Both sides claim ‘victoria’ in historic Aurora political debate in Spanish

“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

DENVER | Same story, different chapter.

Make that a different language. In what all sides are touting as a historic event, the two candidates for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in Aurora faced off in a live, Spanish-language debate at the Entravision studios in Denver Thursday night.

In one of the most expensive and contentious U.S. House races in the country, 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 teaching English in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, 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.

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with Republican incumbent Mike Coffman Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with Republican incumbent Mike Coffman Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with Republican incumbent Mike Coffman Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman participates in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff answers a reporter's questions in Spanish after participating in a Spanish-speaking debate with Republican incumbent Mike Coffman Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Spanish Debate

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman answers a reporter's questions in English after participating in a Spanish-speaking debate with his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff Oct. 30 at the Univision Studio in Denver. The race is seen as one of the most expensive and contentious in the country this year. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

By and large, both candidates stuck to their stump positions in a clash that organizers say was the first time two congressional candidates who are not of Hispanic descent debated in Spanish.

“I think it went incredibly well,” said Tyler Sandberg, spokesman for the Coffman campaign. “While imperfect in his pronunciation, he was heartfelt in his effort. Republicans across the country should take notice — you need to seek every vote and reach out to every community.”

Romanoff was far less charitable, saying that Coffman’s memorized memes didn’t mask a voting record and policy that have and will continue to hurt that community.

“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.

Sandberg said that Coffman has been working with a tutor to improve his Spanish every weekend since Jan. 2013 and regularly watches Spanish language news. Coffman has also stated in the past that he has utilized Rosetta Stone language software to bolster his skills.That’s intrigued Rosetta Stone officials.

“We’re really interested in seeing how the debate goes and see how Coffman comports himself,” said Jonathan Mudd, a spokesman for Rosetta Stone.

About halfway through the 30-minute debate Coffman mentioned the importance of learning the langauge of his constituents, and joked that “he is trying.”

The district, which encompasses Aurora and other parts of Arapahoe and Adams counties, is very diverse. Coffman has slowly tacked toward the center on immigration issues.

Both sides point to polls showing the race is extremely close, but that their candidate has an edge. Democrats said at rallies this week that they are using unprecedented resources to reel in votes for Romanoff. Republicans said they, too, are using ground-game strategies unusual for that party.

Romanoff said it is important that such a diverse district have a representative who supports an immigration overhaul, “not just in days before an election, but in their whole career.”

Coffman previously opposed a bill to allow people brought into the country illegally as children to become citizens, Romanoff said. Coffman also introduced legislation to overturn requirements that diverse areas provide bilingual ballots to voters and had spoken positively of notorious immigration hardliner Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Coffman said he does support immigrants, noting that Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez had praised his leadership on a proposal to let people brought to the country illegally as children to earn their citizenship by serving in the military.

Coffman said he only opposed Obama trying to implement immigration changes unilaterally.

“I want congressional action because that guarantees a fundamental right,” he said.

Romanoff was asked about his own support for a 2006 state law that would have required police to alert federal authorities to immigrants they suspected were living in the U.S. illegally. Many Democrats voted for the legislation, then touted as the toughest immigration measure in the nation.

“The law was an error,” Romanoff said. He said he was wrong to support it and added that he’s proud Democrats have since rejected it. He said he’s always supported citizenship for people who come here illegally.

The two candidates also sparred over the environment, the cost of college and the health care overhaul during the 30-minute debate. Afterward, Coffman said: “I think it was important to show respect for the community.”

Gina Millan, a community organizer who watched the debate at the Entravision studios in Denver, was elated. She said it was an important chance for Spanish-speakers to hear the candidates address the issue and that even bilingual members of the community got a jolt from watching the exchanges.

“This is so, so big for our community, a debate in our own language,” she said.

