With ballots now having been mailed to every registered voter in Colorado, political campaigns and advocacy groups are ramping up efforts aimed at mobilizing a coveted voting bloc — Latinos.
Democratic leaders last week urged Latino voters to …
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Democratic leaders last week urged Latino voters to cast ballots in support of their party's candidates, while blasting Republicans over policy positions that they believe Hispanics have long rejected.
But Republicans say they are working harder than ever to appeal to an influential bloc of voters that has by and large rejected GOP candidates statewide and at the national level in recent years.
Latino Democratic leaders held a press conference outside the Denver City and County Building, where they blasted Republican candidates for ignoring or being on the wrong side of issues of importance to the Hispanic community.
“They only give us lip service,” said Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez. “They only give us promises during a campaign, but when push comes to shove, when it's any other day of the year besides Election Day, it's, `We don't have time for you.'”
Democrats are reminding Latino voters that it was their party that got through legislation at the state level this year that makes it easier for undocumented students to attend college, as well as legislation that allows undocumented citizens to obtain licenses to drive.
Democrats also claim that while their party has worked toward immigration reform in Congress, Republicans have put up roadblocks.
They took aim at U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman, who are locked in tight races against Democrats this election cycle. Gardner is vying to unseat Sen. Mark Udall while Coffman tries to stave off a challenge to his 6th Congressional District seat from Andrew Romanoff.
Those who spoke at the press event said neither Gardner nor Coffman could be trusted on immigration issues. And they said they and their Republican colleagues in the House have failed to get any sort of immigration reform accomplished.
State. Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, whose Adams County-based state Senate district is part of Coffman's 6th District, said Coffman for years “has been running against Latino and immigrant communities.”
Coffman has had to take tough votes on immigration measures, considering the complexity of the district he represents. Coffman has been critical of President Obama's leadership on immigration, but has also bucked his own party.
Over the summer, both Coffman and Gardner broke ranks and voted against a Republican-sponsored bill that sought to halt a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
But Democrats believe Coffman's “about face” on immigration issues is born out of necessity because he represents a district that grew more diverse after it was remapped.
“Hollow actions ring hollow for people in my neck of the woods and we won't stand for it,” Ulibarri said, urging Latino voters to back Romanoff.
But the Coffman campaign thinks Ulibarri is the last person who should be touting Romanoff to Latino voters. Ulibarri was once critical of Romanoff for seeing through tough immigration measures while he was state House speaker in 2006.
Coffman campaign spokesman Tyler Sandberg responded to Ulibarri's comments with the state senator's own words to the Denver Post in 2010.
“He demonstrated that if it's politically expedient for him, he's willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable in the Latino communities,” Ulibarri told the Post. “It will be very difficult for him to rebuild those relationships with community members.”
The Coffman and Romanoff campaigns have been targeting Latinos through Spanish-language television and newspaper advertisements. And Coffman and Romanoff will soon square off in an Oct. 30 all-Spanish debate that will air on Univision.
Sandberg said Coffman has been knocking on doors in Latino neighborhoods and said the reaction he's been getting is positive. He also believes that Democrats could be in for a surprise when they sort through the voting statistics of Latino voters after Election Day.
“More than the Democrats expect, that's for sure,” Sandberg said, when asked what kind of support he expects Coffman to receive from Latino voters.
Republicans say they are ramping up Latino outreach efforts nationwide. Ali Pardo, the Hispanic press secretary for the Republican National Committee, said the GOP has put more staff in the field this year, specifically for the purpose of reaching Latino voters.
Pardo said it's Democrats who have failed Latinos on issues that matter to their community, like the expansion of school choices for their children and economic issues.
Pardo does acknowledge that Republicans haven't done enough work to reach out to Latinos in recent years, as evidenced by the vast majority who consider themselves Democrats.
“We haven't been there and that's the point,” she said. “A large portion of the community identifies with the values of Republican Party, but we have to show up. Both parties have to be fighting for their vote.”
Democrats are countering with their own Latino “get out the vote” effort. Democratic Latino activists were expected to launch a statewide canvass of Hispanic voters over the weekend of Oct. 18-19.
Democrats aren't concerned that Latinos will vote Republican. Their major worry is whether some vote at all.
“As a community, we can't afford to sit this election out,” Ulibarri said.
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