Colorado Congressional District 6 race: Coffman, Romanoff, Swing and Olsen on the issues

October 23, 2014

Photo: 6th District candidatesDemocrat Andrew Romanoff, Libertarian Norm Olsen, the Green Party's Gary Swing, and Republican incumbent Mike Coffman are competing for Colorado's 6th Congressional District seat, which covers some of Denver's western, southern and northern suburbs. 

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The candidates answered the following questions from CPR News about issues they may face. Rep. Mike Coffman's campaign declined to complete CPR's questionnaire. His positions are comprised of previous statements and news coverage compiled by CPR News.

Do you want the Affordable Care Act to stay in place and possibly have minor changes, or do you want to completely overhaul or eliminate the ACA?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)There’s no question the ACA’s rollout was deeply flawed, but Congress needs to focus now on fixing the ACA, not repealing it. It would be a mistake to repeal the bill and go back to the days when insurance companies were allowed to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, or kick people off of their plans once they got sick, or charge women more than men. Instead, we need to continue to push for reforms that lower the cost of healthcare for middle class families.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Eliminate! ACA does not achieve any of the objectives promised. It is not about healthcare. It's about politics and insurance company profits.
Gary Swing (Green)The Affordable Care Act should be repealed and replaced with a single payer (Medicare for All) national health insurance program.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

According to a Denver Post article, Coffman supports eliminating the Affordable Care Act, though he has authored a bill to keep insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
What can be done to shore up Medicare and Social Security?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)Social Security and Medicare are critical programs that have protected generations of seniors from poverty. We need to strengthen, not dismantle, Medicare and Social Security. The best way to do that is to grow the economy and put more folks back to work so that they can pay into Social Security and Medicare. We should also crack down on fraud and abuse in these systems. In addition, I believe we ought to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices in the Medicare system. Lastly, the revenue boost we would achieve by passing comprehensive immigration reform would also help to shore up these programs. My opponent, on the other hand, has called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme”, and voted for budgets that the Wall Street Journal said would “essentially end Medicare.”
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Social Security:1) Eliminate COLA adjustments, 2) Raise the full benefit retirement age every year, 3) Adjust payroll taxes each year to the minimum level required to pay current year benfits. Medicare: Replace with a "whole health" insurance product similar to "whole life" insurance, providing traditional insurance during productive years and a residual value for expenses in retirement years.
Gary Swing (Green)Medicare should be expanded to all US citizens, eliminating the waste of private health insurance administration. The cap on Social Security withholding should be removed. Social Security funds should be segregated from the budget so they cannot be diverted to any other spending purpose.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

At a Denver Post debate, Coffman said that he believes "wealthier seniors ought to pay more for their Medicare benefits." Coffman also said that the Social Security disability program should be reformed. In July, he introduced a bill intended to preserve Medicare Advantage by removing a Medicaid expansion that allows prisoners to receive health care.
What role should the federal government play in regulating oil and gas extraction?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)I strongly support requiring oil and gas extraction operations to meet federal clean air and clean water regulations, and I believe there should be adequate disclosure requirements so that we know what chemicals are going into the ground. More important, for the sake of our health, our economy, and our national security, we ought to do everything we can to transition to a clean energy economy. This would create thousands of good, middle class jobs in our state and would help our nation become energy independent.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Encourage use of our resources, insuring that property rights are protected, which implies environmental respect.
Gary Swing (Green)Hydraulic fracturing and the use of tar sands or shale for oil development should be banned. Subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy should be eliminated. True cost pricing should be implemented to incorporate the cost of environmental impacts in the price of oil, gas, and other products.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Coffman wrote in the Denver Business Journal that he supports increasing the amount of federal land available for natural gas and oil development, noting his proposal in the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act of 2012 to return to "historical" levels of leased acreage.
Do you support changes to the Endangered Species Act? If so, what?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)I believe that the federal government and states should coordinate more closely on the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and find strategies to better manage species so that we add fewer of them to the endangered list. 
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Yes. It often supersedes private property rights inappropriately.
Gary Swing (Green)The Endangered Species Act must be strengthened and enforced. World wildlife populations of vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) have declined by 52 percent since 1970. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity is a primary statement of purpose guiding how we can act to preserve and preserve and sustain genetic resources.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

