Local Factors Prevail As House Incumbents Win

November 7, 2012

Despite Democrats’ attempt to nationalize Coffman’s race, the incumbent’s local reputation helped him cruise to victory.

WASHINGTON — Withstanding a gloomy national mood, Colorado’s three vulnerable U.S. representatives were re-elected Tuesday night.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) defeated Democratic state representative Joe Miklosi of Denver in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional district. With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Coffman received 149,179 votes (49 percent) to Miklosi’s 137,637 (45 percent).

The Rothenberg Political Report had rated the race in the southeastern Denver suburbs a tossup. But Coffman, a two-term incumbent, indicated his strong name identification and emphasis on economic issues carried him to victory. “I think it was the fact that the majority of voters in the district knew me and knew I was focused on jobs and the economy,” he said in an interview.

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) beat back a challenge by Democratic state representative Sal Pace of Pueblo in the 3rd Congressional District. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Tipton garnered 177,635 votes (54 percent) to Pace’s 135,306 (41 percent).

Rothenberg and other political outlets had listed the race on the Western Slope as a tossup in the spring and summer, but moved it to “leans Republican” later. Tipton, a one-term incumbent, had not released a statement on his website or twitter account. He told a reporter from The Pueblo Chieftain that his background as a small-business owner (he owns a pottery store) and willingness to work with Democrats enabled him to win the race.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) defeated business executive Joe Coors, Jr. in the 7th Congressional District. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Perlmutter amassed 171,874 votes (53 percent) to Coors’ 132,727 (41 percent).

Rothenberg moved the race from “safe Democrat” to “leans Democrat” in September after Coors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign ads. But Perlmutter, a three-term incumbent, retained his reputation for strong constituent services and campaigned with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in his Democratic-leaning district. His campaign did not issue a statement on his website or twitter account.

The three incumbents won their races despite historic levels of disapproval of Congress. Voters complained to pollsters that the House and Senate should be less partisan and more results-oriented, but they acted in the spirit of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s adage that “all politics is local.”

The race for the 6th Congressional district was a good example.

Miklosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to nationalize the race against Coffman without success. They hammered him for his position on abortion and rape as well as his comment that “President Obama is not an American in his heart,” a statement he apologized for later.

But Miklosi’s state house district does not encompass all of the congressional district and his attacks on Coffman’s controversial remarks failed. “My opponent and the media kept bringing it up, but in my meetings with voters it rarely came up. Once I explained what I said to voters, they said, ‘Oh, OK. That’s not so bad.’ So the issue didn’t resonate with any voters.”

The results of Tuesday’s election did not alter the makeup of Colorado’s congressional delegation. Democrats hold three House seats and both Senate seats. Republicans have four House seats. Democratic representatives Diana DeGette of Denver and Jared Polis of Boulder cruised to victory in their races, while Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) won his election easily against state Senate President Brandon Shaffer. Udall and fellow Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett were not on the ballot Tuesday.

Republicans retained majority control in the lower chamber. With 11 races to be decided, the GOP holds a 233 to 191 edge over Democrats.

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