• Tom Tancredo appears in this 2010 file photo during his concession speech at an election night gathering at the Stampede Mesquite Grill & Dance Emporium in

    Tom Tancredo appears in this 2010 file photo during his concession speech at an election night gathering at the Stampede Mesquite Grill & Dance Emporium in Aurora. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

    Former Congressman Tom Tancredo said Friday he won’t debate his fellow Republican challengers running for governor because he wants to “reduce the number of self-inflicted wounds” Democrats can use for campaign fodder.

    Tancredo made his position on primary debates known Friday when The Denver Post invited him and other GOP candidates to participate in a debate in February.

    “I will have to pass on the debate opportunity,” Tancredo said in an e-mail. “We made a decision some time ago to forgo these venues in order to reduce the number of self inflicted wounds that emanate out of these encounters.”

    The decision was made by his campaign, he said.

    While Tancredo said he wished to avoid hurting other Republicans, his challengers were quick to criticize the move.

    Sen. Greg Brophy, who also is running for the GOP nomination for governor, said he thinks Tancredo has another reason for bowing out.

    “He doesn’t want to show people how unprepared he is to be governor,” Brophy said.

    Said Tancredo: “That’s exactly why I don’t want to have debates. It will turn into a circular firing squad.”

    Brophy isn’t the only one puzzled by Tancredo’s stance to avoid GOP primary debates. Other seeking the GOP nomination for governor include Secretary of State Scott Gessler, businessman Steve House and former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.

    “We should have a reasonable and appropriate numbers of debates,” Kopp said. “I think the public expects and deserves that.”

    The winner of the June GOP primary will take on Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in November.

    Tancredo had no problem debating fellow Republicans when he was on the presidential campaign trail in 2007.

    “The purpose of my participation was to advance a single issue, which was immigration. I can’t remember attacking anyone else on that stage — with the exception of McCain,” he said, with a laugh.

    U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who went on to win the GOP nomination but lose the presidential election, disagreed with Tancredo on immigration.

    Tancredo said he relishes the chance to debate Hickenlooper.

    Tancredo in July challenged the governor to debate Amendment 66, a $950 million-a-year-tax increase for education that Hickenlooper supported and most Republicans opposed. Hickenlooper’s office said at the time the governor looked forward to “lively debates” once the GOP selects a nominee.

    Four of the GOP candidates — Brophy, Gessler, Kopp and Tancredo — appeared together in November for a one-hour taping on The Aaron Harber Show.

    Tancredo said he had already accepted the invitation before his campaign decided against participating in debates. And both he and Brophy said it was more of a forum than a debate.

    It was Brophy who got off the memorable shot in that encounter.

    “If the congressman wants an easy path to the nomination, he might go talk to the American Constitution Party about that,” Brophy said.

    Tancredo ran against Hickenlooper in 2010, but on the American Constitution Party ticket. He briefly left the Republican Party because of what he saw as flaws with its primary candidates, Dan Maes and Scott McInnis. In a wave Republican year, Hickelooper won the race with 51 percent, while Tancredo received 36 percent and Maes managed 11 percent.

    Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327, lbartels@denverpost.com or twitter.com/lynn_bartels

    Read more: Tom Tancredo won’t debate fellow GOP gubernatorial candidates – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_24768924/tom-tancredo-debate-colorado-gop-candidates#ixzz2o4IXGwrp
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    Posted by Dana West @ 6:25 pm for Candidates, Colorado politics, Elections, NSRF Business |

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