CPR News could not find any record of Coffman speaking about this issue.
What should the federal government do about climate change?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)We must accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy, which would both reduce the long-term impacts of climate change and create thousands of good, middle class jobs right here in Colorado. I’ve been a leader on this issue. In the Colorado House, I endorsed a successful initiative that called for 10 percent of Colorado’s electricity to come from renewable sources, and then I helped double that goal three years later. By contrast, my opponent has denied that humans are significantly contributing to climate change. He has voted repeatedly against curbing carbon emissions and against funding for renewable energy. That’s the wrong approach. Our environment, our economy, and our national security rely on our ability to reduce carbon emissions and move toward a clean energy economy. We need leaders in Congress who acknowledge the scientific consensus and have the courage to act.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Nothing, although removing obstacles to the use of nuclear energy would be helpful.
Gary Swing (Green)Greenhouse gas emissions in the US should be reduced at least 40 percent by 2020 and 95 percent by 2050, over 1990 levels. We must reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases as quickly as possible to levels that existed before 1980, to less than 350 parts per million carbon dioxide. We must convert to renewable energy sources and sustainable agricultural practices.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

At a Denver Post debate, Coffman expressed his belief that science has not determined how significant human action is to climate change. Coffman also said that government regulations of carbon emissions should be "balanced" in order to not disrupt businesses. He said that harsher regulations will drive production overseas, where environmental laws are weaker or non-existent.
What can the federal government do to boost Colorado's economy?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)There’s a lot members of Congress can do to help get the economy back on track, but at the very least, they shouldn’t be moving us in the wrong direction. Business leaders all over the district have told me that Congress, itself, has become a source of instability and an obstacle to certainty. Business can’t thrive in the unpredictable climate Congress has created. The first thing Congress should do to boost our economy is eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. We need to accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy, which will create good jobs here in Colorado and around the nation. We ought to work together to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will help close the wage gap and put money back in the pockets of hardworking women, many of whom are sole or co-breadwinners and contribute significantly to our economy. We must also invest in higher education and make college more affordable so that students and workers can access the education they need to fill in-demand jobs. Passing immigration reform would also give a big boost to our economy, while significantly reducing the deficit. And lastly, we need men and women in Congress to set aside partisanship and overcome the crippling gridlock that has paralyzed Congress. Stumbling from showdown to shutdown, Congress has made it tougher – not easier – for business owners here to create jobs and grow our local economy. I will work with Democrats and Republicans alike to give Colorado business owners the stability and pro-growth policies that they need.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Fiscal Responsibility: Stop printing money, reduce its debt level, and stop guaranteeing private loans.
Gary Swing (Green)Economic growth is neither desirable nor realistic. We need to convert to a "steady state" (environmentally sustainable) economy, investing in alternative energy and sustainable agriculture.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

In an interview with Colorado Matters, Coffman said that jobs and the economy is most important to Coloardo's 6th district. Coffman said he has worked to increase the district's aerospace industry and protect the Buckley Air Force base from looming cuts.
What should the federal government do to address growing inequality in America, and in Colorado?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)We have a Congress that has been too focused on providing tax breaks and benefits for those at the top, and as a result, middle class families are falling farther behind. Instead of passing yet another tax cut for millionaires, Congress ought to make higher education more affordable, ensure equal pay for equal work, and invest in clean energy jobs. We also need to raise the minimum wage to reward hard work.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Stop trying to legislate equality, morailty, and wealth creation; can't be done. We're Americans, we can handle it. Get out of our way. 
Gary Swing (Green)A guaranteed universal basic income should be instituted, sufficient to ensure that people's basic needs are met. 

