Udall launches anticipated Spanish-language air campaign against Gardner

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]EMOCRATIC U.S. Senator Mark Udall is jabbing reelection opponent Congressman Cory Gardner for voting to cut funding for a veterans program, and Udall is doing the jabbing in what is a near-million-dollar first-round of Spanish-language television ads that will run through Election Day.

“We respect their service. And believe our veterans deserve the same respect when they return home,” the ad’s voiceover begins.

“But Congressman Cory Gardner and Washington Republicans supported a budget that cut housing vouchers for eleven thousand homeless veterans.

“It’s true.

“Don’t Gardner and Washington Republicans know we have over fifteen hundred homeless veterans in Colorado?”

The ad is being paid for equally by the Udall campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is run by Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. The charge in the ad is tied to Gardner’s support for a budget in 2011 that would have cut funding to a program for homeless veterans by $75 million. The Gardner campaign has pushed back in a release saying Udall’s record suggests he doesn’t prioritize veteran’s affairs.

Why didn’t Udall choose immigration reform as a first Spanish-language hit?

The Udall campaign told KDVR that “Gardner’s position in a House GOP caucus that blocked comprehensive immigration reform is already widely known,” as reporter Eli Stokols put it. The Udall campaign didn’t have to add that the Republican House caucus also includes members who regularly trade in the harsh, race-inflected, headline-making rhetoric on immigration that has alienated Latino citizens in droves.

The ad, scheduled so far to run on Spanish-language stations in Denver and Colorado Springs, is further acknowledgement that Latinos have become a key swing demographic in Colorado. According to Pew and National Election Pool voter exit poll surveys, Latinos cast nearly 15 percent of votes in Colorado in 2012. Obama won the state by 138,000 votes and he won the Latino vote in a landslide, 75 percent to 23 percent, meaning he won the support of roughly 242,000 more votes from Latinos than did Mitt Romney, well more than enough to put Obama over the top.

The campaign told the Independent that there are similar Udall Spanish-language ads in the works and that they’re part of a larger program that includes outreach to Spanish-language news media and ground-game efforts in Spanish-language communities.

According to polls, top issues for Latinos include the economy, access to health care and immigration policy reform. Cory Gardner is far from winning on at least two of those issues.

Gardner has made vehement “repeal and replace” opposition to the Affordable Care Act a defining issue of his career in Congress. Yet in Colorado, the Affordable Care Act has already delivered insurance to 316,102 previously uninsured residents, a fact that hasn’t likely escaped Latino residents to the same extent it may be escaping the predominantly white older Tea Party voters Gardner has mainly courted until this year, during which he is making his first statewide run for office.

Indeed, Gardner personally has drawn heat on immigration policy for years, his appearances in his mostly agrarian district increasingly attracting immigration-reform protesters, who staged a sit-in this past spring at his Greeley offices to demand he help pressure Republican leaders to at least bring the reform bill passed by the Senate last year to the floor for debate and a vote. Although Gardner talks about the need for reform, he has a record of mostly voting against policies supported by the majorities of voters. He has said so-called Dreamers — young undocumented people brought to the country illegally by their parents — should be offered a path to citizenship, but also supports deporting Dreamers’ parents.

“We cannot reward those family members who have broken the law,” Gardner said in House Committee debate last year.

Immigration reform supporters at the hearing saw the two positions as politically expedient. Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida said championing a path to citizenship for kids but not their parents ignored the reality of family life and amounted to dodging any actual attempt to help those being hurt by the nation’s immigration laws.