LONGMONT — All nine of Colorado’s Democratic candidates actively running for U.S. Senate expressed support for immigrant communities at a Latino issues forum that attracted 400 people Sunday afternoon in Longmont, but several also made clear their frustration with the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee of former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Despite the mostly polite forum at the Longmont Museum, hosted by the Longmont Latinx Voice — the format didn’t allow for debate as each candidate got up to answer questions individually for 15 minutes — the candidates’ responses indicated that the primary would be a tough one as voters decide on their candidate of choice.
Former speaker of the Colorado House Andrew Romanoff took jabs at Hickenlooper related to his stances on fracking and his responses to a potential Medicare for All option — Romanoff has been vocal about his support for a so-called Green New Deal and public health insurance.
“I know there are a lot of folks in Washington right now who do not want you to be here and they certainly don’t want me or most of the other candidates to be on this stage,” Romanoff said. “They announced as much. They recruited into this race a fellow who said he didn’t want the job and wouldn’t be good at it, and they’ve done everything they possibly can to stifle this primary, to annoy the winner, to turn what ought to be a contest into a coronation. Don’t let that happen.”
“I am 50 times more fired up about this campaign than ever running for mayor or governor,” he said.
Romanoff, however, received his own criticism, as Lorena Garcia, the first candidate to announce her plans to seek the Democratic nomination, took the stage.
She told attendees that they may have been “wowed” by Romanoff, who spoke before her, but she called his record as speaker of the House anti-immigrant, as other critics have pointed to his role in 2006 legislation in Colorado. That history includes the passage of a bill that was later repealed, which required local law enforcement to report people they arrested who they suspected of being in the United States illegally to federal authorities.
“We cannot elect someone who has already thrown the immigrant community under the bus,” said Garcia, who is Latina.
She instead encouraged attendees to vote for her. Garcia has not served in an elected office before, with a background in nonprofit work, but she said she is from an immigrant family and is married to a woman who also comes from an immigrant family.
“We have to be bold and brave and we have to do something different, and that means electing someone different that will never throw any community under the bus for the sake of profit, party or my own career,” she said.
The moderator asked different questions of each of the candidates related to Latino and immigrant communities, from housing to pay inequities to the environment. They agreed on the need to reduce inequities in Latino communities and working to provide better pathways to citizenship.
The candidates all had to answer the same two yes-or-no questions: whether they would commit to holding town halls, particularly on Latinx issues, every year they’re in office, and whether they would commit to debating incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner on Latinx issues in Longmont. They all said yes.
Gardner of Yuma has been criticized for not holding a town hall with constituents in two years and dodging reporters, and the Democratic candidates at the forum did not hold back, promising to do things differently.
Longmont residents Mary and Joe Callahan walked into the forum Sunday, knowing they back Romanoff for the seat, but they wanted to hear from all the candidates.
They were particularly impressed with Superior scientist Trish Zornio’s advocacy for investments in early childhood education to put a dent in inequities for immigrant communities.
“She’s passionate, obviously, and her systemic views, I really like,” Mary Callahan said.
While many of the candidates had ideas the Callahans appreciated, Joe Callahan said it’s a little scary how many candidates are coming in with no political experience.
Daria Leverne, part of a Latinx group in Longmont, was particularly interested in hearing Garcia speak because she said she wants to support a Latina, but ultimately, she felt Romanoff’s experience and his unwillingness to accept corporate dollars make him a stronger candidate.
For Luz Ruiz, Garcia’s words were poignant.
“I think her message about people having confidence in people of color’s leadership roles is important,” Ruiz said.
She was glad to hear the candidates address racism and issues facing the Latino community in the state.
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