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Coffman Takes Immigration History Revision Too Far

UPDATE: For good measure, here’s a clip of Mike Coffman praising Tom Tancredo during the latter’s run for governor in 2010:

Listen to the lavish praise from Coffman for Tancredo “standing up” to President Bush’s immigration reform attempts.

And ask yourself how this could possibly be the same man vilifying Democrats today by likening them to Tancredo.

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dreamactcoffmanIn 2014, GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, who once called the DREAM Act to protect immigrant students “a nightmare for the American people” and fought against immigration reform until his congressional district was redrawn to include a large immigrant population, defeated his Democratic opponent in part by audaciously claiming his own position on immigration to be more progressive than the Democrat in the race.

This year, Coffman doesn’t seem to be changing the playbook a bit against his current Democratic opponent, Sen. Morgan Carroll:

That’s in reference to Coffman’s predecessor Tom Tancredo, the nationally-famous anti-immigration firebrand who has recently criticized Coffman’s reinvention on the issue as contrived to win votes in his new district. This Tweet refers to a vote in 2009 by Sen. Carroll against legislation that would have created similar tuition status as the DREAM Act for undocumented high school graduates in Colorado.

Just one problem: in 2013, Sen. Carroll cosponsored the ASSET bill, a.k.a. “Colorado’s DREAM Act.” ASSET is now the law in Colorado thanks to Carroll’s support. Once you realize that, it’s obvious that Coffman’s campaign is playing the most cynical kind of game with the truth–the lie of omission.

And it gets better:

In 2006, as at least a few of our longtime readers will remember, Republicans proposed a harsh immigration crackdown ballot measure called “Defend Colorado Now.” Hoping to forestall that measure, Democrats in the Colorado legislature made the in-hindsight highly regrettable decision to convene a special session of the legislature to pass immigration restrictions that would make such a ballot measure “unnecessary.” The truth is, Tom Tancredo was one of the original backers of the Defend Colorado Now measure, and was opposed to the special session convened by Democrats to forestall it.

Folks, what side do you think Coffman was on? The Longmont Times-Call reported (article no longer online):

Illegal-immigration foes drew a crowd to the foot of the state Capitol on Thursday to launch their petition drive for a state ballot measure that would deny government services to anyone who’s not in this country legally…

The rally began with state Treasurer Mike Coffman, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, leading the participants in the pledge of allegiance. [Pols emphasis]

In retrospect, both the 2006 Defend Colorado Now measure and the legislative session convened to counter it were ill-advised. Democrats have been taking their lumps over that mistake since 2006. But not only was Morgan Carroll working against Tancredo’s goals in 2006, at that same moment, Mike Coffman was the one standing with Tom Tancredo.

The real story behind today’s attacks on Carroll from Coffman’s campaign is one of such eye-popping hypocrisy and outright falsehoods that we’re legitimately surprised Coffman was willing to go there yet again. On the other hand, this is the perfect example of the kind of blatant disregard for the truth Coffman has repeatedly demonstrated against his Democratic opponents since redistricting.

For all the deference Coffman gets from the media over his wholesale flip-flops on the issues, with this latest we think Coffman may finally have taken it too far. Everyone who was there in 2006 knows the truth about what Coffman said and did then. It’s not a question of interpretation. It’s not a “misstatement.”

It’s a lie. And it must not go unchallenged.

The Weekend Mike Coffman’s Luck Ran Out

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman's 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood's logo.

Still from Rep. Mike Coffman’s 2014 ad using Planned Parenthood’s logo.

Colorado’s most vulnerable Republican incumbent in this crazy 2016 election season, Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, is without question our state’s greatest political survivalist. Few politicians in our state’s history have had their political constituencies as dramatically reshaped out from under them as Coffman, who was originally elected in 2008 to succeed the hard-right anti-immigrant firebrand Rep. Tom Tancredo. After several years representing Tancredo’s accommodating staunch conservative Republican constituents, Coffman’s congressional district was redrawn to include the highly diverse suburban city of Aurora, and went from an ultra-safe Republican seat to one of the nation’s most competitive.

Coffman’s up-to-now successful ability to re-invent his political image in wholesale terms, winning re-election twice in his new diverse and competitive battleground, stands today as perhaps the biggest disappointment for Colorado Democrats in the twelve years they have enjoyed resurgent control in this state. In 2012, Coffman faced an underfunded challenger who came nonetheless unexpectedly close to unseating him. In 2014, Coffman actually ran to the left of his Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff on certain issues like immigration, and audaciously used Planned Parenthood’s logo in positive ads despite his repeated votes over the years to cut off the organization’s funding.

And Coffman won. Coffman just kept winning, as Democrats fumed over what they viewed as blatant political opportunism and shameless flip-flopping on formerly core issues for pure political survival. In 2014, the successful U.S. Senate campaign of “Con Man Cory” Gardner, along with Coffman, created something like real despair for Democratic strategists that factual positions, statements, and other such “reality based” lines of attack were losing their efficacy in politics. Here were politicians who lied right through the fact-checking and in the end did not pay a price.

This weekend, though, something happened that we may look back on as the moment Coffman’s audacious political re-invention finally broke down. Two major stories, one in the New York Times and the second in today’s Denver Post, take a second look at Coffman’s changing politics–and in doing so, de-legitimize the whole effort with surprising ease. Here’s the New York Times’ Emmarie Huetemann, with her devastating headline “A Congressman Slighted Immigrants, Then Embraced Them. Now He Runs From Trump.”

He started learning Spanish in 2013, he said, shortly after being re-elected to a redistricted House seat whose constituents bore little resemblance to the far more conservative ones who sent him to Congress in 2008. Mr. Coffman, a retired Marine who co-sponsored a bill to make English the nation’s official language and suggested that Hispanic voters who could not understand their ballots should “pull out a dictionary,” suddenly represented the most diverse district in Colorado…

Mr. Coffman’s detractors see him as another pandering politician, willing to do anything to get re-elected. Another of Mr. Coffman’s ads — in which a handful of people of different ages and ethnicities say he is “not like other Republicans” but “one of us” — draws bitter laughter at Ms. Carroll’s campaign office.

“He didn’t find religion until he got redistricted,” said Tim Sandos, a former Denver city councilman who is now the chief executive of the National Hispanic Voter Educational Foundation. “And now all of a sudden he’s ‘one of us.’” [Pols emphasis]

Tom Tancredo, Mike Coffman.

Tom Tancredo, Mike Coffman.

Meanwhile, over Denver Post, reporter Joey Bunch gives Coffman’s long and changing record exactly what Coffman doesn’t want: a thorough and impartial examination.

Opponents concede the congressman has distanced himself from Trump, the candidate, but contend he cannot credibly deny his history of Trump-like statements and Trump-like positions.

The Denver Post analyzed the most common talking points Democrats use to link Coffman and Trump. The Post found that most have some basis in fact, but they lack context to give a better understanding of the issues.

From there, readers are treated to a pretty good summary of what swing voters in Coffman’s district will consider the worst things Coffman has said and done, like claiming President Barack Obama “is not an American” and saying the DREAM Act for undocumented students “will be a nightmare for the American people.” In each case Bunch dutifully includes Coffman’s apology, subsequent policy change, or other “context” as applicable. One item missing from Bunch’s list is the above mentioned use of Planned Parenthood’s logo in Coffman’s campaign ads, which has merited its own story on other occasions.

The context doesn’t help, folks. The aggregate weight of all of Coffman’s reinventions in one place is simply too much. Taking all of Coffman’s “changes of heart” in the only context that matters–Coffman’s quest for political survival–makes the whole exercise look fraudulent. The fact is that none of this is new information, and this is a case that Coffman’s opponents could have made in 2014 with most of the same material. But it’s impossible to read these long form examinations of Coffman’s shifting positions and not conclude that, as Tancredo himself recently said of Coffman, “the only thing authentic about him is his passionate desire to keep that House Member pin on his lapel.”

The difference may be that in this calamitous year for Republicans, Coffman’s reinvention just stands out more. Donald Trump has created a political world of black and white choices for Republicans — a world where it’s next to impossible to be a Republican in the gray area. As we’ve said before, you cannot be publicly ambivalent about Trump, and the GOP Presidential nominee’s line-in-the-sand approach provides little room to maneuver for Republicans such as Coffman.

