But you can't argue with the effort that goes into learning a language well enough to debate in it. Romanoff has arguably been the most impressive and hard-working Democratic candidate in America in 2014—and Coffman has met the challenge. Together, the two campaigners have been running a grueling two-year marathon in a district like no other in the country, leaving their young staffers equal parts impressed and sprinting to keep up.
There are more than 130 different expat communities in Aurora, the district's population center. About one-fifth of the residents are Hispanic, but there are tight-knit groups of first- and second-generation citizens from Korea, China, a number of African countries, and many others on which both candidates have lavished attention over the past two years, ahead of an election that could be decided by a few thousand votes.
On a recent Saturday, tracking down Romanoff required a trip to Ugandan Independence Day festivities at a local community center. The Democrat spoke to the crowd of a couple hundred people after dinner, but he arrived early in the evening and stayed late, shaking hands, answering questions on subjects from student-loan rates to Ebola, taking pictures with young kids, and moving to the front of the room for a better look at the children's group performing a musical set.
When it was his turn to speak, a MC told the group that Romanoff was there to speak to them "again," and the candidate opened his remarks with a few words in Swahili, drawing a whoop from the crowd, before talking briefly about his economic plan and immigration reform and asking for their support. "I'm the son and the grandson of immigrants," Romanoff said in his speech. "And I'm glad we're here. Because I think we're richer in every way, not just as a family but as a country, we're better off because we have welcomed so many people from so many different lands, including Uganda."
The issue of immigration reform highlights the work the 6th District demands of its representatives. Coffman's evolution on immigration—from anti-"amnesty" supporter of Tom Tancredo (who Coffman once called a "hero") to current supporter of legal status for undocumented immigrants and citizenship for their children—has gotten a lot of attention nationally and in Colorado, and the comprehensive immigration-reform legislation that passed the Senate but died in the GOP-controlled House without Coffman's support is a main point of Romanoff's campaign. But there's also a big constituent-services angle on immigration that Coffman has attacked vigorously in his first term in the new district.
E-2 visas are a particularly big concern for the Korean community, Coffman campaign manager Tyler Sandberg said, while "the Chinese community is more concerned with E-5 visas." Coffman's office has worked to connect both communities with federal resources and worked on a bill on E-2 visas. The Republican has been spending his weekends visiting different constituent groups' neighborhoods and events—test-driving his Spanish skills and talking through his new position on immigration in some of them. Elsewhere in the country, "Republicans haven't learned to put that time in, to reach people at nonpolitical events," said Sandberg, who thinks Coffman's efforts should be a national model for the GOP. "As soon as you've had that personal meeting, good luck attacking him on TV."