DENVER — Liberal politics site ProgressNow Colorado on Monday launched an ambitious bilingual social-media campaign targeting Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.
The group’s website appears in Spanish- and English-language versions (“Can’t Trust Coffman,” “No Confiar Coffman“) and is chock full of background material hitting Coffman for past ethics charges and position changes on issues sure to resonate in his district — mainly on policy stands he has taken related to women’s health care — including abortion and so-called personhood — immigration and safety-net or entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The site is built for today’s mobile-social Web. It’s essentially a hyper-digitized mail campaign, where voters do the mailing and do it in a much more targeted fashion. They are encouraged to share with their friends — and neighbors, relatives, fellow voters — images of the Congressman — hand raised by the side of his face, lips pursed on the edge of a phrase — apparently about to articulate a position. But which position?
On the Dream Act, which aims to grant residency to young undocumented people brought to the country by their parents: “The Dream Act will be a nightmare,” Coffman is quoted to say in 2010. “These young people should be afforded a pathway to citizenship,” he is quoted to say in 2014.
On Personhood, which would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs “from the moment of conception” and aims to outlaw abortion in all cases, some contraception and fertility treatments: “Congressman Coffman… is a no-exceptions pro-life elected official who supports the personhood of the baby in the womb,” his 2012 staffers are quoted to say. “Personhood is over-broad and full of unintended consequences,” he is quoted to say in 2014.
For now, there are 12 such “flip-flops” shareable on the site. The comic theme of the site is manure. The candidate is alleged to be dishing “bullshit” and voters can “spread the manure” by sharing content and they can “dig deeper” into it by reading background material provided with media references.
Coffman’s campaign staff responded mildly to the attack. Team Coffman tweeted out a quote from Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a main proponent on Capital Hill for immigration reform, who has courted Coffman and applauded his recent receptivity to reform efforts.
“ProgressNow is attacking Mike Coffman en espanol — maybe this is why?” the staffers wrote and attached the complimentary Gutierrez quote.
But Coffman is a ripe target.
His district was redrawn in 2012. The new map transformed it from the solid conservative bastion that repeatedly sent anti-illegal-immigration firebrand Tom Tancredo to Washington to what is now a swing-district evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and Independents and brimming with immigrant communities from around the world.
Coffman has also been a Colorado politician for 25 years. He has a long record as an officeholder that includes ethics battles, a court conviction on illegal campaign spending and a history of championing conservative views that don’t match views held in large swaths of his two-year-old district. President Obama carried the district in 2012 by 5.1 points.
Yet Coffman survived that first election in his new district and did fairly well, too. He won by 3.6 points.
This year he faces a tough opponent in former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has lived overseas and speaks Spanish fluently.
Coffman has been dinged by members of the media on the left and right in recent months for avoiding interviews and limiting public appearances. His relative silence opens a doorway for a media-savvy campaign to rush into the gap.
“I’ve lived in his district for 10 years. In the old district and the new district,” said Jennifer Herrera standing in front of the state Supreme Court building. She was one of the speakers at the ProgressNow campaign rollout event. “Coffman is looking for our votes now. I’ve never seen him, although I’ve received a lot of his expensive mailers.
“This [ProgressNow] campaign is a great idea,” she said. “You’ll see. It will help educate the bilingual population so people actually vote in their own interest… Most of us are motivated by the pebble in our own shoe, but it would be nice if our officeholders at least were motivated by pebbles in other people’s shoes.”