Coffman’s 2016 campaign is fairly similar to what he’s always done; but by changing the context of this election, Trump is making Coffman’s strategy untenable. There was another way for Coffman, but he missed his exit, and after years of watching Coffman brashly outmaneuver his fate for two election cycles, this feels different to us.

It feels like the beginning of the end.

Top Ten Stories of 2015 #9: Coffman Stumbles, Carroll Rises in CO-6

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) faces a tough re-election challenge in state Sen. Morgan Carroll (D) .

As we wrap up the political happenings of 2015, we can glance ahead to this time next year and make a prediction: Whatever happens in Congressional District 6 will end up as one of the Top 10 stories of 2016. And if next year continues along the same trend line as 2015, the outcome of CD-6 will easily crack the Top 3.

It is quite possible that 2016 will be the end of the line for Mike Coffman after three decades as an elected official; if so we’ll look back on 2015 as the year when everything started to go wrong for the four-term Aurora Congressman.

At this time last year, Coffman was basking in the glow of a November beatdown of Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. National pundits had agreed that CD-6 was a “toss-up” race in 2014, but then Coffman went ahead and thrashed Romanoff 52-43 in one of the bigger political surprises in Colorado. Buoyed by such a dominating re-election victory, Coffman entered 2015 as the top Republican recruit for the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Republicans were licking their respective chops over the idea of taking out incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet – just one cycle after Republican Cory Gardner defeated Sen. Mark Udall – and they believed that Coffman was the man to make it happen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell personally wooed Coffman on multiple occasions, including a much-publicized breakfast meeting that was intended to seal the deal once and for all.

Coffman ultimately decided against running for Senate in 2016, and in retrospect, Republicans may be glad that he declined. A year that began with such promise for Coffman devolved quickly, and he now heads into another re-election effort with all the momentum of a two-legged turtle.

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Vulnerable Mike Coffman Lays Low As Challenge Looms

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

For the last two weeks, a member of the Coffman family has dominated political headlines in Colorado, though not the Coffman most people think of. When we last left off with GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, he was vowing to repeal Obamacare in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and hurrying to pivot to “jobs and the economy” in response to the court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage equality–but still not getting anything like the press his embattled wife was receiving.

Which we fully assume he considers to be a good thing.

Just before the “Coffmangate” blackmail scandal involving Rep. Coffman’s spouse Attorney General Cynthia Coffman broke open in the middle of June, Mike Coffman’s remarks on a radio talk show comparing the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS made the rounds with no small degree of controversy. But since then, we’ve seen very little in the way of earned media for Rep. Coffman beyond those brief statements, regarding either the overbudget Aurora VA hospital has had spent so much time grandstanding on as an election issue, or anything else.

And naturally, he’s had nothing to say about his spouse’s political implosion.

But the world moves on: just today, Mike Coffman’s name was mentioned again as one of the most competitive races in the Mountain West for 2016. Roll Call’s Rothenblog:

Coffman’s decision to seek re-election puts a wrench into Democratic plans to take over his open seat. But that doesn’t mean the party will give him a free pass. President Barack Obama won the 6th by 6 points in 2012 and 9 points in 2008, but Coffman easily dispatched former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff, 52-43 percent, in 2014. State Sen. Morgan Carroll has been mentioned on the Democratic side but the field is still fluid. As far out of reach as this race seems for Democrats, it’s probably the type of district the party has to win in order to get the majority in 2016…

After Andrew Romanoff’s unexpected shellacking at the polls in 2014, the second win for Rep. Coffman over resurgent Democratic opponents since his congressional district was remade into a closely divided battleground in 2011, conventional wisdom might have declared him safe. But the CD-6 electorate in 2014 seems to have almost uniquely punished Romanoff for running an uninspiring centrist campaign, sending him to defeat by a greater margin than overlapping Democratic candidates in other races. In 2012, low-budget underdog challenger Joe Miklosi came far closer to defeating Coffman than Romanoff did, a result that demonstrates the potential in this district for a candidate who can turn out the Democratic vote–or at least not demotivate base Democrats like Romanoff did with his milquetoast “balance the budget” message. And above all, the difference in the electorate between the 2012 presidential elections and last year’s midterms gives Democrats hope that 2016 may be the year Rep. Coffman’s number comes up.

Bottom line: Mike Coffman has proven a resilient incumbent, able to reinvent himself in dramatic fashion to appeal to a very different electorate than the hard-right conservative voters who originally elected him to Congress. But he has also benefited circumstantially from weak opponents, and a strong “Republican wave” in 2014. A combination of his starkly opposed past positions on the issues, continuing predilection for embarrassing verbal diarrhea like the ISIS/VA crack or his declaration in 2012 that President Barack Obama “is just not an American,” and the growing possibility of the right challenger in the right year, means that no matter how handily he was re-elected in the last election, Rep. Coffman remains vulnerable in the next one.

That perennial vulnerability is why Coffman chose not to run for the U.S. Senate next year, with his negatives potentially attracting much more attention in that marquee statewide race. His best career option, as we long expected he would decide, was to fight to hold CD-6–considered vital to either side’s aspirations for control of Congress.

The problem is, in 2016 Democrats may finally have the right combination of circumstances and human capital to take Coffman out.

Pay No Attention To Mike Coffman’s Buddy Ben Carson

coffmannotanamericanThe Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported Friday afternoon:

Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman paid Republican Ben Carson $15,000 to speak at a fundraiser, according to a Wall Street Journal story reporting that the GOP presidential candidate and his wife earned between $8.9 million and $27 million in a recent 16-month period…

Democrats thought that they had redrawn the seat after the 2010 census to make it competitive enough to kick out the Republican but Coffman has moderated his views on immigration reform and other issues.

The DCCC says the speech is another reason to be skeptical of the shift.

“After years of running to the right, embracing the birther movement and paying the extremely controversial Ben Carson thousands of dollars, Mike Coffman has been attempting a fake moderate rebrand to keep his seat. Voters will see right through that,” said Tyler Law, press secretary for the Mountain West Region of the DCCC.

But as Rep. Mike Coffman’s spokesman Tyler Sandberg was quick to respond, zing!

Responded Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg: “They said that all last cycle and their No. 1 recruit in the country got steamrolled by 9 points.”

The swing between a Democratic-leaning electorate in presidential election years and a more conservative electorate in midterm elections is a well-established phenomenon all over the country, and can be easily seen in the very different election results here in 2012 versus 2014–or for that matter, 2008 versus 2010. In 2012, Coffman barely survived against an underfunded Democratic opponent, which raised hopes that Coffman would be ousted in 2014. But a strong national “GOP wave” combined with a surprisingly weak Democratic candidate in the form of uninspiring technocrat Andrew Romanoff allowed Coffman to outperform other Republicans substantially within the highly competitive Sixth District.

In 2016, the game will be very different for number of reasons, and Democrats should not be deterred by previous results in terms of how to go after Coffman. The 2016 electorate will be more receptive to Democratic hits on Coffman than they were last year, and that means crazy stuff that Ben Carson has said over the years–that Obamacare is the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” even worse than 9/11–will be more of a liability to Coffman than last year.

And that’s before Carson goes nuts on the presidential campaign trail, which is more or less guaranteed.

So, Uh, Now What? Republicans Look for Answers With Coffman Out

Congressman Mike Coffman told the Denver Post on Monday that he will not challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016 and will instead focus on re-election in CD-6. Coffman’s decision to stay out of the race is big news for the same reason a flawed Coffman was the GOP’s top choice to run for Senate in the first place – Republicans don’t have another option. There was no “plan b” last week, and there’s no “plan b” today.

So…now what?

It is a question that even the most seasoned and well-connected Colorado politico can’t answer with much certainty—but that doesn’t mean we won’t try! Where do Colorado Republicans go from here?

“Republicans don’t have a candidate yet, and nobody knows whether they will end up with a strong recruit or a weak one.”

— Political Analyst Stu Rothenberg, the Greeley Tribune.