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Responding to a question about student loan debt, Coffman said that the Obama administration has a "discriminatory policy" against "proprietary trade schools" that "hurts working-class Americans and their ability to make it to the middle class" in a Denver Post debate. He also advocated for more skills-based training.
What should the federal government do to lower the child poverty rate in Colorado?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)To reduce childhood poverty, we need to give more families a foothold to the middle class. This starts with ensuring that women get paid the same as men for doing the same work. Women are the sole or co-breadwinners for most families in our country, and wage discrimination is a killer for these families’ budgets. We also need to raise the minimum wage to reward hard work. Lastly, transitioning to a clean energy economy will not only benefit our environment and national security, but also our economy. Colorado can be a leader in renewable energy and great good, middle class jobs right here. I also believe we need to invest in early childhood education so that more students are ready to succeed in the classroom when they begin first grade. In the State House, I worked to expand full-day kindergarten for 22,000 students and expand pre-school programs. In Congress, I’ll continue that record and fight for our students – from expanding access to early childhood education and improving K-12 schools to making college more affordable. Education is the ticket to the middle class, and it’s our duty as a state and country to give every child the opportunity to succeed through our school system. Unfortunately, my opponent voted several times for a budget that would cut Head Start programs and slash Pell grants, putting these opportunities out of reach for too many families.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Stop rewarding single moms for having additional children. Government has a lousy record of dealing with social issues. Best left to private agencies who really care about those in need and can provide the personal attention this issue deserves.
Gary Swing (Green)Swing didn't reply to this question.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

In 2010, Rep. Coffman voted against legislation to boost funding for childhood nutrition programs, acheived in part by cutting food stamp benefits. In an e-mail interview with The Denver Post, Coffman said, "The current food-stamp program is a contributor to childhood obesity, diabetes and learning disorders. [...] There's never enough money, but throwing more money at a problem is not necessarily the best solution."

Do you support raising the federal minimum wage?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)Yes.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)No. A job in which an entry level indivudal can demonstrate reliability, integrity, and capability, albeit a low paying job, is so much better than no job at all.
Gary Swing (Green)A living wage should be established, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Coffman said that he is against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, according to an article from the Denver Post. In 2013, he voted against a measure that would have raised the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.
What areas of federal spending should be increased? What should be cut?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)There are many ways we can reduce the federal deficit without balancing the budget on the back of the middle class. Congress should end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. There are also far too may wasteful and duplicative federal programs, the elimination of which could save us up to $45 billion over 5 years. We could also save about $156 billion over the next 10 years by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiated deeper discounts for pharmaceuticals. Additionally, we need to crack down on Medicare fraud and abuse, which could save us almost $100 billion each year.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Accross the board. The federal government employs 3 million civilians. My goal would be to put 2 million of them into productive work and make ordinary taxpayers out of them.
Gary Swing (Green)The US military budget should be cut by at least 90%. Military foreign aid, the CIA, the NSA, and the Selective Service System should be eliminated. Spending for health care, education, social welfare, and environmental protection should be prioritized.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

At a Denver Post debate, Coffman said that he has focused on "how to reduce military spending without compromising national security." Additionally, Coffman believes that "moderate adjustments" on "entitlement or mandatory speding programs," like food stamps and Social Security disability are necessary.
What changes should be made to the federal tax code?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)Our federal tax code is far too complicated. Too often, big corporations benefit from countless loopholes because they can afford hire an army of lobbyists and accountants. The small business owners I talk to don’t have the time or resources to do that – and they shouldn’t have to. We need to simplify the tax code and eliminate loopholes for special interests and corporations that ship jobs overseas. I’m committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to make the tough choices necessary to achieve comprehensive tax reform, which will grow our economy and make America more competitive. 
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Replace the income tax with a consumption tax. The IRS could then go quitely into the very very dark night.
Gary Swing (Green)Federal income taxes should be replaced with a national "Fair Tax" -- a national sales tax on new goods and services. This would encourage saving and investment while discouraging consumption. A monthly prebate could be offered to ensure a guaranteed minimum income. Carbon taxes should be implemented.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Coffman said in a Denver post debate that he supports ending corporate tax credits and deductions in exchange for a lower marginal rate. To address corporates moving overseas, Coffman recommended a "territorial tax system." He explained that current tax code requires U.S. corporations with overseas operations to pay taxes in their host countries as well as at home. "We need to do what all our competitors are doing and allow U.S. corporations with overseas operations to bring the money home without paying taxes again," he said.
Do you support Common Core standards? Why or why not? 
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)The federal government should not be in the business of telling our state what we should teach. Colorado has its own high standards that were developed with the input of parents, teachers, students, and academic experts across our state. The fundamentals of the Common Core are incorporated into our standards, but we set higher, and I think, better standards here in Colorado. We should be doing all we can to ensure every student meets and exceeds those standards, so that they can not only graduate from high school but also have the skills they need to pursue higher education. 
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)No. Education is a state and local matter. The fed's have dumped $1.5 trillion into education and has produced absolutely nothing. Why would Common Core be any different from Goals 2000? No Child Left Behind?
Gary Swing (Green)I oppose Common Core standards. 

