Friction yields sparks between Coffman, Romanoff at Aurora election forum

When Romanoff asked Coffman whether he would join him in being the first two candidates in history to turn down all contributions from political action committees, things got heated. Coffman is taking political action committee money for this campaign. Romanoff is not.

AURORA | Gun control and immigration reform proved the biggest policy differences between Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff as they participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat.

Mike Coffman, Andrew _Perr
Mike Coffman, Andrew _Perr
Coffman vs Romanoff

Congressman Mike Coffman answers questions on gun control and immigration reform before board members of Aurora's Chamber of Commerce, Aug. 15 at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park. Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Coffman vs Romanoff

Congressman Mike Coffman answers questions on gun control and immigration reform before board members of Aurora's Chamber of Commerce, Aug. 15 at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park. Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Coffman vs Romanoff

Democrat Andrew Romanoff answers questions on gun control and immigration reform before board members of Aurora's Chamber of Commerce, Aug. 15 at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park. Romanoff and his Republican challenger, Mike Coffman participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Coffman vs Romanoff

Bios for Democrat Andrew Romanoff and Republican Mike Coffman sit on a table as the two answers questions on gun control and immigration reform before board members of Aurora's Chamber of Commerce, Aug. 15 at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park. The two challengers participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Coffman vs Romanoff

Congressman Mike Coffman answers questions on gun control and immigration reform before board members of Aurora's Chamber of Commerce, Aug. 15 at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park. Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff participated in their second debate in the race to win the ultra-competitive 6th Congressional District House seat. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Before members of Aurora’s Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 15, they spoke in front of a crowd that included the families of Aurora Theater Shooting victims. Aurora Chamber President Kevin Hougen, who served as its moderator, said all of the questions came from chamber members. 

He asked the candidates whether they would vote for the federal Manchin-Toomey gun control amendment. The bill, which failed in the Senate last year, would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. 

“I believe ultimately, that is a decision for states to make in whether or not to have a universal background check, and what component things are going to be in it to determine who can have access to a firearm, and who cannot have access,” Coffman said. “So I would not support that bill.” 

Romanoff received cheers from the crowd for disagreeing with the Congressman.

“Surely we can make it a little harder if not impossible for people with violent criminal backgrounds or serious mental illnesses from acquiring firearms,” he said. “Which is worth pointing out, cross state lines. That’s why federal legislation in this case makes sense.” 

Gun control advocate Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the 2012 theater attack, said this was the first time he heard a definitive answer from Coffman on the issue. 

“For big, comprehensive bills like this, we need that to come from the federal government,” he said following the debate. 

Romanoff also received applause from the crowd when he proclaimed his support for comprehensive immigration reform in response to a question about it. Coffman has voted against such a measure. 

Romanoff said he was glad to be on the same page as the Aurora Chamber, which has publicly endorsed the bill. One out of five of Aurora’s nearly 350,000 residents were born in another country.  Many business owners say they want easy, legal ways to employ immigrants or determine who is or isn’t allowed to work in the United States.

Coffman responded by continuing to trump his step-by-step approach to the issue. He said the first step would be securing the country’s borders. “Secondly, I think we’ve got to have economic policies that grow our economy. And lastly, we have to be compassionate in keeping families together,” he said.  

He said both Democrats and Republicans were to blame for stalling immigration measures. He pointed to a failed bill, known as the STEM Jobs Act, that would’ve eliminated diversity visa lotteries and reallocated over 50,000 green cards a year to top foreign graduates who receive doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math from U.S. universities. 

 “Harry Reid (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) said ‘no, I’m not going to bring it up in the Senate unless we get a bill that has everything in it,’” Coffman said. “I think we’ve seen this one sweeping proposal in healthcare, and all the unintended consequences.” 

The debate also focused on Aurora-centric issues, including the 10.5-mile RTD light rail line that is set to open in 2016. 

One chamber member’s question asked  how the candidates would solve the federal Highway Trust Fund crisis and what their vision was for transportation in a district with a booming population. 