— Debate reported and translated by Aurora Sentinel reporter Quincy Snowdon, photos by staff photographer Marla Keown. The Associated Press contributed to this report

LIVE FROM THE DEBATE

6:01. That’s it. Each pretty much gave stump positions on what focused primarily on immigration-related questions. Coffman’s pre-prepared answers came off fluidly and were pointed on his positions about the Obama administration going outside the law, and how that’s creating problems. Romanoff was able to target his points at the questions, and at Coffman’s prepared statements. He was almost strident about Coffman’s past record on immigration reform and critical of what he said were impractical changes for those with immigration problems. Debate watchers reacted out lout when Romanoff took his “script” shot at Coffman.

6 PM: Romanoff takes a shot at COffman saying, that his remarks and answers are heartfelt and not like Coffman’s script. “Quiero hablar de la corazón no de un guión”

6 PM: Coffman is talking about the importance of learning the language of his constituents, and joked that “he’s trying.”

5 PM — First question is on immigration to Romanoff. Romanoff gave his usual stump speech setting himself from Coffman, that he backs recent Senate efforts at comprehensive reform, which include a way to keep from separating families.

Coffman sounds fluent, but is reading prepared responses to topical questions. He can’t defend himself against points being made by Romanoff.

  • MrColorado

    It’s impossible for me to take the Sentinel seriously since they are so lop sided in their views. Got to give Coffman credit for learning a language and having the guts to debate in Spanish. Of course, the Sentinel took their usually cheap pot shots at him since he’s not their guy.

    The problem with Romanoff is that he panders to every special interest group under the sun instead of voting what’s best for everyone.

    It’s hilarious that Romanoff voted for a law to **alert police to illegal immigrants** and then has the nerve to say that “he’s always supported citizenship for people who come here illegally.” What he won’t do for a vote. He’s positions change like the wind. It’s disgusting.

    • DEH

      Mike Coffman suffer from “Little Big Man Syndrome.”

    • Just thinking

      I agree 200%

  • Just wondering

    The language in the United States is English!!! To become a naturalized citizen of the US, you must be able to speak English fluently. Only citizens can vote. Thus all voters must be able to read, write and speak English. If this true, why are we having political debates in Spanish?

    • Juline An

      My roommate’s mother-in-law makes $79 /hour on the internet . She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her pay was $20041 just working on the internet for a few hours. browse around this site …………http://➡.ws/googlwork

  • Frank2525

    I was challenged about Program 1033, and I really thought this started under Pres. Bill Clinton in 1995 and modified in 1997 as follow: Missouri, by the way comply through Dept. of Public Safety, at state level, to their police forces: (and by the way what happened to those comments from me, and others????????? Not censorship, was it?
    military obsession.
    1033 Program FAQs – DLA Disposition Serviceswww.dispositionservices.dla.mil/leso/Pages/1033ProgramFA… Cached
    Who runs the program? Answer: The program came under the Defense Logistics Agency’s jurisdiction in October 1995. The Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), located …
    DoD Program 1033: Militarizing America’s Cops | American …americanfreepress.net/?p=15289 Cached
    Recent reports emerging from Utah have traditional American conservatives, nationalists and civil libertarians in an outrage at the extent of the militarization of …
    Surplus Property Office – Section 1033 Program – GS – Home Pagewww.gs.sc.gov/surplus/SP-1033-index.phtm Cached
    LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ONLY: Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 authorizes the Department of Defense to transfer excess military …
    1033 Program – California Emergency Management Agencywww.calema.ca.gov/…/Pages/About-the-1033-Program.aspx Cached
    Background & Information 1033 Program Overview: The National defense Authorization Act authorizes the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess …
    LESO Homepage – DLA Disposition Serviceswww.dispositionservices.dla.mil/leso/Pages/default.aspx
    The Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), facilitates the 1033 program, which originated from the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997 (FY 97).
    The Texas 1033 Military Surplus Property Programwww.txdps.state.tx.us/LawEnforcementSupport/texas1033.htm Cached
    The Texas 1033 Military Surplus Property Program Background & Information. 1033 Program Overview: The National defense Authorization Act authorizes the Secretary of …
    The ‘1033 Program,’ Department of Defense Support to Law …fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R43701.pdf
    The “1033 Program,” Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement Daniel H. Else Specialist in National Defense August 28, 2014 Congressional Research Service
    Promotional Results For You