First, Do No Harm

Coffman has served in elected office for 26 years, and you don’t have a career like that without making smart choices about when and where to run. Make no mistake: Coffman would not have turned down a Senate run if he truly thought that he could win. Opportunities like this – to be handed your Party’s nomination for a U.S. Senate seat — don’t come along often. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Coffman at least twice in the last few months to personally convince him to run in 2016.

Coffman was unquestionably the GOP’s first and best choice to run for Senate this cycle. There’s no disputing this. That Coffman declined to run, despite recruitment efforts from local and national Republicans, will force GOP strategists to make some difficult decisions. With Coffman out of the picture, Republicans have to get pragmatic about their level of commitment to beating Bennet next year. Republicans struck gold with Cory Gardner in 2014, but can they really do it again two years later? Only once in the last 40 years have incumbent senators from the same state and same political party lost re-election in consecutive election cycles.

This question is not just about candidate recruitment – it is about whether Republicans are committed to finding the resources for their Senate candidate no matter who wins the nomination. The most important goal for Colorado Republicans in 2016 is to create an environment in which the GOP candidate for President can win in Colorado. Republicans need Colorado’s electoral votes more than they need another GOP Senator, and that reality will dictate the allocation of resources and money. It was just five years ago when the ridiculous Dan Maes ended up as the GOP nominee for Governor against Democrat John Hickenlooper. Republicans didn’t have anyone capable of defeating Hickenlooper in 2010, but Maes was such a terrible candidate that he hurt other candidates up and down the ballot. (more…)

It’s Okay, Because Mad Mike Coffman Was in the Military

Arrggghh!!! Mike Mad!!! Mike SMASH!!!

Arrggghh!!! Mike Mad!!! Mike SMASH!!!

FRIDAY UPDATE: The White House talks to 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman about Coffman's antics, calling him a "pretty aggressive antagonist."

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Washington D.C. has been abuzz about a spat between Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Veterans Administration Secretary Bob McDonald during a House Committee hearing yesterday. Coffman was grilling McDonald during a meeting of the House Veterans Affairs Committee when McDonald took exception to Coffman's grandstanding on the issue of a new VA Hospital in Aurora. From the Associated Press:

McDonald was defending the VA's budget at a hearing when he and Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman tussled over construction delays and cost increases at the long-delayed hospital project. After a few minutes of arguing, McDonald snapped at Coffman: "I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?"

Coffman, an Army veteran, did not respond at the hearing. But the four-term lawmaker said in a statement later that he could tell McDonald a few things he hasn't done.

"I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I've never built a hospital that's years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I've never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list," he said.

Conservative media outlets are all up in arms that someone would dare question Mad Mike Coffman because Coffman is an Army and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and it's his job to be a raging asshole, or something (more on that in a moment). We transcribed the relevant section of the hearing below, but it's important to watch the video so you can see the context in which this occurred. It's also important tor remember this key fact: a former Proctor and Gamble CEO, McDonald was sworn-in as the new VA Secretary on July 30, 2014 (following the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki), which means he's only been in office for 6 months. Knowing this, read the transcipt and watch the video, and then see if you can tell us why you wouldn't have had a problem with a Congressman telling you that you are not going to do your job:

Rep. Coffman: This is a department mired in beaurocratic incompetence and corruption. And I've gotta tell you, I think the pubic relations is great today. But there's no substance. There is…no…substance…

Sec. McDonald: I'm highly offended by your comments, Mr. Coffman…

Rep. Coffman: [Holds up a hand and says, “Let me finish…”] I fundamentally believe, that as unfortunate as it is, that at the end of the day — at the end of this President's term — that you will not have made a difference in changing the culture of this organization…by virtue of the fact that you continue to gloss over its problems.

Sec. McDonald: I am offended by your comment. Actually, I've been here 6 months. You've been here longer than I have. If there's a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.

I found it ironic that when I went out to L.A. [Los Angeles] to solve a 4-year-old lawsuit, you were busy calling for a hearing to discover what happened five years ago. I'm working on the future, sir, and I'm going to correct the past. But I'm working on the future, because that's what our veterans want.

Rep. Coffman: For you to say that you are going to the Army Corp of Engineers to advise you as to how to correct the extraordinary problems…let me tell you, I think what you need to do is focus on providing the healthcare benefits that the veterans have earned, and get out of the construction management business…and to cede it to the Army Corps of Engineers…Each major construction project is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and you are behind schedule. That's a problem.

Sec. McDonald: We work very closely with the Corps of Engineers. General Bostwick…he has told us he does not want total responsibility for all of the VA's construction. We're going to work with him. We're going to find out the right balance of that. We're doing that in Denver, as you know, and we appreciate your help to get that building finished, and get it finished for a good value for taxpayers.

Rep. Coffman: I hope…I hope you can make a difference. I hope you can.

Sec. McDonald: Maybe I'll give you my cell phone tonight, and you can answer the calls, and see if I'm making a difference for veterans, and see what they say. Or go on the websites — see what the veterans are saying on the websites. Ask the VSOs in the next group…I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?

Rep. Coffman: The fundamental challenge is for this organization to reflect your values, and I'm not sure that that's going to happen and I hope that it does.

As you can see in the video (after the jump), Coffman was trying to interrupt and doesn't appear to have initially heard Sec. McDonald when the latter said, "I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?" Coffman's office later issued an angry statement in response, and then the Concerned Veterans for America (a group funded by the infamous Koch Brothers) started stomping their feet and demanding that Sec. McDonald apologize to poor old Mad Mike:

Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said McDonald was “disrespectful” of Coffman, who is the only member of Congress to serve in both Iraq wars, and demanded an apology…

…“Not only did Secretary McDonald attempt to shift blame for VA hospital construction delays and cost overruns for a facility in Rep. Coffman’s district, but he then unbelievably spouted, ‘I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?’ to a 22-year Marine Corps and Army veteran who served in both Iraq wars,” Hegseth added…

Hegseth said it’s Coffman’s job to ask questions related to VA oversight, and said Coffman has pointed out several VA management failures over the last several years. [Pols emphasis]

Let's see if we can get this straight: Rep. Coffman tells the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that he is not going to make a difference in changing the culture of the VA (even though McDonald has only been in office for 6 months), and it's McDonald who should apologize because Coffman is a veteran? And don't forget — Coffman has "pointed out several VA management failures over the last several years." Great work, Congressman!

We respect Coffman's military service, but serving in Iraq doesn't give him a free pass to berate anyone who dares challenge him. Mad Mike Coffman was often on display during debates last fall with Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, demanding respect for his military record — which Romanoff always made a point to applaud — while criticizing Romanoff for having an Ivy League education. Arizona Sen. John McCain famously overplayed his own military background during his 2008 campaign for President, and Coffman doesn't have a fraction of McCain's story to tell. If McCain, a decorated Navy pilot and Prisoner of War, can go too far in using his military record as an excuse for everything…well, so can Coffman.

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“Major Confusion” Coffman Does it Again on Immigration

Mike Coffman takes all sides

Go ahead and roll the dice — “Major Confusion” Coffman has every side covered.

Fox 31’s Eli Stokols has the rundown on today’s Congressional immigration battles, and Republican Rep. Mike “Major Confusion” Coffman is picking up kudos after a handful of conflicting votes and mismatched public statements:

[Coffman] voted against the amendment that seeks to end the Deferred Action program and the final bill, which included the amendment.

“The President’s executive actions are clearly unconstitutional and I strongly oppose his unilateral decisions on immigration but my party needs to stop just saying what we are against and start saying what we are for when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system,” said Coffman in a statement.“Under the DACA amendment that passed, young people who were taken to this country as children, who grew up here, went to school here, and often know of no other country but the United States, would not be allowed to renew their status and would face deportation. We should have had an opportunity to pass a version of the DACA program into law.  Moving forward, immigration reform should be about securing our borders, growing our economy and keeping families together and we need to do it all the constitutional way – through Congress.”

Immigration policy is confusing enough without Coffman's help, so stay with us here – this is about to get silly.