Mike Coffman (Republican)

On his website, Coffman says that he believes that "issues pertaining to public education are best left to state and local school boards."
Do you believe adults who came to this country illegally should have a path to citizenship? Why or why not? 
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)We need comprehensive immigration reform, which must include improved border security, reform of our broken visa programs, and a pathway to citizenship for individuals who have been living in and contributing to our community for years. This issue is personal to me, as it is to many in our district. I would not be here today if America had not opened its doors to my mother and my grandparents. Aurora alone has people who’ve come from over 130 countries. We should celebrate that diversity, and in Congress, I will do all I can to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship that includes passing a background check and paying a fine or back taxes. Mike Coffman, on the other hand, opposes a path to citizenship. He has been an obstacle to immigration reform throughout his career in Congress. Coffman called the DREAM Act “a nightmare” and called Tom Tancredo his “hero”. He continues to oppose the immigration reform bill that passed the US Senate with bipartisan support over a year ago. The voters of the 6th District deserve a Congressman committed to comprehensive immigration reform.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)No. We are a nation of laws. How can we reward those who break the law while simultaneouly penalizing those who repect the law. Reduce wait time, eliminate country of origin quotas, provide work permits, but legal immigration should be a pre-requisite to citizenship.
Gary Swing (Green)Yes. High immigration levels have been triggered by unfair trade practices. Undocumented immigrants should be given legal status with the chance to become US citizens. Permanent border passes should be available for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Work permits that are not tied to a specific employer should be readily available.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

In an interview with Colorado Matters, Coffman said he supports legislation to allow children who weren’t born in the United States to earn citizenship though military service or additional education. However, Coffman opposes "the special path to citizenship for the adults that knowingly broke the law that is in the Senate-passed bill and also in the companion House bill.”
Should marijuana be legalized across the country?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)I support the right of states to make this decision for themselves. Here in Colorado, the voters have spoken, and the federal government should respect Colorado’s right to implement this policy.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Yes. Most all problems associated with prohibited drugs are because of the prohibition; not the drug use. End the War on Drugs and reduce crime by 50 percent almost instantly.
Gary Swing (Green)Yes, and people who have been imprisoned for victimless "crimes" should be pardoned and released.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

After Amendment 64 passed in the state, Coffman said, "I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters, given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation,” in a release quoted by Fox31 Denver. Since November 2012, Coffman has urged federal action to allow marijuana businesses access to banking services.
What is your stance on same-sex marriage?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)I fully support marriage equality, and I believe it is a fundamental question of fairness and freedom. I support full equality under the law for every American. In the Colorado House, I voted to ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, to strengthen hate-crimes legislation, and to extend legal rights to same-sex couples. I will continue to support and fight for equality as a member of Congress.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)The law should respect the mutual commitments of same sex adults the same as it does the mutual commitment of hetrosexual couples.
Gary Swing (Green)I oppose any discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Legal rights, including the right to marriage, should be extended to all people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Coffman said at a Denver Post debate that he supports Colorado's ban on same-sex marraige. However, Coffman is also a co-sponsor to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which prohibits employers from discriminating against LGBT workers.
Should the federal government impose new restrictions on the sale or possession of firearms?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)No single policy or set of policies could ever eliminate every instance of gun violence, but there are common sense steps we can and must take to reduce the risk. Universal background checks are one step we should take to make it more difficult for criminals and those with a history of mental illness to purchase guns.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)No. Doing so would infringe upon the rights of the 99.999 percent of Americans who respect the law and respect the rights of others.
Gary Swing (Green)No.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

