AURORA | The gloves have officially come off in the race for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District seat in Aurora, and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gets a hard left hook from state Sen. Morgan Carroll in a political TV ad being released today.
The one-two punch then aims for Carroll’s Republican incumbent opponent, Congressman Mike Coffman.
Knock out? They’re just getting warmed up, according to local political pundits who predicted that both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton would be used as political cudgels against both candidates.
“Like any good personal injury lawyer, Morgan Carroll is resorting to bald face deceit when the facts and the merits have turned against her,” said Coffman campaign spokeswoman Cinamon Watson. “If every newspaper and network in Colorado and America hadn’t extensively covered Mike Coffman’s stark criticism of Donald Trump over the last several months, this would at least be a persuasive lie. But no one is buying this prototypical partisan sleaze. Mike Coffman has made it clear – he has and will stand-up to Trump or Hillary when it is the right thing to do for America.”
This round is over Trump’s infamous public slight to a disabled reporter. In the short TV ad, Carroll says her late father suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and that spurred her career in fighting for disabled workers.
The ad highlights a notorious clip of Trump imitating and mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who is disabled. Carroll’s campaign ad then shifts right to Coffman, who Carroll says tacitly approves of Trump’s antics because he hasn’t outright denounced his remarks and his candidacy.
Trump’s mocking incident of Kovaleski prompted an outcry from many Democrats and Republicans alike, rebuking Trump. He has since drawn further scorn by trying to side-step the controversy, explaining it away as a mistaken perception of those who saw and heard the comments. Critics say Trump’s explanation is completely implausible given what he says and how he imitates a disabled person in the context of the campaign rally. The incident is one of a growing number that have prompted several influential newspapers and other media outlets to call Trump a liar outright or infer he’s lying when he makes such statements.
Coffman’s critics say the four-term congressman continues to align himself with Trump, even though Coffman himself in one paid TV ad says that he doesn’t “think much” of the billionaire New Yorker. Despite repeated questions as to whether he will vote for Trump or definitively rebuke Trump’s candidacy, as have a growing list of prominent Republicans, Coffman has steadfastly refused to answer.
“(Coffman) plans on watching the (presidential) debates and making a decision when ballots go out,” Coffman Campaign Spokeswoman Cinnamon Watson told the Denver Post last week.
Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Denver political consultant, previously said Coffman’s comments about Trump show that Colorado conservatives are looking for ways to disengage from Trump’s campaign while not also alienating the state’s Trump supporters.
Aurora’s 6th Congressional district is a potential mine-field for both candidates this year, but especially Coffman, pundits say. The district is essentially equally divided among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. But voters in the southern part of the district have strong tea-party alignment, often electing Republicans with tea-party ties.
The northern part of the district is Democrat rich, and the central part of the district leans Democrat as well.
Coffman has made an extensive effort in the past few years to reach out to minority and immigrant communities in the culturally and racially diverse district. He was able to handily fend off a serious bid by former Denver Democratic state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff two years ago.
Carroll, however, as political watchers have pointed out, is a long-term Aurora resident and politician, herself the former State Senate President.
Pundits say that if Coffman aligns himself with Trump, he could lose Democrat and unaffiliated voters. If he publicly denounces Trump, he runs the risk of alienating his most solid base, some who’ve proven to be publicly vengeful.
“That’s his challenge,” Ciruli said earlier. “He’ll be running with a candidate (Trump) that has a long track record of saying controversial things.”
Coffman made national headlines in August as the first House Republican to use anti-Trump messaging in paid advertising. In that video, Coffman said he would stand up to Trump if he were elected. Coffman also released a Spanish-language version of the ad.
The ad drew a scathing criticism from his predecessor, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, a staunch Trump supporter, and one of the tea-party supporters who’ve shown they won’t tolerate public dissension in Colorado Republican ranks.
“As a conservative, I don’t think we lose anything by losing Mike Coffman,” Tancredo told KNUS talk-radio host Craig Silverman in August. He said at the time he’d vote for Carroll if he could. He later reportedly walked that back, but he has been keen on thumping Coffman ever since.
But since Coffman’s never said that he won’t vote for Trump, Democrats continue to taunt him on social media, and now with this ad.
It goes both ways, however. Carroll has backed Hillary Clinton for president, something the Coffman campaign and Republicans tie to her with the same fervor.
“Donald Trump is running against the most corrupt candidate for president in modern political history,” Coffman told Aurora Sentinel reporter Rachel Sapin earlier this month in response to Trump meeting with Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, and then flying to Arizona. There he gave a speech essentially inciting his base in regards to building a wall between the United States and Mexico. “Richard Nixon has nothing on Hillary Clinton. But Trump’s obsession with a hard-edge immigration policy is like a slammed door in the face of millions of voters. His meeting with the President of Mexico was one step forward. His Arizona speech was three steps back.”
Carroll campaign officials say Coffman is being disingenuous about being critical of Trump, having previously backed similar positions on immigration and other issues.
“Morgan Carroll’s lifetime of advocacy fighting for people with disabilities stands in sharp contrast with Mike Coffman’s failure to deliver for the 6th District,” said Carroll campaign manager Jennifer Donovan. “When Donald Trump insulted a disabled reporter, where was Mike Coffman? He was silent. Coloradans need leaders who will stand up and fight for what’s right — and Mike Coffman clearly doesn’t fit the bill.”
Request for comment from the Trump campaigns in New York and Colorado were not immediately answered.