DENVER -- A controversial anti-illegal immigration Arizona sheriff, a bounty hunter who stars in his own TV show and a candidate for governor singing a song about falling in love with a Mexican girl in a country bar on a Sunday afternoon.
This is Colorado, and candidate Tom Tancredo's
idea of a fundraising good time.
Several hundred red-white-and-blue-clad supporters paid $35 and up Sunday as Tancredo hosted Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
, Dog the Bounty Hunter
(aka Duane Chapman) and others at Denver's Grizzly Rose
, despite competition from home games for the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos.
Tancredo is running a distant second
in Colorado's three-way race for governor, behind Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper
, who is the mayor of Denver, but ahead of Republican Dan Maes
. A former GOP congressman and presidential candidate, Tancredo jumped into the race in July, running on the American Constitution Party ticket out of dissatisfaction with the two GOP primary candidates.
Immigration is Tancredo's issue, it's Arpaio's issue, and it was the rousing issue for Sunday's crowd of mostly white, conservative voters. The economy barely rated mention, despite a Denver Post pol
l indicating it's the top concern for 58 percent of Coloradans, followed by the federal deficit for 13 percent and immigration for 10 percent.
"Forget the party labels, just look at the person, vote for the person," Arpaio told the cheering crowd. Later, he added, "Sometimes politicians have to worry about the Hispanic vote. I don't worry about it. Or you have to worry about the big employers because they can't get cheap labor. I don't worry about it."
Arizona is known for a tough new law on illegal immigrants that's being challenged by the federal government. Colorado, meanwhile, enacted
what were then considered the nation's toughest state laws on immigration in 2006, restricting welfare benefits and requiring employers to confirm workers' immigration status. A 2009 audit of the Colorado law found increased reporting of arrests of illegal immigrants to federal immigration enforcement, but didn't necessarily lead to increased deportation proceedings.
A Syracuse University analysis
indicates that deportation of illegal immigrants has risen considerably under President Barack Obama when compared to the George W. Bush administration's record.
Still, Arpaio regaled the crowd with tales of his tent cities for county jail inmates, the pink underwear he makes them wear and his all-women chain gangs
. He also proudly noted his clashes with the federal government
over enforcement of illegal immigration laws.
"I'm the poster boy, I'm pretty proud of being that, for the White House and the Justice Department," Arpaio said before urging the crowd, "Make sure you support Tom. Vote for him! Vote, vote, vote, vote!"
While this wasn't Arpaio's first trip outside
Arizona to campaign for another candidate, Chapman said Tancredo was the first candidate he had agreed to support.
"Law enforcement loves him," Chapman said. "Tom Tancredo has a plan to make money on crime as crime makes money on us."
Chapman's biker leathers had to be appreciated by many in the crowd who showed up on Harley Davidsons, including some bearing "Riders Against Illegal Aliens" logos on their vests.
Tancredo took off his leather biker vest to reveal a Dog the Bounty Hunter T-shirt. And he noted that he managed to get out of the house without wearing a helmet, just a week after an accident
that left him with minor scrapes and bruises.
"We have a tough road ahead of us, there's no two ways about it, but I believe in all my heart that it's the right thing we're doing," the candidate told the crowd, later calling Arpaio "my hero, my mentor."
And the candidate praised another Arizona law banning ethnic studies
"No more of this pushing multicultural garbage on our kids," he said.
Tancredo has raised more than $318,000
in his brief two months in the race -- more than Maes' $255,000, but considerably less than Hickenlooper's almost $3 million. The crunch for cash was plenty evident Sunday, from an auction of wine with Tancredo labels to "money-bomb" boxes for donations. Hickenlooper, however, went unmentioned, although Arpaio once referred to the "mayor of Colorado" (he also asked what the capital of the state was, then mentioned Carson City, the capital of Nevada).
Toward the end of the rally, Tancredo turned on a recording, brought his friends on stage and sang along to "El Paso,"
a cowboy classic in which the protagonist falls in love with a Mexican woman, shoots and kills the Mexican man who tries to woo her, then dies in her arms after being shot by the law.