Donnelly is an antiabortion, pro-gun former member of the Minuteman Project, an activist group that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border to curb the flow of illegal immigrants, and is currently on probation for trying to board an airplane in Ontario with a loaded gun. Donnelly was recently condemned by members of his own party for claiming Kashkari, a nonpracticing Hindu, supported Muslim Sharia law because he participated in a Treasury seminar on Islamic finance.
Tancredo earned his reputation as an immigration hard-liner, vocal during his years in Congress about his belief that Hispanic and Islamic residents are a threat to the country's cultural identity. He's also been a staunch supporter of Colorado's perennial personhood proposals, which would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest and outlaw certain forms of birth control.
Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams has been an unequivocal alarmist about Tancredo, who he thinks would win the primary if it were held today. "The danger he poses would go beyond this election," Wadhams said. "It would take Colorado off the table in 2016. It would really take Colorado off the map as a purple state."
A primary win for Tancredo on June 24 wouldn't mark his first go-round in the gubernatorial theater. He ran on the American Constitution Party line in 2010 after Republicans failed to field a credible candidate, and Tancredo finished second to Hickenlooper, 14 percentage points behind.
"Tancredo was basically a sideshow in 2010," Wadhams said. "This time he would be the main event because he would actually be the Republican nominee, not a third-party nominee in a race that was already lost. He would define the Republican Party as anti-Hispanic, antiwoman, and drive turnout among those voter groups."
If Tancredo wins, Wadhams said, "it will suck all the oxygen out of the election. Candidates like Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, our candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, which are open seats, and our candidates for state Senate in competitive races will be saddled with the controversies and recklessness of Tom Tancredo and they will not be able to run their own campaigns."
Farther down the ballot, Republicans are one seat away from winning control of the state Senate, and in doing so, vanquishing Democrats of single-party control of the state. The GOP picked up two Senate seats in recall elections in 2013, and the chamber is a major target for the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee this year, which works to elect Republican candidates at the state level. RLCC spokeswoman Jill Bader said "Colorado is absolutely a target," and said the opportunity at hand is so vital that the committee chose Colorado Springs as the site of their annual national meeting this year.
A handful of the state Senate seats that are currently in play are in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, areas with big Hispanic populations in the Denver suburbs. The voting population in Coffman's district to the east of Denver is also nearly one-fifth Hispanic.