6th Congressional District

Former state House speaker hopes to oust Coffman

An interview with Andrew Romanoff

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Romanoff

Democrat Andrew Romanoff says now is the time and he is the guy to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the state's recently realigned 6th Congressional District.

Having just moved to the district a year ago, Romanoff knows he'll need to prove himself to the residents of what used to be a conservative bastion before November.

"It used to be a very different kind of district," he said during an April 12 interview in his Aurora office. "It's now an amazingly diverse district that deserves a representative with the ability to work across the aisle, which is what I did as a state representative."

Romanoff served in the state House from 2000-08, serving as speaker from 2005 on. In 2010, he launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, widely regarded as more moderate than Romanoff.

Romanoff was willing to cover a lot of topics during the interview, with his best friend, the beautiful and friendly rescue mutt Zorro, patiently lying at his feet. That is, until Romanoff uttered the words "Ku Klux Klan," which sent Zorro running for the door with a sharp bark.

"He's taking a bite out of crime," Romanoff said with a laugh.

It was a reference to research work he used to do for the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he started a career inspired by his parents: his mom was a social worker whose clients would sometimes end up in his father's courtroom, where he practiced as a prosecutor and judge.

He credits much of his success to them and his grandparents, all four of whom came to America from Eastern Europe.

"I've passed a lot of laws that made life better for a lot of folks, but there's nothing I've done in my life that I could have done without the sacrifice of my grandparents," he said.

Here are Romanoff's quick takes on a variety of topics.

The economy

Keys to growing the economy, said Romanoff, include supporting higher education to fill jobs of the future, creating clean-energy jobs, and ending incentives that send jobs overseas.

"It's not just a choice between a Democrat and a Republican or a Tea Party member. It's not just a choice between an incumbent and a challenger," he said. "It's a choice between two different views about how to grow the economy. ... Let's actually put our efforts into things that are going to support our middle class, not just those at the top."

Mental health

As a state representative, Romanoff supported a bill that offered the chance for inmates with mental-health issues to sign up for needed services while still behind bars.

"We should focus on early intervention and treatment rather than using our criminal justice system for treatment. That's a pretty expensive way to go," he said. "... We were just letting them out of prison with a wing and a prayer and 30 days of meds and some hope that maybe they'd figure it out on their own, and they didn't."

Immigration reform

Romanoff supports the Dream Act and efforts to improve border security, make employers accountable and provide for a path to citizenship.

"Reasonable people can disagree, but nobody I know supports the status quo."

He'd like members of the House to force a vote on a bill currently stuck there, by getting 218 of them, including some Republicans, to sign a petition to that effect.

"That's a big step," he said. "They would have to buck their own party, but if their constituents matter more than their party, that's what they will do."

Military service

Unlike Romanoff, Coffman has a long history with the military that started in 1972. In 2005, he resigned his post as Colorado's secretary of state to serve a tour with the U.S. Marines in Iraq.

"I respect his service," said Romanoff. "I revere the service of everyone who's worn a uniform in service of our country. But I will make sure we treat our veterans with the respect they deserve."

That includes putting Americans in harm's way only as a last resort with a clear mission and a well-defined exit strategy, along with the resources they need to succeed in the mission and to return to civilian life - jobs, housing, mental health.

"This shouldn't be a partisan issue at all. What we've done to them is criminal."

Obamacare

While admitting it's not perfect, Romanoff said he doesn't want to go back to the times of charging women more just because they're women, people being denied for having a pre-existing condition and kicking kids off their parents' policies.

"They plainly botched the rollout of this thing. And we could still do more to hold down the cost of care, because people are still paying too much. We need access to preventive care to be available to more people instead of so many of them using the emergency room. ... It's not the cheapest way to go, and it's certainly not the healthiest way to go. And there's some stuff government can't do. People should take some responsibility for their own lives."

Fracking

Romanoff said any type of drilling should be well-regulated to ensure health, water and air are protected.

"I also happen to think, although we can't get there overnight, that we ought to be looking at alternative natural resources. And, of course, the cheapest energy of all is the energy we don't use."