Congressman Coffman is a former U.S. Marine. If you’ve spent any time around Colorado politics, you are almost certainly aware of this; Coffman never misses an opportunity to mention his military career and call upon related clichés such as “boots on the ground.” We do not have a negative word to say about Rep. Coffman’s service record. To borrow a phrase from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, Coffman’s General Election opponent in 2014, Rep. Coffman’s military career should be applauded and respected.

His rank as a citizen lawmaker perhaps should be adjusted, however, to include the title “Major Confusion,” because that seems to be Coffman’s strategy when it comes to dealing with the issue of immigration.

While nothing ever actually happens on immigration reform, “Major Confusion” always makes sure to take credit for specific immigration votes while at the same time making sure to so obfuscate his position that it seems like he’s always on your side on the issue (Coffman even issued a statement in Spanish today about how he totally supports DREAMers). This is a pretty clever political tactic, actually, even if it is completely meaningless.

Take a look at this blog entry from Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry, who is consistently one of the most understandable and understanding journalists in Colorado, and you’ll see what we mean about the strategy of “Major Confusion.”

Coffman, a Republican, voted against a broad bill what seeks to undo the ability of illegal immigrants brought here as children to find a permanent home in the United States.

Good for you, Congressman. It was an impressive and important move. The vote was nothing but a flagrant political slap to President Barack Obama as retribution for seeking administrative ways to solve immigration problems. But it passed, 236-191 because other Republicans don’t have the temerity and good sense Coffman showed.

If you’re going to slap Coffman on the back here, it’s important to draw the distinction between being a “vote maker” and a “law maker.” Congress is in the business of making laws – or as House Speaker John Boehner routinely crows, not making laws. “Major Confusion” Coffman did indeed cast several votes today on immigration reform, but the votes were contradictory and his actions did absolutely nothing to contribute to “making laws” on immigration. Coffman split his votes on various controversial amendments, which is the real-world equivalent of flipping a coin and calling both “heads” and “tails.”

A press release issued by Colorado immigrant rights and Latino advocacy groups had a different perspective on what took place on Capitol Hil today:

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Immigration Reformers Await Gardner, Coffman Votes Today

UPDATE #2: Salon.com's Luke Brinker:

Endorsing Rep. Cory Gardner’s campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado this fall, the editorial board of the Denver Post assured readers that Gardner was not the extremist Udall and Democrats depicted…

It turns out that maybe Gardner didn’t really mean all that stuff about being warm and fuzzy and moderate. Sure, he did what he needed to do during the campaign — voting against a bill, sponsored by Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, that would have blocked deportation relief for those who came to the U.S. as youth. But today, Gardner lined up with Tea Party conservatives to support Florida Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill to prevent President Obama from carrying out his executive order granting deportation reprieves to unauthorized immigrants with family ties and expanding the program that allows migrants brought to the country as youth to remain in the U.S.

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UPDATE: Rep. Mike Coffman one of only seven Republicans to vote against today's bill symbolically chastising President Barack Obama for his immigration executive order, while Cory Gardner votes yes–FOX 31:

Gardner, who defeated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and is positioning himself as a moderate within the GOP Senate caucus, voted with a majority of House Republicans in support of Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill that seeks to bar the executive branch from delaying deportations.

Coffman, who pummeled Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff in a re-drawn and newly diverse 6th Congressional District largely on the strength of his outreach to Latinos and other immigrant communities, was one of just seven House Republicans to vote against Yoho’s bill.

Gardner immediately released a statement following the vote, explaining that he opposes the president’s unilateral action but not comprehensive immigration reform overall…

“I voted against H.R. 5759 because, although I strongly believe that it is unconstitutional to have immigration policy made through executive orders and without the consent of Congress, this legislation will only mislead the American people into believing that we are taking care of the problem when the only way to address President Obama’s overreach is either through the U.S. Supreme Court or through the appropriation’s process,” Coffman said.

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Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

A press release from local immigration reform advocates and the Service Employees International Union challenges Colorado Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman to align their votes with their campaign rhetoric this year, as the House prepares to vote in symbolic opposition to President Barack Obama's executive order later today:

After two years of failing to take up any attempt at meaningful immigration reform in the House, now Republicans have announced that in response to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, they’ll be voting tomorrow to undo the action. While the vote is largely symbolic as it would not pass in the US Senate, it’s a gesture that Republicans see as a way to express their anger at the President for taking steps within his authority to fix the immigration system on his own.

However, the bill is a direct attack on millions of immigrant families and DREAMers whose lives changed because of this new program and the President’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The bill set to be voted on tomorrow was introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and it would undo both the programs initiated by the President that have and will allow millions to come out of the shadows and apply for legal status and work permits…

Juan Carlos de la Cruz, SEIU Local 105 Executive Board Member, said “Tens of thousands of undocumented Colorado immigrants have lived here for years, worked hard to provide for their families and do their part. With the President’s new program, they’ll finally be able to get papers and contribute more to this state that’s become their home. I can’t believe that Republicans are already trying to take this away and subject them to deportation all over again. I call on Cory Gardner and his fellow Republicans to reject this extremist bill and stand up for immigrants and their families.”

“President Obama just stepped up to begin solving a problem that Republicans have been refusing to address for years. And, he’s improved the lives of millions by taking action. If Republicans don’t like what he did, nothing is stopping them from passing the bipartisan bill sitting on their desk that would solve this problem once and for all,” said Patty Kupfer, Denver-based Managing Director of America’s Voice. “Cory Gardner has said he’s a new kind of Republican. Well, these are the same old Republican tactics to do nothing and then blame Obama. Tomorrow we’ll see whether or not he’s willing to stand up to his party and do the right thing.”

We haven't heard anything from either Gardner or Coffman on how they intend to vote today, but Gardner's previous statements about President Obama's executive order are not encouraging. Most debate over the legality of Obama's order is among conservatives, including 17 red states that filed suit yesterday–this despite persuasive arguments from legal experts that the executive order was not just legal, but in line with similar actions taken by Republican presidents.

We'll update after today's vote. Did Gardner and Coffman's newfound support for immigrant rights survive November 4th? We're about to get our first indication.

Mike Coffman’s ENDA Convictions Wither Post-Election

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A letter from several Republican members of Congress today urges House Speaker John Boehner to immediately allow a vote on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar discrimination in hiring decisions based on sexual orientation:

As the 113th Congress draws to a close, we respectfully encourage you to support inclusion of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), a commonsense piece of legislation to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as part of any available legislative vehicle including the National Defense Authorization Act.

Here in the United States we value the quality of an individual’s work over who they are. We already protect individuals from discrimination based onrace, color, religion, sex, or national origin. ENDA is necessary for fellow Americans who do not enjoy these same protections. In 29 states, an estimated four million workers can be legally fired because of their sexual orientation. Standing up for the individual liberty of workers is the right thing to do. No one should be denied a job denied a promotion or fired because of whom they are…

As Justin Snow of Washington, D.C. LGBT news publication Metro Weekly reports, this letter was signed by six of the eight Republican co-sponsors of ENDA in the House of Representatives:

The letter was signed by six of ENDA’s eight Republican cosponsors in the House. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charlie Dent (Penn.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.) and Jon Runyan (N.J.) attached their names to the letter…

For more than a year, ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, has been blocked by leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Boehner himself has voiced his opposition to the bill, which he has said is unnecessary. In November of last year, the Senate approved ENDA 64-32 with the support of ten Republicans — the most Senate Republicans to ever vote for a piece of gay rights legislation, let alone one that protects transgender Americans.

…Despite long odds, several LGBT-rights organizations, particularly those focused on winning support among Republican lawmakers, are continuing lobbying efforts on ENDA until the 114th Congress is sworn in next month.

It's simple arithmetic that ENDA would be much easier to pass in the present lame-duck session of Congress than after January, when Republicans will take control of the U.S. Senate and expand their House majority by several seats. That's why these Republican ENDA cosponsors are pushing as hard as they can to get the provision attached to anything they can–including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congress is working hard to pass before adjournment for the holidays.

But as Snow reports, only six of the eight GOP sponsors of ENDA signed the letter. Who didn't sign, you ask?

Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (Colo.) did not sign the letter.

