’s a big advantage in a primary with five or six candidates, Wadhams said.

The pro-choice stance of one of Tancredo’s opponents, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, was reported for the first time last week by a Denver TV station. Coffman immediately came under attack by conservatives like KNUS radio host Caplis, who suggested that Coffman might have lied about her pro-choice position to be elected by Republicans in 2014.

Another Republican in the gubernatorial race, businessman Victor Mitchell, responded on Facebook to Coffman’s pro-choice stance with the statement that the Colorado Republican Party “should nominate pro-life candidates” and to do “otherwise is to abandon our values.”

Coffman is unlikely to win the GOP gubernatorial primary unless there’s a “really substantial turnout” of Republican primary voters, which “could bring out the moderates,” Straayer said. A new Colorado law allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in the party primaries may facilitate a larger turnout, Straayer said, but he predicts this won’t happen, allowing a more conservative candidate to win the nomination.

One organization that supports Latinas in Colorado is so troubled by Tancredo’s gubernatorial run that it made an exception to its usual policy of not commenting on candidates.

“We are concerned about what will happen if the leadership of our state is put into the hands of someone who would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion access taken away, someone who does not support providing sanctuary protections or advancing compassionate immigration reform and instead would beef up the fear mongering and violence that result from the federal policies from our broken immigration system, someone who is associated with a white supremacist group that helped to organize the deadly, racist rallies in Virginia this past summer,” Karla Gonzales Garcia, policy and program director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said in a statement to Rewire. “This is not only the wrong direction for Colorado to move in, but is a very real threat to many of the women and families that we work with each and every day.”

Tancredo was on the board of VDARE Foundation, an organizer of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. He was scheduled to speak at a VDARE conference that was canceled in August. But he resigned from the board shortly after announcing his campaign for governor, telling a Denver Post columnist he’d “goofed” by associating with the white supremacist organization.

Pro-choice activists say Colorado will reject a Republican with Tancredo’s anti-choice views.

“Tom Tancredo is as extreme and at odds with Colorado values on abortion rights as he is on everything else,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “His beliefs are a retrograde throwback to the days before [Roe v. Wade] and even the days before Colorado became the first state to allow safe, legal abortion 50 years ago.”

Tancredo, in an interview with Rewire, confirmed his opposition both to Roe v. Wade and to public funding for Planned Parenthood. He continues to support federal and state personhood measures that have proven widely unpopular, he said.

“What we see on that ultrasound picture is indeed life,” he said.

Along with Coffman, Mitchell, and Tancredo, Colorado’s GOP gubernatorial candidates include former Trump organizer Steve Barlock; Mitt Romney’s nephew, Doug Robinson; and state treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s a second cousin of former President George W. Bush.