“You ought to be able to borrow money if you’re going to repair your infrastructure. In Colorado we put forward a proposal to repair our roads and bridges,” Romanoff said, pointing to a failed referendum he backed as Speaker of the House in 2005 that would have allowed the state to issue bonds for transportation projects. 

Coffman said he was behind a five-year funding plan, and that the federal government could take royalty payments from federal public lands and put them into the Highway Trust Fund. 

Coffman, who reminded listeners throughout the debate that he has called Aurora home for 50 years, had a local edge over Romanoff when he described what he would do protect Buckley Air Force Base from  future U.S. Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure evaluations expected to start in 2015. 

“I believe fundamentally that you spend money on defense because you need that to defend the country. And it’s not a jobs program. It’s not for economic development,” said Coffman, the only member of Congress to have served in both the Gulf and Iraq wars. 

He said he was working with Colorado Senator Mark Udall in the House Armed Services Committee on replacing the base’s F16 jets with F35 jets. “If we fail to do that … then we will no longer have an active runway at Buckley Air Force Base,” he said.

Romanoff used the question mostly as another opportunity to blame a dysfunctional Congress, backhanding at Coffman for toeing his GOP Party line.

“It seems to me if you’re serious about supporting Buckley, you don’t shut down the government when you disagree, and jeopardize some of those jobs, and take a $24 billion bite out of the economy as this Congress did,” he said.  

The integrity of each candidate was a constant theme of the debate.

When Romanoff asked Coffman whether he would join him in being the first two candidates in history to turn down all contributions from political action committees, things got heated. Coffman is taking political action committee money for this campaign. Romanoff is not.

“You have lobbyists on your campaign. If you think it’s wrong, get those lobbyists off your campaign,” Coffman said as he pounded the table.  “This is the difference between us. People decided to support me based on what I do and what I believe in. I went to the United States Army and the Marine Corps. You went to Harvard and Yale. I don’t know what they taught you about honor and integrity there.” 

Coffman challenged Romanoff to conduct his campaign on the terms of the military standard that says not to lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. 

“Your attacks against Michael Bennet in 2010, they were called dishonest and sleazy. You did not rise to the very standard you agreed to today in this debate. That military standard of integrity. That was not honored in your last campaign,” Coffman retorted. 

Romanoff reminded the Congressman that Bennet was not on the ballot in this race. 

“Congressman, you and I are,” he said. “That means we have an obligation to treat each other with respect … This is the minimum. Whatever side you take in this race, you ought to demand that the people who seek public office treat each other and treat you with respect.” 

  • Silver Fox

    I’m wondering if Mr. Coffman is suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease? He seemed terribly unprepared at both events. Rambling about his military service over and over. Maybe it’s just information overload, more than he can handle.

  • Fed up

    Mr Coffman’s service is applauded BUT it was for political reasons. He took a leave from his elected job to serve in order to now be able to praise himself for his service. IMO He’s Republican through and through. Don’t trust him Don’t vote for him. He’ll turn back the clock folks. He’s part of the gridlock against our current President and should not be returned to that seat. He’s in my voting district and I will do what I can to see he is not returned to Congress.

    • Frank2525

      Having served 26 years 18 days of Honorable Service, 13 Oct 1950 to 1 November 1976, Retired, I find your first line despicable. Marines do not recall their personnel on personal whims, or requests. If you served, that is doubly over the line. I first registered as Democrat, but found that did not fit, so being Republican is not dishonorable. Gridlock in Washington is do-nothing Senate, with over 237 bills on Harry’s desk, that were not discussed, amended, or voted on in Senate. Would have been more House bills (which were needed) but no need when Harry so famously stated: “They will be dead on arrival” and “They will not go anywhere”/ Shame on both our Colorado Senators for letting him get away with that, even if he is the Dictator in the Senate. That is why I registered as Republican in 2006, having voted Independent- absentee ballots during my military years. Chain of Command 1950 to 1953, had me marking “PI” for political influence on all organizational officers and enlisted, it THEY HAD ANY CONTACT WITH POLITICIAN- EVEN FAMILY MEMBER BY ATRNG COMMAND REGULATION.

