AURORA | President Bill Clinton starred Monday night at Aurora’s Hinkley High School during the third major push in a week to get Democrat voters to turn in ballots for tight races across the state and the region.
The former president urged Democrats to ignore polls showing their party is unlikely to retain control of the U.S. Senate, telling the Aurora crowd to resist cynicism and redouble their efforts to get out the vote. About 1,600 Democratic Party volunteers and faithful turned out to see the former president shore up the shaky campaigns of Sen. Mark Udall, Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
Aurora has found itself in the center of a local and national political storm, where three of the country’s most expensive and contentious races are being fought in a state and city that has turned from “red” to “purple.” Aurora has taken to sending only Democrats to the the state legislature. Hillary Clinton appeared at a similar rally just last week in Aurora. First Lady Michelle Obama starred at rallies in Denver and Ft. Collins just a few days later.
Party officials said Clinton kicks off an effort to score votes by sending out 6,004 volunteers working 8,500 shifts across the state during the next nine days.
Clinton spoke against criticisms of local Democrats, saying their opponents were capitalizing on the misery of the mid-term political season. The former president said midterm elections in a president’s second term are dominated by appeals to vent frustration at the president by voting out others in his party. He accused Republicans of trying to get people to “just vote your fears and your anger.”
He told cheering volunteers to help get others to resist that, and keep the top elected positions in the state Democrat if they want continued progress and less partisan fighting.
Mark Udall, “Is the poster boy for bi-partisan,” Clinton told a jubilant crowd with his customary folksy jabs. “Cory Gardner wants you to stop thinking. (Because) If you thought, you would vote for Mark Udall.”
Clinton said Republican Senate hopefuls are asking voters to give them a six-year job as a way of showing dislike for a president who will be gone in two. Gardner, who has a narrow lead on Udall in many recent polls, frequently criticizes Udall for how often he sides with President Barack Obama.
“It’s a pretty slick deal,” Clinton said with a laugh. “He wants to take Mark Udall off the ballot and put the president on the ballot.”
National Democrats are throwing all their weight at keeping Udall’s seat. Colorado could decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber.
Clinton took shots at the three Republican candidates in Colorado’s most contentious races, including gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez and Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman.
Clinton used familiar Colorado Democratic campaign talking points to ask why voters would switch gears in the governor’s office, pointing to the state’s economic development and job growth.
“What are we arguing about?”Clinton said. “What they’ve done is said, ‘forget about what your opponent’s done and just vote your man.'”
Clinton took a brief shot at Coffman, dissing the 6th Congressional District incumbent’s immigration comments against the DREAM Act.
“If Colorado is a state of the future, you’ll send Andrew Romanoff to Congress,” Clinton said.
Coffman’s campaign spokesman defended Coffman’s stance and votes on immigration, saying others who also care deeply admire the two-term Republican incumbent.
“Bill Clinton should have bothered asking the author of the DREAM Act, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who praised Mike Coffman as a “leader” on immigration,” said Coffman campaign spokesman Tyler Sandberg.
Area Republicans are planning a similar rally Wednesday starring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is increasingly becoming a potential presidential contender for 2016. Coffman is expected to attend that event.
Before the president took the lectern, candidates and others stayed the recent campaign course, striking a difference between parties and candidates as far as women issues, especially pay equity and reproductive rights.
Udall and others alluded to his campaign lagging in recent polls and other races being tight or slipping.
“It feels like deja vu,” said Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, recalling how Clinton came four years ago to save Bennet’s own flagging campaign. “What we knew then was we had the people of State of Colorado, and we weren’t going to let this seat be bought.”
Bennet took shots at fiery GOP rhetoric to undo healthcare and other Democratic gains.
“You see these guys on TV saying they want to take the country back. They don’t say from whom or what century,” Bennet said.
Aurora Sentinel staffers Rachel Sapin and Marla Keown reporting from Hinkley High School. The Associated Press contributed to this story.