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Tom Tancredo Loses GOP Primary For Colorado Governor

Controversial former congressman Tom Tancredo lost his primary for governor on Tuesday.

Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post/Getty

Tom Tancredo is going to spend the summer working in his garden.

The conservative former congressman and presidential candidate lost a tight four-way primary for the Republican nomination to be governor of Colorado on Tuesday, finishing second, just behind establishment choice former Rep. Bob Beauprez, by a margin of 30.2% to 26.6%.

The Daily Beast talked to Tancredo while he was awaiting the returns Tuesday afternoon. He had just returned from his garden where he had “planted a whole bunch of flowers.” The Colorado Republican described gardening as a “very relaxing hobby” while reflecting on the closely fought primary.

He looked back on this election with a sense of surprise that Republican Party regulars made such effort to get involved to defeat him. Tancredo cautioned that this shouldn’t be considered “a Tea Party versus establishment split,” though. “I don’t know I’m the tea party guy,” he told The Daily Beast. “There are tea party guys that hate me,” Tancredo noted, pointing to his third-party bid for governor in 2010 where he received 40% of the vote, and his support for TARP in Congress in 2008. Instead, the former five-term congressman said, “They just look at me as a maverick curmudgeon.”

The former congressman, who gained national fame for his strong opposition to immigration reform, didn’t think that Eric Cantor’s surprise loss in Virginia two weeks ago would have any effect on voters. He thought 90%-95% percent of Colorado voters wouldn’t have the slightest idea about the race. He did make clear that “I certainly was glad to see Eric go,” although he mourned that Cantor was “replaced at leadership level with someone even worse on issues I care about.”

Tancredo also expressed his dismay at the number of negative ads that had been run against him, some of which he characterized as charging “I essentially want to legalize and pump heroin into little children.” The ads came in response to Tancredo’s support for marijuana legalization. Although the Colorado Republican has never smoked pot---in his words, “wine satisfied whatever need I had in that particular regard”---he didn’t see why the state should prohibit its use. As Tancredo told The Daily Beast “It’s always been fascinating when you talk freedom, especially to conservatives, they really are unwilling to extend to people they don’t like or don’t like what they do.”

While incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is considered vulnerable in November, many in the GOP were concerned that nominating Tancredo would torpedo their party’s chance to pick up the state house. As a zealous opponent of immigration reform, Tancredo might alienate Colorado’s growing Hispanic community, and the ardent conservative had a history of controversial comments including suggesting the possibility of taking out Muslim holy sites in response to a terrorist attacks in a 2005 interview, and his advocacy of civics literacy test as a requirement for voting. Even in his interview, Tancredo didn’t mince words, explicitly referring to Arizona Senator John McCain as “an enemy.”

Tancredo joked that win or lose he was resigned to his fate. After all, if the former congressman lost, he could spend the time with his grandsons and going to their sports game. And now, after falling short in a bruising campaign, he can do just that while getting in even more work in his garden.