Now, Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island is facing a criminal investigation over campaign finance violations and tax fraud despite winning re-election last month. So you could reasonably see how Grimm might be indisposed to make waves within the GOP caucus. But what about Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado? Coffman's decision to cosponsor ENDA last April was a major surprise after his longtime stand against any protection for LGBT Americans. Prior to that, Coffman had campaigned strongly against marriage equality in Colorado, voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and even served as state chairman for notoriously anti-gay Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign. Coffman's change of heart of ENDA was, as Politico reported at the time, easily attributable to political motives:

The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.

And…that election is now over. We don't yet know what reason Coffman may have given to refuse to sign this letter calling for an ENDA fast-track, but the effect is the same whatever his excuse: legislation that Coffman claims to support, and earned him significant political credit for supporting, will become much harder to pass when the next Congress convenes in January.

And that appears to be just fine with Mike Coffman.

Should Andrew Romanoff Get a Do-Over?

Andrew Romanoff.

Andrew Romanoff.

Roll Call's Abby Livingston jump-started speculation about the 2016 CD-6 race yesterday:

There’s no rest for the weary at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has yet to name the new committee chairman for 2016, but the DCCC is already getting a jump on recruiting during the final days of New York Rep. Steve Israel’s tenure.

On Thursday morning, Israel held the first 2016 recruitment meeting since Election Day. He named two northeastern congressional districts as top targeting opportunities, and party strategists are readying for at least five rematches from 2014, according to a committee aide…

Two unsuccessful Democratic candidates from 2014 will be asked to make another run — former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who lost to Rep. Mike Coffman, [Pols emphasis] and Maine state Sen. Emily Cain, who lost an open-seat race to Rep.-elect Bruce Poliquin.

This was the first word we've heard that Andrew Romanoff, who lost heavily in last week's elections to Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, might be recruited for a 2016 rematch. This report touched off another round of speculation about Romanoff's viability in local press–FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Romanoff, who sat out 2012 and then announced his decision to challenge Coffman in 2014 almost as soon as the calendar turned to 2013 and spent the full two-year cycle raising an impressive $5 million, only garnered 43 percent of the vote in the re-drawn district.

But he lost by nine points amidst a GOP wave after failing to make inroads with blue collar voters in Adams County and to overcome Coffman’s withwering portrayal of the former statehouse Speaker as a self-interested carpetbagger who moved from Denver to the suddenly competitive district simply because he saw it as a way to get to Washington.

The Denver Post's Jon Murray:

While Andrew Romanoff isn’t saying much about his plans following his loss last week to Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, D.C. news outlet Roll Call reported Thursday that House Democrats will mount an effort to recruit him to run again in 2016.

That would be against the advice of some Colorado political observers and Democratic activists, who told The Denver Post in a story this week that Romanoff ought to consider stepping back from politics for a while. He’s lost two hard-fought races in a row…

Through his campaign spokeswoman, Romanoff declined to comment Thursday. But the DCCC reiterated to The Post that he was a strong candidate this year, despite his 52 percent-43 percent loss.

We've been pretty blunt in our assessment that Romanoff underperformed in this election–relative to other Democrats on the ballot with him, and certainly below the high expectations he had going into this race. We have given credit to Romanoff for dramatically exceeding expectations with regard to fundraising, but Romanoff's bland and centrist campaign message failed to motivate base Democrats to support him. After 2012 underdog Joe Miklosi came within two points of ousting Coffman, Romanoff's drubbing has turned Coffman into one of the state's stronger Republican candidates for higher office.

Apropos, Eli Stokols notes early speculation that Coffman may run against Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016, which would open the CD-6 seat and once again create a prime opportunity for Democrats to pick it up. In that event, would Romanoff be the best choice to try again, or would Democrats be smarter to turn to others in this district? Stokols mentions Senate President Morgan Carroll as a possible contender, as well as Karen Middleton–the former state legislator who at one point was set to challenge Romanoff for the Democratic CD-6 nomination but then withdrew from the race.

What say you, readers? We'd guess there are a number of people reading who would like your opinion.

Andrew Romanoff: Not Just Beaten, But Shellacked

Andrew Romanoff.

Andrew Romanoff.

As Colorado Public Radio's Sandra Fish noted yesterday, Democrats substantially outspent Republicans in this year's biggest congressional matchup in Colorado, the CD-6 race–a race that Republican Mike Coffman, as of the latest counts, won by nearly ten points.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman will return to Congress after facing a difficult challenge from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in a race that cost nearly $16.5 million, according to Sunlight.

Romanoff outspent Coffman by more than $1 million through Oct. 15. But Romanoff faced a barrage of attacks ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Fish offers this handy graph to show how Democrats outspent the GOP in CD-6 this year:

The final result of the CD-6 race this year contrasts against two years ago, when underfunded underdog Democratic state Rep. Joe Miklosi ran against Coffman and lost by only two points. There is of course the difference in the electorate between 2012 and this year, but not enough to fully account for the difference in the two outcomes. It's clear, based on polling in downballot races in the same district this year in addition to the difference from 2012, that Democrat Andrew Romanoff substantially underperformed in this race.

For us, watching the much better-equipped Romanoff get beaten so handily was akin to the experience of 2011's Proposition 103 versus last year's Amendment 66. Both school finance tax increase measures, Proposition 103 ran a shoestring campaign with almost no money while Amendment 66 had a $10 million war chest. The rest, as our readers know, is history: all the millions spent on Amendment 66 didn't move the needle a bit over Proposition 103's defeat.

The lesson in both? Money has to be there to win, but it can't save you from yourself. Despite Romanoff's surprisingly strong ability to raise money for this race, as a candidate he repeatedly failed to either distinguish himself or capitalize on Coffman's weaknesses. Romanoff's message, like the in-retrospect bad idea to kick off his campaign with a right-leaning "balance the budget" theme, failed to motivate the Democratic base. And as we saw in the U.S. Senate race, Coffman's willingness to audaciously reinvent himself ran laps around Romanoff's capacity to discredit him.

Democrats we've talked to since Tuesday night remain convinced that CD-6 is a pickup opportunity for the right Democratic candidate in the right year. In hindsight, might Karen Middleton have run a better race? In 2016, Democrats get another shot at Coffman–and with Coffman now very much aware of the perennial threat in his swing district, they'll need to make that one count. The more distance Coffman can put between his hard-right conservative past and his new "moderate" image, the harder it will be to ever dislodge him.

Coffman Not a Good Debater in Spanish, Either

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday's debate.

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday’s Spanish-language debate in CD-6.

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.

Coffman’s new desire to offer “bilingual ballots” contradicts his proposal to eliminate federal requirement to provide them

(Old Coffman strikes again – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

Yesterday, during what was apparently Colorado's first candidate debate in Spanish, Rep. Mike Coffman said:

Coffman: "The federal government has obligated local governments to send bilingual ballots to everyone. I think that bilingual ballots should only go to people who need them. It's a question of saving money. I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand."

But back in 2011, when Coffman proposed repealing the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring ballots to be printed in multiple languages, Coffman said nothing about making sure those who needed translated ballots get them.

Coffman: "Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all," Coffman told the Denver Post at the time.

I went back to the archive, and I couldn't find a single instance in 2011 where Coffman said everyone who needs a bilingual ballot should have one. The best I could find was an acknowledgement that some voters have "legitimate needs," but he suggested second-class solutions, like making a sample ballots available to voters somehow, without any guarantees that they even get this.

His 2011 proposal, by turning ballot-translation decisions over to local authorities and releasing local jurisdictions from the federal requirement, contradicts Coffman's statement yesterday that he wants to provide a "bilingual ballot" to "people who need them." That's not consistent with his actual 2011 proposal.

What if local officials decide that Coffman's dictionary idea is better and cheaper?

So after his debate yesterday, I asked Coffman if he'd offered a new position on English-only ballots.

He said, "No."

(more…)

Mike Coffman: “I am a Proud Member of the Party of No”

Republican Congressman Mike Coffman has worked hard over the last two years to distance himself from Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, and for good reason. Mike Coffman has said some things in previous years that Mike Coffman would rather voters not remember in 2014.

Mike Coffman is a problem for Mike Coffman in CD-6 as he tries to convince voters that he's not the same guy who was first elected to a much more-heavily Republican district in 2008. As the Aurora Sentinel noted in its endorsement of Democrat Andrew Romanoff earlier this month, "only one of the candidates would vote on most issues the same way you would, and that’s Andrew Romanoff."

