Sunday, September 2

Tancrazy Train: In The Haus

What do you get when you cross a border-obsessed Representative-cum-presidential-candidate from Colorado with Washington state’s most prominent peddler of German nutcrackers?

You get $7,600, according to

No joke. As of July 15, the largest contributor to Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo’s presidential bid is listed as the Nussknacker Haus, otherwise known as “The Official Home of The Nutcracker Lady.”

The Nussknacker Haus holds the coveted title of “the northwest’s largest collection of nutcrackers” — as in, the little wooden dolls with movable mandibles. In terms of donation largess, the Nussknacker Haus beat out even the US Immigration Reform PAC, which kicked a comparatively wimpy $5,000 into the Tanc’s campaign coffers.

What’s the connection? A recent phone call to the Nussknacker Haus reveals that Tancredo and Miss Arlene have a little something in common.

Miss Arlene, as she is colloquially known, would be Arlene Wagner, the “Nutcracker Lady”, whose “award winning book ‘The Art & Character of Nutcrackers’ is widely acclaimed worldwide,” according to her website.

Miss Arlene views immigration as “a huge issue” in the “little Bavarian village” of Leavenworth, Wash., in which she and her husband reside and operate Nussknacker Haus.

Although U.S. Census data places Leavenworth’s per capita percentage of Latinos at less than half the national average, Miss Arlene is audibly alarmed by their growing presence in the community.

“When you go into the little grocery store, you’d think you were in Tijuana,” she says. “And they don’t speak English. The white people, the students in the schools are suffering. Because of No Child Left Behind, they have to make sure all the illegals understand.”

Leavenworth is a major tourist attraction, loaded with quaint bed-and-breakfasts, boutique shops and picturesque apple orchards. Washington is apple country, and growers there hire thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants for the annual harvest season. According to an August 21 New York Times story, demand for apples is at an all-time high, but orchard owners are finding it difficult to recruit pickers, thanks to a federal crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers,

If the trend continues and apple production declines, it’s reasonable to assume tourism in lovely little Leavenworth would suffer, too. But that particular aspect of the equation doesn’t seem to worry the Nutcracker Lady. Miss Arlene calls the stemming of undocumented immigration “the key issue” for her and her husband. Neither of the two has actually met Tancredo, although they have signed up for his mailing list.

“He is one of the very few who are strong on immigration,” she says. “We’re clear up in Washington, but we keep up on politics quite avidly.”

Hence, the beefy financial injection into his lagging campaign.

As of July 15, Tancredo ranked sixth out of nine declared Republican presidential candidates in terms of fundraising, with a total of $2.8 million. That’s political peanuts compared with Mitt Romney’s $44.4 million or Rudy Giuliani’s $35.6 million. In the earliest and most expensive White House race in history, candidates are likely to start dropping out as they get priced out.

Perhaps Tancredo could leverage his lucrative nutcracker connection in other ways. If TV actors and sports stars can rake in the cash with customized bobbleheads, why not a Tom Tancredo Special Edition “Road to the White House” Nutcracker? Chances are, even Tancredo’s critics would snap them up, if only for the opportunity to superglue shut hi s miniature wooden mouth.

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