Yesterday Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participated in the first Spanish-language debate in Colorado history.
While Coffman seemed to have trouble with the language — his campaign has backpedaled significantly from touting Coffman's Spanish-language prowess — he nevertheless managed to flip-flop on a key issue. In 2011, Coffman proposed amending the Voting Rights Act to eliminate the requirement that ballots be printed in different languages. It was a surprise, then, when Coffman stated his belief that bilingual ballots are important. As Jason Salzman noted, this appears to be the first time Coffman has ever offered a different position on bilingual ballots.
For a good rundown of the entire event, we turn to the Aurora Sentinel:
Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, a recent student of Spanish, did his best to keep up with the language skills of his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. Due to his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, Romanoff is fluent in Spanish and used his familiarity with the language to go on the offensive at Coffman’s expense, attacking his record of historically voting against policies intended to reform immigration laws. Coffman didn’t offer much defense to Romanoff’s barbs and appeared to stick to a prepared set of talking points, frequently glancing at the podium in front of him. He touted his backing of a military version of the DREAM act, called the ENLIST act, which would allow for children brought to the U.S. illegally to become members of the military and obtain citizenship…
…“Does Congressman Coffman really think memorizing a new script is enough to mask the harm he’s done to the Hispanic community throughout his career?” Romanoff said in a statement after the debate. “Mr. Coffman’s record doesn’t sound any better in Spanish.”
At the end of the debate, Romanoff said his comments and philosophies were heartfelt and Coffman was providing nothing more than a “script.” The comment drew audible response from the audience. [Pols emphasis]
If you weren't already aware, both candidates received the questions in advance of the debate at the request of Coffman's campaign — which was obvious throughout the debate as Coffman largely repeated memorized responses. Coffman supporters like to say how nice it is that Coffman is trying to learn Spanish, and while that sentiment carries some truth to it, Coffman is clearly getting more credit than he deserves for his Spanish-language skills. Agreeing to debate in Spanish was a noble effort by Coffman, we suppose, but he's obviously not fluent enough to participate in a forum of this nature.
We've said it before after watching numerous other debates between Coffman and Romanoff, but it bears repeating here as well: If debates decided the outcome of elections, Romanoff would be on his way to a blowout victory on Tuesday. Perhaps there is a third language in which Coffman could win a debate with Romanoff, but you can mark English and Spanish off the list.