The Service Employees International Union is running ads criticizing U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman for their positions on immigration.

(Screenshot: Service Employees International Union ad)
Colorado’s political advertising market is one of the hottest in the country, but Spanish language broadcasters are seeing limited ads thus so far.

Only two organizations – the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) – are airing ads on Latino television stations.

Those ads make up only about $126,000 of almost $43 million in Colorado political ads through Aug. 8. That tally includes ad contracts reported to the Federal Communications Commission by traditional TV stations, but doesn’t include cable or satellite advertising.

But Spanish speakers should expect to hear more political back-and-forth over the airwaves as the Nov. 4 general election gets closer, one Colorado consultant said.

The SEIU ads ran on KDEN Telemundo Denver and KCEC/KTFD Univision Colorado at a cost of about $59,000 for 122 spots in July. The ads criticized U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman for their positions on immigration.

Gardner is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, while Coffman faces former Democratic state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the 6th Congressional District.

The NRSC is spending almost $67,000 for 127 ads on KCEC in August, supporting Gardner and opposing Udall.

Both races are rated tossups by national political observers, and Colorado’s Latino community, 21 percent of the state’s 5.2 million residents, is expected to be a crucial voting bloc.

Such limited advertising on Spanish-language stations indicates a miscalculation about the rising number of bilingual Coloradans, said Abraham Morales,  senior associate for Hispanic insights at SE2, a Denver communications firm.

"Even though recent history and the changing demographics have shown the importance of the Latino vote, I believe there remains lots of misunderstanding and misconceptions about the Hispanic voters – one of them being that Spanish speakers don’t vote,” Morales wrote in an email. “Bilingual Hispanics do vote. At lower rates, true, but we vote. And in many races that are projected to be too close, those votes could actually be the difference."

The Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition advocating immigration reform, ran three Spanish language radio ads in July. Two were aimed at Coffman and one at Gardner. The group spent about $40,000, and expects to run more ads this fall, said spokeswoman Dawn A. Le in an email.

SEIU is also running Spanish-language radio ads opposing Coffman and Gardner, also related to immigration.

Morales suggested that advertisers aiming at Hispanic voters should probably expand the issues they’re addressing beyond immigration. He noted that a Pew Research survey of Hispanic Americans ranked immigration fourth after education, economy and jobs, and health care.

"If parties based messages on recent data such as the Pew research, you would expect to see more about those other issues, especially about jobs and the economy,” he said.

Colorado’s dearth of Spanish-language ads isn’t unique. Most of the Spanish-language TV ads purchased through mid July were in Florida and California, the Sunlight Foundation reported in July. Arizona and Colorado, two states with large Hispanic populations, lagged behind, Sunlight found.

Morales said he expects candidates and outside groups to start reserving time on Spanish-language channels soon.

"I believe not doing advertising in Spanish – or coming too late – is a missed opportunity, because with TV ads in two languages you have the opportunity to influence the same individual from two different angles."