DENVER — In the toughest political fight of his career, Republican Congressman Mike Coffman is appealing to a voting bloc that has so often swung competitive Colorado races in favor of Democrats — women.
The first television ad from Coffman, R-Aurora, which hits the airwaves Tuesday, highlights the lawmaker’s work on sexual assault reform in the military, his work as a state lawmaker 20 years ago to ban gender discrimination in health insurance pricing and his vote in favor of the Violence Against Women Act, which most Republicans opposed.
The 30-second spot introduces Coffman as a Marine and features a number of black and white still images of the congressman working with women.
At the end of the spot, an unidentified woman appears, saying: “It’s nice to know someone has our back; that’s Mike Coffman.”
The ad references his work with Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier on a 2013 amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act aimed at protecting service members who report sexual assaults and harassment from retaliation.
“I am proud that Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier and I were able to pass legislation strengthening protections for victims of sexual assault in the military,” Coffman said in a statement. “We must never let the young men and women who risk their lives defending our country fear retaliation for coming forward against their assailants.”
Coffman’s opponent, Democratic former statehouse Speaker Andrew Romanoff, has had the airwaves to himself since Aug. 4, when he launched his first ad, which focused on balancing the budget; a second ad from Romanoff, released Aug. 21, focuses on making college more affordable.
Fighting in a redrawn 6th Congressional District in what may be the most competitive and expensive House race in the country, both candidates are making overt appeals to the middle, emphasizing policy issues where they’re not as strong in an effort to appeal beyond their own traditional constituencies.
Democrats have hammered Coffman on women’s issues, especially following his brain lapse during a debate earlier this month when he forgot the term “birth control” when asked about the subject.
Although Coffman’s campaign says he supports women having access to birth control, Romanoff’s campaign has eagerly pointed out Coffman’s support for personhood amendments in 2008 and 2010, which would have banned abortion and limited women’s access to birth control had they passed.
“Birth control may just be two easily forgettable words to Congressman Coffman, but it’s a daily part of the lives of thousands of women in this district,” said Denise Baron, Romanoff’s communications director, following that debate.
On Tuesday, Romanoff labeled Coffman’s first TV ad a “brazen attempt to whitewash” his record on women’s issues, pointing out the congressman’s opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his votes to defund Planned Parenthood and his co-sponsorship of bill that would narrow the definition of rape, denying rights to the victims of statutory rape or victims who had been drugged.
“Actions speak louder than advertisements,” Baron said Tuesday. “It’s what the congressman is doing in Washington — not just what he’s saying in Colorado — that matters. If you want to call yourself a champion for equality, you don’t block equal pay and you don’t restrict women’s access to health care.
“Mike Coffman doesn’t have our back. In his first debate with Andrew, he couldn’t even remember the words “birth control,” much less identify a single vote he had taken to protect our access to it.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado also slammed Coffman for “trying to have it both ways.”
“All this ad does is prove why Colorado women can’t trust Mike Coffman,” said Karen Middleton, the group’s director. “He says one thing in an ad and then votes against them on issues affecting their physical and financial health.”