There are plenty of examples of this dichotomy at play, but rarely are they as stark as this video from a 2010 Tea Party rally in which Coffman declares — repeatedly — that he is "a proud member of the Party of 'No.'"

Yeah, that's not good.

Romanoff Releases Internal Poll Showing Race as Dead Heat

As we wrote in this space over the weekend, rumors that national Democrats were pulling up stakes in CD-6 and abandoning Andrew Romanoff were, well, not so accurate. Reporter Jon Murray tried to clear up some of the rumor mess in a story for the Denver Post, as did The Colorado Independent. Here's the key part of Murray's story:

Here’s more about what happened: The DCCC in May reserved $1.4 million in ad time for late October/early November. But since Colorado’s voters overwhelmingly vote by mail, and ballots go out to them next week, the DCCC also sunk $1.8 million in the past couple weeks on two ads attacking Coffman.

Now, the group is moving the original $1.4 million committed to ad reservations in the Coffman/Romanoff race to rescue Democratic incumbents elsewhere.

Today, Romanoff's campaign took the extra step of releasing internal poll numbers to Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols. As Stokols reports, the race between Romanoff and incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is pretty much where everyone thought it was:

Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff released an internal poll Tuesday showing him trailing Congressman Mike Coffman by just a point, an effort to dispel the notion that the race is trending toward Coffman.

Coffman leads Romanoff by a margin of 44-43 percent in the survey by Chris Keating, a Colorado-based pollster who typically works for Democratic candidates and whose surveys are regarded to be fairly accurate.

In the poll, 13 percent of voters remain undecided.

As for the response from Coffman's campaign? You could probably guess they'd say this: Coffman spokesperson Tyler Sandeberg called the Romanoff poll "garbage." Of course, Coffman's campaign could just as easily have produced their own poll results showing something different, but they probably aren't seeing much difference in their own numbers. The bigger question — whether any polling numbers are relevant anymore — will continue to be discussed long after November 4th. But as far as CD-6 in concerned, we'll repeat our earlier line that this race remains a true toss-up.

 

Aurora Sentinel Endorses Romanoff in Strongly-Worded Editorial

CD-6 candidate Andrew Romanoff (D).

The Aurora Sentinel endorses Andrew Romanoff in CO-6.

The Aurora Sentinel is the largest newspaper in Congressional District 6 — and really the only major newspaper covering Aurora — and today they published a surprisingly-strong endorsement of Democrat Andrew Romanoff over incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman. As the Sentinel explains, Romanoff is a clear choice to represent the growing middle class in CO-6:

You’re about 40 years old. You and your spouse make close to $55,000 a year. About half of you are white, but the rest of you are either black, Latino or Asian. And you’re worried about how you’re going to hold onto what you’ve got. As part of the shrinking middle class in Aurora, and the nation, both candidates for the 6th Congressional District would pretty much have your back on economics if you send them to Washington. But only one of the candidates would vote on most issues the same way you would, and that’s Andrew Romanoff…[Pols emphasis]

…As the next Congress tries, again, to take up the matters of health care, immigration, Medicare, equal pay, federal spending, student aid, new energy development and the limitation of corporate greed and influence, Andrew Romanoff’s record and goals reflect what the district wants and needs. He offers a path forward that makes sense for all of Aurora.

The complete editorial is worth a read, if nothing else because it is so detailed in its assessment of Aurora's changing needs and environment. The Sentinel is critical of Coffman, though its critique is framed largely around the idea that Coffman is no longer representative of a district that bears little resemblance to the heavily-conservative boundaries that outlined CD-6 prior to the last census in 2010:

When Coffman first went to Congress to represent a very different district, drawn farther south as a conservative stronghold, his votes, rhetoric and opinions played well to those constituents. But they’re gone…

…Rather than be candid about it and campaign on his conservative politics, Coffman has worked hard to camouflage it. His voting record and work in Congress are nothing to be ashamed of, especially on military matters, it just doesn’t mirror the politics of the district. [Pols emphasis]

This is a compelling endorsement in a race that will be one of the most expensive — if not the most expensive — in the entire country. This is the kind of analysis that could cut through the clutter and make a significant difference to voters who may feel overwhelmed by TV ads and mailers — and Romanoff's campaign will no doubt spread this editorial far and wide.

Coffman Ad Features Planned Parenthood Logo, Even Though Coffman has Voted to Defund Planned Parenthood

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman has voted multiple times to defund Planned Parenthood, but that didn't stop him from featuring the logo of Planned Parenthood Action Fund in an ad released last week.

The ad states that “Coffman was praised for protecting women from violence.” Then the words "Coffman 'showed courage'" are displayed on the screen next to the PPAF logo.

The ad concludes with praise from the Colorado Springs Gazette, calling Coffman “practical” and “selfless.”

Last year, Planned Parenthood praised 33 Republicans, including Coffman, for “showing courage” by voting for the Violence Against Women Act, which authorized funds to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent acts against women.

"One vote on record supporting women does not make him a candidate we believe supports women’s health," said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, in a statement. He has a consistent record of voting against women’s access to reproductive health care services.

"In fact, Mr. Coffman voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides many important health services to Colorado women, including birth control, family planning services, life-saving cancer screenings and safe abortion services. This advertisement is a smokescreen for Mr. Coffman to hide his continual failure to be an advocate for Colorado women.”

(more…)

Romanoff Most Successful Small-Donor Fundraiser in the Country

CD-6 candidate Andrew Romanoff (D).

Low-dollar donors are big fans of Andrew Romanoff

There was a really interesting story from the National Journal over the weekend with big implications in Colorado. As reporter Shane Goldmacher explains:

Democratic candidates for Congress are crushing their Republican counterparts in small-dollar donations—outraising their GOP foes by an average of more than $100,000 per candidate in the nation's top races.

That's the finding of a new National Journal analysis of federal records in the most competitive House contests in the country. In those, the average Democrat has collected $179,300 in donations under $200; the average Republican has brought in only $78,535.

"That," said Vincent Harris, a Republican digital strategist, "is a big deal."…

…For this analysis, National Journal looked at House candidates and incumbents who were in the most competitive seats, as ranked by The Cook Political Report (those in the "toss-up" and "lean" categories), and those highly touted by the party committees (those in the DCCC's Red to Blue program or the NRCC's Young Guns). The review tallied candidates' "unitemized contributions"—those under $200—as reported to the Federal Election Commission. Those few candidates who itemize every, or nearly every, contribution were excluded. The fundraising figures for all 99 candidates in the analysis are the latest available from the FEC, which for most of them is through June 30.

The findings were stark. In total, the 48 Democrats in the analysis outraised the 51 Republicans in small-dollar donations, $8.6 million to $4 million.

This is the part where we'd tease our readers by asking, Guess which Democrat tops the list?, but you've probably already figured that out from the headline. Anyhoo:

Among Democrats in the analysis, the top small-contributor fundraiser is Andrew Romanoff, a Democratic challenger who is taking on Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in a swing district in suburban Denver. Romanoff has raised $833,527 in small-dollar money, more than 24 percent of his total fundraising. No one else in a targeted race has even raised $500,000.

Romanoff is helped by the fact that he previously ran for Senate, meaning he entered the House race with a far larger network of email addresses and supporters than most. A spokeswoman said more than 15,000 people have donated to his campaign.

Political advisors and strategists quoted by the National Journal largely agree that Democrats are just much, much better at online organizing and fundraising than their Republican counterparts. We don't dispute this analysis, though Republicans should be incensed at their Party's continued inability to figure out the Internet tubes for campaign purposes. One of the great benefits of receiving big support from low-dollar donors is that those donors often end up becoming hard-working volunteers — a big bonus that will pay off repeatedly as GOTV efforts get underway.

VIDEO: Mike Coffman Rejects Climate Change

We discussed this during our Live Blog of last night's CO-6 debate between Rep. Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff, but you really need to see the video yourself as a visibly-uncomfortable Coffman rejects the issue of climate change outright. Coffman's answers came during the "Yes or No answer" segment of the debate:

Here's the transcript of the exchange:

MODERATOR #1 (Denver Post reporter Jon Murray): Mr. Coffman, do you believe humans are contributing significantly to Climate Change?

