DENVER — After referencing a Democratic state lawmaker’s quote about Andrew Romanoff “throwing the Latino community under the bus” for months, Congressman Mike Coffman’s campaign is highlighting the statement anew with a paid web ad.
The ad, which is running as part of a “substantial buy” according to the Coffman campaign, highlights state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri’s 2010 statement that Romanoff, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, “threw the Latino community under the bus” during a 2006 special legislative session on immigration issues.
Now, Ulibarri, D-Adams County, who is supporting Romanoff over Coffman, is disavowing the quote and criticizing Coffman.
“I don’t approve of that ad, their use of my name, or Congressman Coffman’s 25-year history of anti-immigrant policies,” Ulibarri said.
It’s the latest example of a focus by both campaigns on immigration issues, an issue that could decide one of the most competitive congressional races in the country in a district where Hispanic voters account for more than 10 percent of the electorate.
“We are going to fight hard for Hispanic votes and this is only the opening salvo. Andrew Romanoff is a panderer, not a leader, not a problem solver,” said Tyler Sandberg, Coffman’s spokesman. “If Romanoff and Pelosi think we are just going to roll over and concede the votes of this crucial universe, they’re in for a rude awakening.
In a 2010 Denver Post Op-Ed titled “Will the real Andrew Romanoff please stand up?”, Ulibarri and Julie Gonzalez of the Colorado Latino Forum criticized Romanoff’s support for much of the legislation passed during the session and signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, including one that denied basic government services to individuals who couldn’t immediately prove they were legal residents.
Last year, Democrats at the Capitol repealed another law passed during the 2006 special session that had required local law enforcement to report anyone arrested for a criminal offense who is suspected of being an undocumented immigrant to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Romanoff has since explained the votes as those of lawmakers in a state struggling with immigration issues “in the absence of federal action.”
Ulibarri told FOX31 Denver Monday that he strongly supports Romanoff over Coffman, who he actually sued on behalf of the group Mi Familia Vota over alleged actions by Coffman when he was Secretary of State to purge Hispanic voters from the voter rolls — and that he doesn’t approve of Coffman’s ad that “manipulates” his quote.
Ulibarri also told FOX31 Denver that he now has a better understanding, thanks in part to being a state lawmaker himself, of Romanoff’s choice back in 2006 than he did when he penned the 2010 Op-Ed, noting that the legislation passed was an effort to avoid a ballot measure that would have made it a felony for undocumented immigrants to have access to public services, including emergency room care, in the event of a health emergency.
“As Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives at the time, Andrew was faced with the choice of doing nothing and allowing undocumented children and many Coloradans to be denied emergency room care or finding an option to prevent an incredibly heinous law from being enshrined in our Constitution,” Ulibarri said.
“Speaker Romanoff fought to keep this measure off of the ballot by brokering a compromise during the special legislative session. This compromise made Colorado law consistent with federal law that denied certain public services to undocumented immigrants with exceptions for children, public health and safety. And while I don’t agree with the bills that were passed, I understand why the deal was made.”
Romanoff’s campaign has attacked Coffman for being part of a House GOP majority that has refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform.
While Coffman has signaled his support for comprehensive reform and signed on to sponsor legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a green card through military service, Romanoff has pointed to Coffman’s vote to end President Obama’s policy of deferred action, which would result in the deportation of many of the same young people who might qualify for citizenship under Coffman’s ENLIST Act.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, the sponsor of the DREAM Act and a co-sponsor of the ENLIST Act, has called Coffman “a proven leader in Congress on the issue of immigration.
“He is one of the people who can work with colleagues in both parties.”
More evidence of the race’s focus on Hispanic voters: Romanoff announced late Monday that he’ll hold a roundtable discussion in Aurora Tuesday afternoon with young DREAMers and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.