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Independents Will Decide Who Wins Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District

Update: A previous version of the article stated that Coffman won the 2012 election by a margin of 6,000 votes. He in fact won it by 7,001 votes.

 

Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District is considered one of the most competitive districts in the United States, but that has not usually been the case. Republicans have controlled the district since it was created in 1983. Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican, has held the seat since 2009. However, The political demographics have shifted in the district and the Cook Partisan Voter Index gives Democrats a one-point advantage in 2014.

Coffman is considered a “far-right Republican” by Govtrack.us, which tracks congressional voting records and places them on an ideological map. According to OpenCongress.org, a subsidiary of the Sunlight Foundation, Coffman votes with his party 93.5 percent of the time, which puts him a bit below the House GOP average of 94.2 percent.

However, redistricting following the 2010 Census transformed the district’s demographics. Before redistricting, its median income was $74,000, making it one of the wealthiest districts in the country. The addition of urban minorities brought the median down to $63,000.

Regarding political affiliation, the district is split into thirds; a slight plurality of eligible voters identify as independents. In 2008, 54 percent of voters in the sixth voted John McCain for president, but Barack Obama won with 52 percent of the vote in 2012.

Yet, the most consequential demographic shift in the district was a sudden surge in the Hispanic population. According to ballotpedia.org, 20 percent of the district’s population is Hispanic — a full 12 point leap before 2010. As Politico’s Rebecca Elliot reported, it spells trouble for Coffman, who was outspoken in his opposition to the 2010 DREAM Act, which sought to reform the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for some illegal residents.

Early last year, Coffman did a complete 180 degree about-face and publicly announced his support for immigration reform. He supports providing legal status for current undocumented residents and possible citizenship for their children. He joined liberal Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez in advocating for non-citizens to serve in the military.

In the 2012 elections, Coffman won with 47.8 percent of the vote, with 7,001 votes separating him and Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi. Miklosi’s campaign was plagued with poor fundraising. However, this year’s Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff, will have no problem financing his campaign. Romanoff previously served as the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives and has deep fundraising connections in Colorado.

Still, Romanoff will face his own obstacles, especially regarding the Hispanic electorate. As speaker of the Colorado House, Romanoff passed legislation that required proof of legal residency to receive non-emergency state aid like Medicare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance.

Ultimately, the race will boil down to voter turnout and swaying independents.