COFFMAN: Um…No.

MODERATOR #1: Mr. Romanoff?

ROMANOFF: Yes

MODERATOR #2 (Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett): Mr. Romanoff, do you think we can reverse Climate Change?

ROMANOFF: Yes

MODERATOR #2: Mr. Coffman?

COFFMAN: Don't know.

MODERATOR #2: Um, what? Sir?

COFFMAN: [long pause] No.

Coffman's answers to these two questions were not entirely unpredictable, but the Congressman was definitely uneasy — and a bit unsure of himself — in giving his answers. It was a strange way to answer a couple of questions that any pre-debate preparation should have covered repeatedly, so why was Coffman caught so off-guard?

Coffman Surrogates Flail While Dems Hit Harder

As the Denver Post's Jon Murray reports, the Nancy Pelosi hate is back from GOP-aligned supporters of embattled GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, who are apparently still hoping the San Francisco congresswoman can drive 2010's "wave" voters back to the polls in Colorado:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it’s spending $300,000 to place the ad widely. The group previously has spent more than $450,000 in support of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s re-election campaign against Romanoff, the former Colorado House speaker, in suburban Denver’s 6th Congressional District.

The ad’s message isn’t too surprising — it’s a gut-level appeal to voters who might be turned off by Pelosi, who’s raised money for Romanoff — but the claims made in it get plenty of pushback from the Romanoff campaign.

Romanoff on Monday used the ad in a fundraising email to supporters… [Pols emphasis]

Folks, we ask this question in all seriousness: is there a single voter in CD-6 who is "turned off by Pelosi" at a "gut-level" in any way undecided on how they're going to vote in this race? We've never really understood the Pelosi demonization stuff from Republicans, except that they must assume their blinding hatred of Pelosi is shared by legions of voters who feel the same way. It makes even less sense when you consider that Democrats have been out of power in the House for almost four years, and it's John Boehner's GOP-controlled House in the basement of all the polls now. Nancy who?

Outside of the FOX News Channel's existing audience, and others planted firmly in the GOP camp as it is–none of whom could ever be expected to break for Romanoff–we just don't see who is going to be motivated by this ad. Maybe some Democrats who like Pelosi will cheer that Romanoff is on her team? For everybody else, it's a message from out-of-touch political strategists who don't understand that the rest of the world doesn't think like they do.

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce flails away with 2010's anti-Pelosi message, Democrats and their allies are starting to pile on with attacks that actually may leave a mark. A press release from liberal group ProgressNow Colorado announces new billboards and targeted digital ads going up in Coffman's district with a much simpler message:

viololaley

At a press conference this morning, ProgressNow Colorado, the state's largest online progressive advocacy organization, unveiled a new ad campaign in Colorado's Sixth Congressional District targeting Rep. Mike Coffman. Titled "Violó La Ley (Broke the Law)," the billboard directs Spanish-speaking voters to the Corrupto Coffman website, which presents details about Coffman's political record. The website can be viewed at www.corruptocoffman.com…

"We have come together today as a community uniting against a career politician who has disgracefully used his public office for his own personal gain and who has a pattern of corruption," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms at today's press conference. "These aren't Colorado values, and we're here today to make sure voters know about Mike Coffman's shady past."

Bottom line: while Republicans labor to scandalize that Andrew Romanoff is friends with some woman named Nancy Pelosi, Democrats are telling voters in both English and Spanish that Mike Coffman "broke the law."

Which one do you think will do more damage? We going to guess not the nice lady from San Francisco.

Romanoff Breaks Down Issues in Clear Language

People are naturally cynical about politicians. Sometimes that cynicism is justified, and it can often result from a politician's inability to speak to voters about issues in a way that is relatable to them.

Elias Isquith of Salon magazine recently interviewed Democrat Andrew Romanoff about his effort to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. There are several interesting parts to Isquith's wide-ranging interview with Romanoff, but one particular exchange stood out to us as a great example of why Romanoff is such a difficult opponent for Coffman. Take a look at how Romanoff answered a question about Coffman's support for shutting down the government last October:

When Congressman Coffman and his colleagues in the House voted to shut down the government a year ago, that inflicted real damage on Colorado, and I suspect on every other state — and people remember.

To give you some examples: If you were doing medical research at the campus here in Aurora, it’s called the Anschutz Medical Campus, and you can’t get a grant continued and you have to turn patients away because of the government shutdown, you remember. If you’re an employee at the local Air Force base, also here in Aurora, and you don’t know whether you’re going to have a job in the morning because your own congressman shut down the government, you remember. If you’re a senior who doesn’t know whether your Social Security check is going to arrive because your congressman shut down the government, you remember that pretty clearly. [Pols emphasis]

I actually just had this conversation, literally the question you’re asking me, at … one of the doors I was knocking on over the weekend in our district. And a woman asked me, she said, “Why are we paying you guys?” Meaning Congress. “If I don’t do my job,” she said, “I don’t get paid. And I certainly don’t get a vacation or a raise.” And it’s a really basic question. It’s an excellent point, I thought. If Congress operated on a pay-for-performance level, they’d be broke.

So it’s very hard for me to understand, and very hard for my neighbors here to understand, why we’re paying a guy who can’t even keep the government functioning, much less advance the priorities that we happen to share … I’d be thrilled if Congress voted to increase the minimum wage, addressed the student loan crisis; it’d be terrific if Congress took action to close the pay gap between men and women, and certainly it would be a great success if Congress took action on immigration reform.

With just a few sentences, Romanoff clearly outlined how and why the government shutdown directly related to voters and residents in CD-6. Romanoff's straightforward way of speaking about issues and their local relevance draws an incredibly sharp contrast with Coffman and his love of word salads.

Ethics Watch Calls Out Coffman’s Frequent Franking

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A press release today from Colorado Ethics Watch announces that group's request for an investigation by the U.S. Office of Congressional Ethics of GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, citing what they consider excessively heavy–and excessively political–use of the so-called "franking privilege," or free mailings to constituents that aren't supposed to be related to electioneering.

In Coffman's case, Ethics Watch alleges, the franking has gone well beyond any reasonable level:

Today, Colorado Ethics Watch asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to determine whether Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) abused the Congressional franking privilege, using tax dollars to support his re-election campaign.

Between January 2013 and the present, residents of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District have been receiving unsolicited “Official Mail” from Rep. Coffman, which has cost the taxpayers in excess of $260,000.  Ethics Watch’s request asks the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate evidence that the majority of the unsolicited mass mail is for political rather than official purposes, noting that the timing and increased frequency is likely in response to Rep. Coffman having a challenger for the 6th District, former Speaker of the Colorado House Andrew Romanoff. 

Before the race became competitive, Rep. Coffman used the franking privilege properly to communicate information about services and specific accomplishments as a Member of Congress.  After the race became competitive, Coffman went from being Rep. Coffman to candidate Coffman.  Instead of talking about specifics, the mail turned into campaign pieces meant to persuade the reader.  

“If you compare the pieces of mass mail the Congressman sent before he had a legitimate opponent for CD-6 and after he had a competitive race with the entry of Romanoff, it does not pass the smell test,” said Luis Toro, Director of Ethics Watch.  “Any reader who compares the pieces, as the Congressional Franking Commission should have, can tell when Congressman Coffman changed his tactics."

Coffman's total expenditures on franking communications with his constituents since 2013 appear to be well in excess of the average among members of Congress who send mass mailings at all (only 80% or so do accounting to the Congressional Research Service). But in addition to that, Ethics Watch says the content of Coffman's taxpayer-funded mailings is unacceptably close to Coffman's campaign message materials for re-election.

The fact is, most members of Congress take advantage of the franking privilege. But the combination of Coffman's far heavier use of taxpayer-funded mailings since his district became more competitive in the 2011 redistricting process, with what certainly looks to us to be a straightforward election-season message…well, yes. We could see the Office of Congressional Ethics reasonably taking an interest in this complaint.