"Ultimately, it's got to be up to each individual state to make the decision in terms of who is authorized to buy, possess a firearm, obviously within the parameters of the Second Amendment," Coffman said at a Denver Post debate. He noted thtat he supports funding of "our background database, which all states can access."
Do you support or oppose legalized abortion? Are there any exceptions?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)I am pro-choice, because I firmly believe women have a right to make these personal decisions for themselves. I strongly oppose – and have always opposed – the Personhood amendment. In the year 2014, we shouldn’t be debating whether or not women should have access to birth control or the right to make healthcare decisions for themselves. If men could get pregnant this debate would be over. Neither politicians nor employers should get between a woman and her doctor. These are decisions that I trust women to make for themselves, and in Congress, I will vote to protect reproductive rights.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Government has no business making such personal and moral decisions; nor should it fund this procedure. Put your money where your mouth is. If you're opposed, support private groups which provide alternatives. If you're not opposed, support private organizations which fund the procedure.
Gary Swing (Green)Abortion must remain legal. 

Mike Coffman (Republican)

"I'm pro-life, but I belive that there ought to be exceptions," Coffman said at a Denver Post debate. "I did vote for a bill in the Congress that after 20 weeks, certainly women could decide during that span of time, and after that, there would be exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother, he said." Colorado's Personhood amendment is 'overbroad,' " Coffman said.
Should the U.S. be helping arm Syrian rebels to take power away from ISIL--the Islamic extremist group? Why or why not? 
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)ISIL is a terrorist group that poses a direct threat not just to the Middle East but to the US as well. A terrorist group like ISIS cannot just be contained – it must be eliminated. I support the administration’s efforts to build a coalition with NATO and Arab states to combat ISIS.
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)No. There are now four factions fighting in Syria. Does anybody there know who their allies are or who their enemy is?
Gary Swing (Green)No. The US government engages in a perpetual war against humanity, sold to the public on a foundation of lies. There is no moral factor at all in American foreign policy. The real purpose of US military imperialism and CIA intervention is to maintain and expand fascist economic and political world domination. The US has committed war crimes against the people of at least 69 foreign countries since the end of World War II. The US manufactures its own enemies, as it has done in Iraq and Syria, with shifting alliances and foreign military aid. ISIL is a product of US military intervention and arms transfers in the region. American war criminals must be tried, convicted, and imprisoned. The US should uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing wars of aggression. All US troops should be removed immediately from foreign wars. All foreign military bases should be shut down. Weapons of mass destruction and foreign military aid should be eliminated. The US military should be restricted to non-offensive defense of US territory. The CIA, NSA, and Selective Service System should be abolished.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

“I support authorizing the President to provide training, weapons, equipment, and air support to the anti-ISIL forces in Syria in order to degrade their capability and ultimately to defeat them." Coffman said in a press release. "The recent brutal execution of two U.S. citizens by ISIL forces and their promise of future attacks against our country clearly justifies this action."
What would you do to help this country’s veterans, many of whom have recently returned from war?
Andrew Romanoff (Democrat)It is unacceptable that we have failed as a nation to fully support the men and women who served our country in uniform. On any given night, 60,000 veterans find themselves homeless; the suicide rate among veterans is twice as high as the national average; and there are veterans who have died waiting in line for health care from the VA. Both Congress and the administration have an obligation to fulfill the promise we’ve made to our veterans. In Congress, I will work to ensure that the Aurora VA hospital is built as quickly as possible and that Sixth District veterans can access the care they need quickly. I will hold the VA accountable for the unacceptably high claims backlog and fight to eliminate that backlog so that veterans receive the benefits they have earned in a timely manner and with fewer errors. I will work with the administration to ensure that veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have the assistance they need to find shelter or stay in their homes. And I will do everything I can to expand job training and connect veterans with employers so that we can put more veterans back to work. 
Norm Olsen (Libertarian)Abide by our commitments; and tar and feather any bureaucrat who gets in the way.
Gary Swing (Green)Like all US citizens, veterans should have access to universal health care and economic security through the implementation of a guaranteed baseline income. Treatment should be provided to counteract post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mike Coffman (Republican)

Coffman sponsored the VA Construction Assistance Act of 2014 to ensure that new Veterans Affairs facilities in Colorado, Florida, and Louisiana are completed on time and within the planned budget. As a veteran of both Iraq wars, Coffman has sponsored five other pieces of legislation concerning veteran's affairs since 2013.

Find more voters guides here.

CPR News' Megan Arellano contributed to this report. 

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