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Colorado’s Coffman Vulnerable Under New Lines

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For an example of how dramatically redistricting can shift a state’s political makeup, look no further than Colorado’s 6th district — a seat once held by conservative Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo that is now considered a tossup.

Rep. Mike Coffman beat his Democratic opponent by a two-to-one margin in 2010 but finds himself in electoral trouble two years later as he seeks a third term.

The state courts had to resolve redistricting when Colorado’s split-power government was unable to compromise on a new map. This was the fourth time in four decades that Colorado had to resort to this process.

Coffman essentially got the short end of the stick in redistricting within the Republican House delegation. GOP Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner were also discussed as targets for more Democratic-leaning districts.

Tipton’s district remained a tossup, and Gardner’s was shored up with Republican votes at Coffman’s expense.

Republicans have a 4-to-3 advantage in the Colorado delegation, but Democrats have made clear the path for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Drive for 25” effort to retake control of the House goes right through the West. The DCCC’s anti-Coffman offensive has so far included only robocalls into the district, and he’s also expected to see a lot of activity as President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign focuses its efforts in the region.

Coffman sounded confident as he outlined a demographic he thinks he can win: “Reagan Democrats-turned-Hillary Clinton Democrats.”

“The nature of the Democrats in this Congressional district are somewhat different than Democrats in other parts of the state,” Coffman told Roll Call. “These are more working-class, blue-collar Democrats as opposed to their more liberal counterparts in Boulder and parts of Denver.”

The new 6th district will consolidate the state’s third-largest city, Aurora, into a single district on the western edge of the Denver metropolitan area. The city is ethnically diverse with a large medical sector.

Even though one national Republican strategist admitted that Coffman “will have to work harder” this cycle, the legislator said he feels “pretty good” about the state of the race because he had more than $600,000 in cash on hand after the third quarter and has solid name identification.

It will be an uphill climb as Coffman introduces himself to the 40 percent of his new district’s residents whom he had not represented under the current 6th.

Fifty-three percent of Coffman’s district voted Sen. John McCain in 2008. But under the new lines, Obama would have captured 53 percent of the vote. The voter registration of the new seat is about one-third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third unaffiliated.

The most organized Democratic challenger to emerge against Coffman is state Rep. Joe Miklosi. He has hired campaign staff and raised $130,000 in the third quarter.

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