Even if they don't, or more likely don't before the election, it's another bit of evidence of Coffman's deep concerns about survival in a district that no longer fits his brand of beet-red conservative politics. Coffman barely stayed alive in 2012 against a comparatively weak opponent, and even with a major PR offensive with his new constituents, 2014 is looking like the fight of Coffman's political life–with a very good possibility of unemployment in January.

Obviously, if the PR offensive itself becomes a scandal, that won't help.

(more…)

Big Line Updates: Udall, Romanoff Growing Lead

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we'll be updating The Big Line on a weekly basis.

Here's what we're currently thinking as to the main movers in the top races in Colorado:

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (65%)
Cory Gardner (35%)

We don't see either Udall or Gov. John Hickelooper losing in November, but for the first time, we have Udall as a slightly bigger favorite in his respective race. Gardner's campaign has been an absolute mess, and national politicos and reporters are coalescing around the idea that Udall is in the driver's seat now.

 

GOVERNOR
John Hickenlooper (60%)
Bob Beauprez (40%)

We have this race tightening a little as Gov. Hickenlooper works his way out of a summer-long campaign funk. For Beauprez, this comes down to a lack of time — too much needs to happen in the next 4-6 weeks for Beauprez to have a realistic shot at knocking off Hickenlooper.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE TREASURER, SECRETARY OF STATE
Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has not had a good month, but he's still favored to beat Democrat Betsy Markey. Meanwhile, we have the AG and SOS races as toss-ups at this point, primarily because it's difficult to determine whether any of the candidates can do much to control their own destiny; the amount of money pouring into the races for Senate, Governor, and CD-6 will make it nigh impossible for lower-tier statewide candidates to get their message out.
 

CD-6 (Aurora-ish)
Andrew Romanoff (55%)
Mike Coffman (45%)

We wrote earlier about our belief that Countdown Coffman is underway following incumbent Rep. Coffman's boorish behavior of late. We've been hearing consistent buzz that Romanoff has nudged ahead as Coffman seeks the momentum he needs to prevent a complete collapse.
 


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

Coffman snuggled by Spanish-language radio host, who works for the Independence Institute

Mike Coffman spends 15 minutes with his Spanish tutor every night, and last month, he put his skills to the test by subjecting himself to the fire of a Spanish-language interview on KNRV’s radio’s “El Programa de Raaki,” electing to answer questions in Spanish.

But there was no fire at all. Not even a smolder, as Garcia snuggled Coffman as he stumbled through the interview below. At the end, Garcia repeated (in clear Spanish) Coffman’s proposal to offer a path to citizenship to Dreamers through military service.

She made no mention of Coffman’s opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of adult undocumented immigrants–or his opposition to the Senate-passed immigration-reform bill, or his votes to deport Dreamers, etc.

All this makes sense when you know that Garcia is actually an employee of the Independence Institute, the conservative think tank. But Garcia didn’t mention it during the Coffman interview, nor is it stated anywhere on the radio station’s website. And it’s never come up in previous shows I’ve listened to.

Closest thing is this disclaimer heard, in Spanish, immediately prior to the KNRV show, saying:

The following is a paid program. This station assumes no responsibility for the commentaries broadcasted.

The important thing is to be informed of what is happening around us. 1150 AM presents El Programa de Raaki. Here you will find out about how important it is to be familiar with the laws that affect us, about opportunities in education, we will talk about politics, and something more. [Music: “Let Freedom Ring,” and more]

Who’s paying the bill? We don’t know, and Garcia did not comment in response to calls and emails, but “El Programa de Raaki” is featured on the home-page of the Independence Institute’s website and Garcia, who goes by Garcia-Ulam during her day job, is listed on the staff page.

A Google search took me to the July/August newsletter of the State Policy Network, which funds market-oriented think tanks, where Raaki Garcia explains the purpose of her radio show and tries to convince other think tanks to give Spanish-language radio a try.

Through The Raaki Garcia Show, Colorado’s Independence Institute reaches an audience the freedom movement often finds elusive: Hispanics. It’s the state’s only Spanish-language conservative talk radio show and Colorado’s top-rated radio show for the past year. “Hispanics from Mexico, Central, and South America grew up listening to talk radio . . . . It’s part of our culture . . . . We don’t grow up watching TV,” explains Garcia, who doubles as the Institute’s Hispanic Education Coordinator. [Fact check: Sources say KBNO has higher ratings than KNRV.]

The show has succeeded partially because Garcia was already known within Colorado’s Hispanic community, for whom trust is fundamental for any relationship. Building upon that trust, Garcia began introducing the Institute’s conservative economic policies and Colorado’s Republican legislators to her listeners. In interviews, she showcases legislators as people, rather than Republicans, to connect with her listeners and combat negative stereotypes about both the GOP and politicians more generally.

Garcia encourages other think tanks to start similar shows, lest they miss a huge, and growing, audience. To do it properly, she suggests finding a host who is already known, respected, and trusted within the local Hispanic community. Ideally, the host would both speak Spanish fluently and ethnically reflect the local majority Hispanic population (e.g., Cuban or Mexican). The think tank would then identify what new and relevant information they could share with the Hispanic community, whether that’s tax credits or education policy. [BigMedia emphasis]

The use of the show to promote Republican candidates, like Coffman, appears to be out-of-line with the Independence’s Institutes non-partisan tax status.

The introduction to the article doesn’t mention Republicans in particular, but it refers to “persuadable voters.”

Generating broad support for free-market policy reforms means state think tanks must reach persuadable voters outside their typical audiences. In the spirit of this year’s Annual Meeting theme, Dare to Disrupt, several think tanks have begun engaging non-traditional partners to advance their policy goals. SPN partnered with journalist Melissa Langsam Braunstein to share the stories of—and lessons learned by—four think tanks that have formed innovative partnerships to educate the public and advance freedom.

Reaching persuadable voters clearly overlaps with Coffman’s campaign goal, as he battles Democrat Andrew Romanoff to represent a district where the population is 20 percent Hispanic.

Coffman has been campaigning in Spanish, as reported by Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols last week, and he’s mostly able to get his points across, as you can hear in the Garcia interview below.

The Colorado Statesman described Coffman’s Spanish program in more detail:

Part of that effort in a district that counts more than 80 languages spoken in its public schools includes the congressman learning Spanish, a project that involves a couple hours spent with Rosetta Stone every week and nightly phone calls with a tutor. (The redrawn 6th CD counts a Hispanic population of roughly 20 percent, and Romanoff is fluent in the language.)

“He’s getting surprisingly good,” [Coffman spokesperson] Tyler Sandberg says. It makes a big difference when he shows up at community events and can communicate. “They appreciate his willingness to learn their language, especially first-generation who are more comfortable speaking in their native language.” Sandberg adds, “He can’t learn all the languages — he likes to joke that his Arabic is so poor he’d start a war by himself — but he learned a little Arabic when he was in Iraq, and the largest mosque in the state is in the district.”

But Coffman is far from fluent, in contrast to Romanoff, who is fluent. At one point during the Garcia interview, which stands as a bizarre symbol of Coffman’s struggle to adapt to his redrawn district, Coffman’s answer to Garcia’s question made no sense whatsoever, presumably meaning Coffman totally misunderstood the query. Garcia cut off the Congressman and repeated the question to him in English. Coffman then answered in Spanish.

The snuggling is so blatant maybe Garcia thinks her listeners already know about her conservative leanings and affiliations. But I still think she should state them openly.

Jon Caldara regularly identifies himself as president of the Independence Institute prior to his Devil’s Advocate KBDI-TV show, which is sponsored programming.

And so do the other tentacles of the Independence Institute’s media empire. During her daily two-hour radio show on KFKA radio in Greeley, Independence Institute staffer Amy Oliver often mentions who employs her. So does Caldara on his weekly KHOW radio show. The Institute’s stable of media commentators, like Research Director Dave Kopel, sometimes aren’t properly identified by reporters, but maybe that’s not as much in their control.

As a progressive journalist, I’d be a hypocrite if I trashed Garcia for being a conservative radio host. And I have no desire to shut her down. Obviously she’s not trying to hide her libertarian association, but she should just be more up-front about it on her radio show.