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Rep. Mike Coffman says principle guided shifts on several issues

Article author: 
Jon Murray
Article publisher: 
The Denver Post
Article date: 
October 13, 2014
Article category: 
Colorado News
Article Body: 

As U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman made the leap from state to federal office in 2008, a national political analyst predicted he could "hold this seat as long as he wants it."

Coffman could have been forgiven for digging in his heels just three years later, ignoring the perpetual vulnerability handed to him by a Democratic redistricting plan ...

But Coffman chose to fight — and adapt ...

Coffman, 59, succeeded nationally known immigration hawk Tom Tancredo. Three years ago, Coffman drew ire when he proposed to absolve some communities of the costly requirement to print ballots in languages besides English, often Spanish.

But now, with a new district population that's one-fifth Latino, he's learning to speak the language. He's also agreed to debate Romanoff, who's fluent, in an all-Spanish televised debate Oct. 30 on Denver's Univision affiliate.

"I've got a ways to go," Coffman said. "Most of it's just on my own. I do Rosetta Stone (tutorials), I watch TV, I listen to the radio." He prefers watching Spanish-language news shows to soap operas ...

Coffman said in an interview that he adjusted his views for the right reasons.

"It's about principle," he said. "I didn't run on immigration issues when I ran for the district, at all. I just think there needs to be a middle path to get something done."

Meeting families in his expanded district crystallized the importance of immigration reform, he said. The meetings included Latinos dealing with hardships caused by family members' illegal status and Asians concerned about limits and rules on visas for foreign students, foreign investors, and those in scientific and technology fields.

In Aurora, a magnet for immigrant communities, he's also made inroads with those who came from African countries and are starting a business hub, AfrikMall.

Democratic activists targeting Coffman don't buy the sincerity of his position shifts.

His past positions "tell us who he is and what he stands for," said Amy Run-yon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. "Mike Coffman has voted against the best interests of women, immigrants, gay and lesbian families and hardworking Coloradans every time he had a chance to over his last 25 years in office."

While many prominent Latino leaders are endorsing Romanoff, citing his positions on immigration, Lakewood business executive Jerry Natividad says he trusts Coffman's motives. He sits on a Latino advisory board for the Republican National Committee.

"I'm sensitive to the humanitarian part of immigration, and I believe that Mike Coffman is as well," Natividad said. "I absolutely believe that he's sincere when he ... sees that there's 11 million individuals that are undocumented, and that there really needs to be some way of introducing them into society and out of the shadows" ...