DENVER – Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff was back in the news Tuesday, after Politico reported that the former state representative was considering a challenge to incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora). And like Coffman’s last challenger, Mr. Romanoff is facing charges of being a “carpetbagger” for not living in the district he says he hopes to represent.
But the “carpetbagger” label isn’t the only knock Mr. Romanoff will have to overcome from critics.
T.Q. Houlton, a Colorado native and spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) blasted the former state representative for exhibiting the same kind of financial management problems that Congress has.
In a statement entitled “Debt-Riddled Romanoff Considering House Bid”, Houlton cited a February 2012 Denver Post story outlining how the apparently cash-strapped Mr. Romanoff “sold his Wash Park home in 2010 to finance last-minute ads against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic Senate primary.”
“The real question is what will Andrew Romanoff auction off this time around to pay for his campaign?” asked Houlton. “The last thing Congress needs is more people like Andrew Romanoff who can’t even balance their own budgets.”
In addition to questions about his residency and personal finances, Romanoff could face skepticism from many Democrats for sponsoring immigration enforcement legislation in 2006 that prohibited illegal immigrants from obtaining in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
Romanoff’s bill, which was ultimately approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature, was characterized at the time as “the toughest in the nation” in The Washington Post.
While the politics of immigration have changed for Democrats, with in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants likely to pass the Democrat-controlled legislature this year, Romanoff’s vote remains a political bludgeon that a primary challenger could use against him.
Whether Romanoff could make it through a tough Democratic primary is a topic of much speculation.
In 2010, Romanoff challenged appointed U.S. Senator Michael Bennet for the Democratic nomination, after waiting months to announce his bid, leading to a nasty and often personal primary whose scars can still be seen among Democratic activists to this day.
Should other high profile Democrats who actually reside in the district — such as State Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) or Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) — decide to jump into the race, it could complicate Romanoff’s path to the nomination.
As one commenter on liberal blog Colorado Pols put it: “The idea that there aren’t enough Dems currently living in CD6 with enough stature or credibility to mount a strong challenge is flatly ridiculous. I believe the Democratic base in the district will reject all these carpetbagging campaigns as non-starters.”
At this point in the race it’s not incumbent Congressman Coffman that Romanoff will have to spend his time thinking about, but the primary voters in his own party. Whether he can get their blessing is the question.