Dems, GOP seek to define issues for 2014 elections

By Donna Cassata | 1/3/2014, 9:14 a.m.
In a competitive district east of Denver, Democrat Andrew Romanoff is counting on voter anger at a divided and ineffectual ...
2014 signifies Midterm elections and the Democrats and the Republicans are expected to go all out in their quest to gain more seats in the House and in the Senate. The Democratic controlled Senate lead by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) will be seeking to add more seats in the House while the Republican-controlled House lead by Speaker John Boehner will be seeking to maintain their control while attempting to regain control of the senate. AP photo.

Democrats see takeover possibilities in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nevada and California as well as open seats in New Jersey, where Rep. Jon Runyan of the 2010 class decided against another term, and Arkansas, where Rep. Tom Cotton is running for the Senate. One of the party’s top recruits is James Lee Witt, who served as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Clinton administration and is pursuing the Arkansas seat.

Any Democratic hopes of limiting expected Republican gains center on districts like Colorado’s 6th, a suburban Denver stretch that includes Aurora and Littleton. Democrats redrew the boundaries and the district’s population of 748,467 people now includes 150,540 Hispanics, 71,290 African-Americans and 41,644 Asian-Americans, according to the latest U.S. Census figures.

A changing demographic with a more diverse population is one reason why Obama prevailed, 52-47 percent, over Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Coffman, a conservative Republican, won Colorado with just 48 percent of the vote, two percentage points ahead of his Democratic rival.

Democrats are determined to highlight immigration, the stalled legislation in the House and Coffman’s evolution on the issue. One of their top recruits is Romanoff, the former speaker of the Colorado House who served four terms in the legislature.

The son and grandson of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Romanoff backs the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill that would provide a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and tighten U.S. borders. He criticized the Republican-led House’s inaction on the bill and GOP leaders’ preference for a piecemeal approach rather than comprehensive legislation.

"Congress is more interested in playing political games,’’ Romanoff said in a recent interview.

Coffman, once a hard-liner on immigration who complained about the so-called DREAM Act and who introduced a bill allowing locales to use English-only ballots, has changed and now favors a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country by their parents.

"While we are a nation of immigrants, our policies regarding immigration are dysfunctional,’’ Coffman said earlier this year in pressing for action. He said legislation "must show compassion to the families that have been here regardless of their immigration status.’’

Democrats have already highlighted the one vote on immigration in the House, a June 6 vote for an amendment that would have barred money for implementing Obama’s 2012 policy to let some young immigrants remain in the United States. Coffman voted for the measure in an outcome that was largely along party lines, 224-201.

On health care, Coffman said Republican talk about repealing the law isn’t sufficient when facing the electorate.

"There’s no doubt we have to come up with alternatives that we can all coalesce around,’’ he said, suggesting a series of bills, including insurance reforms.

Romanoff is talking about a fix, too. But he also focuses on preventive care measures and the law’s prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, popular elements that Democrats like to highlight.

Both candidates have sufficient funds for the race. Romanoff reported $1.3 million cash on hand in the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Coffman reported $1.2 million.