Tan­credo to leave House; oth­ers now wag­ing im­mi­gra­tion fight, he says

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Rep. Tom Tan­credo said Oct. 29 that the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue has now gained other cham­pi­ons and that he won’t seek re-elec­tion to his House seat next year, even if he doesn’t win his long-shot bid for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

With vot­ers’ ou­traged calls help­ing sink the Se­nate’s im­mi­gra­tionre­form bill, and with the other Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates mak­ing im­mi­gra­tion a top pri­or­ity, the Colorado Repub­li­can said his work is com­plete.

“I just fig­ure, how many more signs do I need that I’ve done what I set out to do,” he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Iowa, where he is cam­paign­ing for his party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

He has com­piled a con­ser­va­tive vot­ing record, in­clud­ing op­pos­ing the pre­scrip­tion-drug pro­gram as part of Medi­care and sup­port­ing school vouch­ers. But he made his mark by press­ing for ac­tion on im­mi­gra­tion long be­fore the Septem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks brought the is­sue frontand-cen­ter.

Mr. Tan­credo, 61, said he real- ized sev­eral weeks ago how much the is­sue has changed when he of­fered an amend­ment on the House floor to take away fed­eral funds from sanc­tu­ary cities that pro­tect il­le­gal aliens’ iden­tity.

Democrats ac­cepted the amend­ment with­out ob­jec­tion. “I re­mem­ber the first time I did it, I got 82 votes. That is what has changed in the Congress,” Mr. Tan­credo said.

He said he hasn’t fig­ured out what he will do when his term ends in Jan­uary 2009, but one op­tion would be to chal­lenge Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Demo­crat, who is up for re-elec­tion in 2010.

He won elec­tion to the U.S. House in 1998, promis­ing to limit him­self to three terms, but four years ago an­nounced he would break his pledge and run again to con­tinue fight­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, say­ing there was no­body to whom he could turn over the is­sue.

“Now there’s Steve King and Ted Poe and [John] Cul­ber­son; man, there’s a slug of guys and gals out there who are dy­na­mite on this is­sue,” Mr. Tan­credo said, re­fer­ring to his House col­leagues who have taken up the fight.

While it’s since be­come com­mon, Mr. Tan­credo was one of the first con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans to break pub­licly with the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, telling The Wash­ing­ton Times in 2002 that the pres­i­dent was the lead­ing ob­sta­cle to na­tional se­cu­rity.

Those com­ments earned him a re­buke from Karl Rove, at the time Mr. Bush’s top po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, who, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Tan­credo, told the con­gress­man never again to “darken the door of the White House.”

Im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates said Mr. Tan­credo has done se­ri­ous harm to his party.

“He’s be­come the lead­ing spokesman in his party de­mo­niz­ing im­mi­grants and dem­a­gogu­ing the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue,” said Frank Sharry, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum. “It’s got­ten him lots of press at­ten­tion but the long-term cost to his party will be dev­as­tat­ing. You don’t beat up and bully the fastest-grow­ing group of vot­ers in the na­tion with­out pay­ing a price.”

But Dan Stein, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, who fought along­side Mr. Tan­credo on im­mi­gra­tion, said the con­gress­man was there at all the key times.

“He’s been a bell­wether of the na­tional mood — kind of a sort of na­tional ca­nary who’s been way ahead, or fore­shad­ow­ing the surge in pub­lic opin­ion, and ac­tu­ally helped lead it at crit­i­cal times,” Mr. Stein said. “He’s re­ally ir­re­place­able. He’s one of a kind. He’s both a mav­er­ick and an in­cred­i­bly gutsy guy.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Rep. Tom Tan­credo says he won’t seek re-elec­tion to his House seat and in­stead may run for the Se­nate.

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