Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News, August 19, 2006
Hispanic candidates didn’t fare well in the primary election, foreshadowing a legislature that’s mostly Anglo despite increases in Colorado’s minority population.
At least four Hispanics lost bids for either the state House or Senate. In addition, the sole Hispanic in the six-candidate field for the GOP nomination in the 5th Congressional District also lost.
Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, blamed his loss in his Senate bid on racism and fears about illegal immigration.
“If you’ve got a Hispanic name on the ballot, you’re already five to 10 points behind,” he said.
“Racism is alive and well in Colorado.”
But some Hispanics who lost on Aug. 8 either downplayed the issue of ethnicity or said they’re not sure if it was a factor in the outcome.
Yet they agree the lack of Hispanic lawmakers is a concern.
Next year there could be as few as three Hispanics in the House and two in the Senate, depending on what happens in November, said Vigil, who is term-limited.
“So were talking, what? Five total maybe, in a state where the population is what? Twenty-two percent Hispanic?” he said.
Colorado is nearly 20 percent Hispanic, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.
Rep. Fran Coleman, D-Denver, who is Hispanic, lost her Senate bid to financier Chris Romer. She said she’s not sure if ethnicity played a factor because of her Anglo surname.
But she said she was shocked at the number of voters who called to ask her position on immigration.
“These are Democrats,” she said.
As for Vigil, had he won his Senate race, he would have squared off against an Hispanic opponent, Republican Luis Alvarez.
Immigration was a huge issue in Vigil’s race against Sen. Lois Tochtrop in one of the nastiest primary battles this year.
Vigil accused Tochtrop of running a “flat out dirty, racist and ugly campaign.” He noted she blasted him for sponsoring legislation to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, but didn’t tell voters she supported it.
“I’m sorry he’s calling me a racist,” Tochtrop said. “I ran a clean race, and I’m going to do the same in November.”