Coffman overshadowed by GOP support for Armstrong

Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman might have the best name recognition going into Tuesday’s Republican primary race to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District, but he’s also got the most high-profile problems, including questions over his decision last year de-certifying — and then re-certifying — most of Colorado’s electronic voting machines.

Coffman may also be struggling in the endorsement category versus his three opponents, possibly because some of his fellow conservatives would much rather see the elected Secretary of State’s office remain in Republican hands. If Coffman wins the congressional seat, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter will be able to appoint a member of his party to the office.

“I think the majority of the people who are supporting [Coffman] are doing it because they want to send the most experienced and qualified person to Congress,” said Dustin Zvonek, Coffman’s campaign spokesman. Voters have looked past the Secretary of State issue, Zvonek says.

Coffman’s Web site lists numerous organizational endorsements, including ones from The Denver Post, The Aurora Sentinel, the Colorado Realtors Association, the Colorado Medical society and the Colorado Contractors Association. Noticeably absent are endorsements from Republican leaders at the national, state and local levels.

Zvonek concedes that Coffman opponent Wil Armstrong has racked up an impressive list of support from Republican heavyweights, but says it’s due to their loyalty to Armstrong’s father, former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong.   

“There’s no question that all of them are a result of his father,” Zvonek said, adding that the senior Armstrong had either donated to their campaigns or used his political capital to support their careers.

“It’s all about ‘I’ve got to do this for Bill,’” Zvonek said of Armstrong’s endorsers.

Jack Stansbery, Armstrong’s campaign manager, rejects that claim out of hand. 

“The fact is that looking through the hundreds of endorsements we have, some of them certainly have relationships with Sen. Armstrong, some of them don’t … It’s just downright crazy to think some of these people are influenced by Bill Armstrong,” Stansbery said.

To win Tuesday’s primary, Coffman will have to beat Armstrong, along with state senators Steve Ward of Littleton and Ted Harvey of Centennial.