Rep. Mike Coffman (R)
Colorado 6th District
Two generations ago, most people in metro Denver lived in the city itself. At the city limits, the tree-shaded sidewalks gave way to the empty High Plains. Today, more than three-quarters of metro Denver residents live outside the city, some in long-settled suburbs, some in large new subdivisions raised up in the 1990s and 2000s on rolling land with magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains. Littleton, originally a small, long-settled suburb just south of Denver, now extends to vast new tracts. Just south of Littleton is Douglas County, which until the 1970s was a sparsely populated patch of the High Plains just east of the Front Range. From 2000 to 2008, it grew 51%, making it the fastest growing county in the state, and also largely avoided the housing slump, as young families moved into 35-acre “ranchettes,” or to subdivisions around Castle Rock and Parker. There were high-paying telecommunications jobs at local employers Echo Star and AT&T Broadband, now a part of Comcast. Lockheed is attracting scientists to build the Orion space exploration vehicle in Jefferson County. In 2000, Douglas was the nation’s most affluent county in median household income ($84,645) and had the smallest percentage of people living in poverty (1.8%). This is Patio Land, as conservative writer David Brooks has described it: an area with a high-tech economy, a highly educated population with relatively conservative cultural values, and families looking for a safe environment for their children, with the serenity, if not the close personal ties, of the traditional small town and the creativity of a metropolis. “The fastest-growing regions of the country tend to have the highest concentrations of children. Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity, and danger and move to places like Douglas County,” Brooks wrote in The New York Times.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Colorado is centered on Littleton and Douglas County. To the west, it includes much of Jefferson County, including part of affluent Evergreen in the mountains. To the east, it includes much of Arapahoe County and, southeast, Elbert County, long empty land but now sprouting new subdivisions. After the Colorado Springs-based 5th District, this is the state’s second most Republican district. President Bush got 60% of the vote here in 2004, and Republican candidate John McCain won it, 53% to 46%, in 2008.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: March 19, 1955, Fort Leonard Wood, MO .
Education: U. of CO, B.A., 1979..
Family: Married (Cynthia).
Military career: Army, 1972-79, Marine Corps, 1979-94, 2005-06 (Iraq).
Elected office: CO House 1988-94; CO Senate, 1994-98; CO treasurer, 1998-05; CO secy. of st., 2006-08.
Professional Career: Property management firm owner, 1983-2000.
The new congressman from the 6th District is Mike Coffman, a Republican elected in 2008 to succeed retiring five-term Republican Tom Tancredo, who ran a long-shot race for president that year.
|Mike Coffman (R)||250,877||(61%)||($1,325,282)|
|Hank Eng (D)||162,639||(39%)||($270,609)|
|Mike Coffman (R)||28,509||(40%)|
|Wil Armstrong (R)||23,213||(33%)|
|Ted Harvey (R)||10,886||(15%)|
|Steve Ward (R)||8,452||(12%)|
The son of an Army doctor, Coffman enlisted in the Army before he finished high school and completed his diploma in the military. He went to the University of Colorado on the G.I. Bill, and then officer’s school in the Marine Corps. After his active duty service ended, he started several Denver-area property management firms, which he sold in 2000. In 1988, Coffman was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. Two years later, he was called back to active duty with the Marines to serve in the first Gulf War. His colleagues draped his desk with a Marine Corps flag and yellow ribbons, and read his letters from the front lines on the House floor. After his service, Coffman returned to public life, first as a state senator and then as Colorado treasurer. But military duty called again in 2005. Coffman resigned as treasurer to go to Iraq on a six-month deployment, during which he helped facilitate elections in the Al Anbar Province and establish local governments in the Western Euphrates River Valley. When he got home, he was elected secretary of state, touting his experience with the Iraqi elections and promising to revamp election machines statewide.
During his two-year tenure, Coffman drew criticism for taking several voting machines out of commission because of possible problems with them and not having replacement machines ready as the election approached. County clerks lobbied for an all mail-ballot voting system, but he strongly opposed it, instead supporting paper ballots at polling places. The August 2008 primary was plagued with errors, and many voters did not receive their absentee ballots. After he announced his candidacy for Congress in November 2007, Coffman was the subject of an ethics complaint by Colorado Ethics Watch. The group objected that a consulting firm he hired for his campaign had also worked with the election machine company, Premier Election Solutions, which supplied all of Colorado’s election machines.
In the GOP primary, Coffman first had to ward off a challenge from businessman Wil Armstrong, the son of former Republican Sen. Bill Armstrong. Also running were state senators Ted Harvey and Steve Ward. The four were nearly uniformly conservative. All supported the Iraq war and opposed a timeline for withdrawing troops. Like incumbent Tancredo, who waged an unsuccessful bid for president based on his get-tough approach to illegal immigration, all four were staunch opponents of giving citizenship to illegal aliens. But Coffman had the highest name recognition, thanks to his statewide offices, and also outraised his challengers. He won with 40% of the vote, with Armstrong coming in at 33%, a victory that all but assured him the seat in this Republican district.
Amid his campaigning, Coffman had to balance his duty of carrying out the election in a crucial swing state in the presidential race. He was criticized for the alleged purging of thousands of names from voter rolls shortly before the November election because they were suspected of being duplicate or erroneous registrations. He disputed the number of names purged and said their removal was valid. Still, the Advancement Project, a national voting-rights group, sued Coffman over the purged registrations, and a judge four days before the election ordered him to reinstate 146 voters.
The controversy apparently had no effect on Coffman’s own election. In the general election, he cruised to victory against Democrat Hank Eng, winning with 61% of the vote. Unlike in the primary, elections around the state proceeded relatively smoothly. Coffman told The Denver Post that “People were pretty stressed out, in this office and at the county level, but we managed to pull it off.” Despite his victory, Coffman irked many Colorado Republicans for refusing to step down as secretary of state during the campaign. If he had resigned earlier, a special election could have been held on Election Day to replace him. Instead, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter appointed a Democrat as his replacement after the election.
Once in Congress, Coffman opposed President Obama’s sweeping economic stimulus bill. Given his military background, Coffman was a natural to be appointed to the House Armed Services Committee. He was also named to the House Natural Resources Committee, of special importance to his district.