    • ElectricGuy

      For those of us thanking the gridlock that binds the President, Mike Coffman looks like someone who should be returned to office.

  • Publis

    Mr. Romanoff has shown he his a master at parsing words and issuing meaningless challenges, Mr. Romanoff has given us the most polished campaign commercial of the year, shown a willingness to mortgage his home for political office, and shown a persistence to become a professional politician that exceeds most obsessions.

    And yet the only political accomplishmnet he can point to is following a Colorado State law that requires a balanced budget. Seems like we would be better served by by a politician with integrity, a sense of duty, a history accomplishments and willingness to serve citizens rather than self.

    Sounds like Mike Coffman is the man to vote for.

    • John

      Not to mention Romanoff encourages kids to scribble on the sidewalk in front of Coffman’s office and then runs and leaves them with the cleanup. Real class act.

  • Frank2525

    I don’t know what your axe to grind is, Fed-up, but I have known Mike Coffman and been actively involved with him for over 20 plus years. He has always represented constituents as Representative, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and then as Representative of Dist#06. His service in Army, then college, Marines, and being recalled by Marines to serve in Iraq to assist them in learning how to manage politics, write constitution, and elect officers speak to his abilities. As a spokesman in Washington for Veterans- Retirees-and our families needs to be remembered, and initiating legislation to cut spending, military budget where needed, and supporting VAMC construction in Aurora was much needed. I know Andrew (Andy) just as well, but he does not have the full rounded background that Mike possesses. Andy should move back to Denver, and campaign for Senate there. They need him. I had a close contact with Andy as Speaker, and following, but he changed focus when he campaigned against Sen. Bennet . I am disappointed at changes since 2006-2008 era. I speak from 84 years of life, and we don’t need another Democrat in Washington with Harry and Nancy. That is the vertical stopper in getting Congress to move. I was independent registered until 2006, so I am not paid or requested to write this. But I challenge those knocking Mike without stating any facts, just generalities. And a know who is projecting the War on Women, and it is not Mike. Married 62 years, this month, I know about marriage and responsibility of sharing children, grandchildren and I am speaking for them. We need Mike in Washington. We could use Andy back in Denver, where he performed well to give balance to Colorado legislators. They have lost their way.

  • Orphan Annie

    I thank Mike Coffman for his service to our country, but I don’t think it qualifies him for any specific job including Congress. Hell, if Vets think he’s worthy of office for retiring as an O-5, imagine how the Vets would be falling all over themselves for the O-8 running in Colorado Springs. Quite frankly, the military service card does not work. Focus on one’s ability to represent the constituents, knowledge of the issues and fitness for the job. Coffman is lacking in all catagories.

    • John

      and Romanoff has those skills? What has he ever done besides run for political office?

      • Ophan Annie

        I’m seeing Mr Romanoff with a keen intellect, deep understanding of the issues (he can spell contraceptive), and he’s certainly fit. I’ve been with plenty of active duty and former military members that can barely tie a shoe, albeit plenty of good ones too. Being military is no guarantee of being qualified for service. Sorry – being military is not a qualifier for me. I do find it interesting that both are fluent in Spanish.

  • ronaldfurr

    Coffman is a “shut down the government tea party republicon”. He would destroy Colorado just like the Republican leaders in most Red Southern states have done. I am tired of being misrepresented by Coffman, the Koch brother’s owned regressive pawn. If you like aristocrats to control our Congress then Coffman is your peon. I’ll vote for Romanoff because I like clean air, clean water and a great economy. Republicans that vote the way Cofmann does always ruin economies.

  • Jeffrey

    So awful to question Romanoff’s integrity like that. I would be proud of my kids got into Harvard and Yale. President Bush went to Yale. Clinton went Ivy League. So what. That is something to be proud of. Ok to debate the issues but, wow, questioning someone’s integrity like that is despicable. Definitely says something about the accuser.