Jon Murray --- The Denver Post
Mike Coffman knows his potential weak spots in his race for a fourth term in Congress. There's his past support for "personhood" ballot measures, a position he's since reversed. And there's a list of votes that give Democrats grist to argue he's been unfriendly to women.
So when the Republican congressman debuted his first TV ad recently, he launched a pre-emptive strike, making a pitch aimed at women, a critical constituency in his tight race against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
In the cutthroat 6th Congressional District, appeals to women voters have dominated recent weeks. It's a district with roughly even partisan splits and a 20 percent Latino makeup, but talk about women voters has taken the spotlight from the candidates' differences over Obamacare and immigration reform.
"I think people see me as a Marine — the Marine Corps image," Coffman said. " ... So what I want to show women is where I've been able to use that background on the committees that ... I haven't forgotten about women, and that I'm working on their issues, maybe in a different context."
Coffman's ad highlights three bills he helped pass that offered protections to victims of sexual assault in the military, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, and — 20 years ago, when he was a state legislator — prohibited small businesses' insurance providers from charging men and women different premiums.
Romanoff's campaign says voters shouldn't be fooled, with a spokeswoman saying Coffman "doesn't have our back."
Before the ad, the campaign already was lobbing criticism at Coffman on issues ranging from his record on women's reproductive rights, including attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, to pay-equity issues. Romanoff's campaign notes that Coffman voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which relaxed time limits for claims alleging pay disparities between women and men.
Coffman's ad set off a flurry of Romanoff responses that have only ramped up. He launched the first TV attack ad of his campaign Saturday, highlighting the Republican's past support for Colorado personhood amendments that effectively would outlaw abortion and, critics argue, some forms of birth control. Coffman quietly backed off his support for personhood in 2012. He still opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.