Coffman, 61, seeking his fifth term, wants to focus on keeping the House of Representatives in Republican hands rather than discussing Donald Trump.
"I think the impact of this race is not who is in the White House," he said. "The race I'm focused on is my own."
The race with Carroll, 44, also from Aurora and a two-term state senator first elected to District 29 in 2008, is being described as a toss-up by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, political prediction website 270towin.com and The Cook Political Report. Money has poured into both campaigns, with Coffman outraising Carroll $2.99 million to $2.17 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Coffman won his re-election in 2014 by nine points. But Carroll believes he is more vulnerable this year, pointing to Trump's top-of-the-ticket unpopularity among establishment Republicans, an ever-diversifying district and statewide trends that show Democrats have the edge in voter registration.
"Nobody thinks Congress is doing a good job," said Carroll, who was state Senate president in 2013 and also represented state House District 36 from 2004-08.
The 6th Congressional District encompasses Aurora, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Littleton and portions of Adams County, among other areas.
The Trump factor
Coffman never endorsed Trump and released a TV ad in August vowing to stand up to him in which he said, "I don't care for him much." But Carroll said Coffman never explicitly disavowed him.
Then came Oct. 7, when audio was leaked of Trump from 11 years ago, bragging to then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush about groping women.
Coffman became one of the first Republicans to call on Trump to drop out of the race, saying he should step down for the good of the country and give Republicans a chance at winning the presidency.
In an Oct. 14 interview with Colorado Community Media, Coffman also said he will not vote for Trump. He would not say who he will vote for, only that he won't vote for Clinton, either. He said he hopes Trump will focus on policy for the rest of the campaign.
But for all of Coffman's distancing himself from Trump, Carroll's campaign has continually linked the two Republicans. Carroll has also criticized Coffman for not abandoning Trump over earlier controversies.
Carroll, however, also cites low congressional approval ratings as an opportunity for her. A Gallup Poll in September found only 20 percent of respondents approved of Congress' performance.
On the issues
Both Carroll and Coffman tout a willingness to work across the aisle, but each accuses the other of partisanship.
Carroll notes she has worked under Democratic and Republican governors and said she is hopeful that she could find bipartisan consensus on criminal justice reform in the House, drawing on experience while interning with a drug court program during law school.
"At one point not that long ago, half the felonies in this state were drug possession," she said.
Carroll also hopes to find agreement on mental health and immigration reform. Coffman points out he stands against fellow Republicans on some immigration issues and also in his desire to rein in Pentagon spending.
Carroll said she joined with legislators on both sides of the aisle earlier this year to rid the state of red light cameras on civil liberties grounds, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
She also wants to tackle student loan debt, which Carroll calls "the single biggest financial crisis we've got."
"It's surpassed credit card debt, it's actually surpassed the housing crisis during the recession," she said. "And the frustrating thing is, this isn't something Congress can't do anything about. Congress decides what the interest rates are - whether, if and how people are allowed to refinance their loans."
Coffman said he wants to make home ownership easier through tax-advantaged savings plans and construction law defect reform to encourage building lower-cost townhomes and condos.
"Half of the renters (in the district) are paying a third or more of their income in rent," he said, citing a Harvard University study.
He also said he wants to save Buckley Air Force Base, the district's biggest employer, from closure.
Both candidates say they want to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, and with the debacle surrounding the Aurora VA Medical Center construction, it weighs heavily in the district.
On military and veterans issues, Coffman leans on his background as a retired Marine Corps officer and veteran of the Gulf War and the Iraq War and his work on Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs committees in the House.
Since the district was redrawn following the 2010 census to include all of Aurora, dropping several south metro suburbs, Coffman has worked to improve his outreach to its high minority and immigrant population - learning Spanish, appearing at cultural events and pushing for immigration reforms. The district now is approximately one-fifth Hispanic and has large Asian and African immigrant populations as well.
Opponents have criticized his actions as pandering, noting that Coffman co-sponsored legislation to make English an official national language in 2012.
Following a narrow 2012 win, after which he said he didn't do enough outreach in his newly diverse territory, Coffman won a landslide victory in 2014 over challenger Andrew Romanoff.
"There's no question that this is a swing district and this is one a Democrat can win," Carroll said. "(Barack) Obama won this district twice, Hickenlooper won this district twice, Michael Bennet won this district, I've been elected four times from within this district."
Coffman admits he has run up against a perception by some of his immigrant constituents that Republicans hate immigrants, even legal ones. He also knows that in the year of Trump, who kicked off his presidential run with a speech characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, down-ballot Republicans could be collateral damage.
"I'm lucky that I'm well-known in the district," he said. "I think that if I were running for the first time, it wouldn't go well."
According to research by the polling website FiveThirtyEight, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are the most disliked candidates in the past 10 elections.
"This is a tough election for everyone," said Anil Matha, chair of the Adams County Republican Party. "There is a lot of anger on both sides, and a lot of discussion and debate."
Pundits, pollsters and people on the street have all pointed to this year's election as the most polarizing in recent history. Some blame the divide on the candidates themselves, some on their disparate approaches to government.
"It's no wonder people feel that there's a little more hate," said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University since 2004. "It's no wonder that people feel that society's a little more on edge. It's because it is."
"Basically," he said, "what we are seeing is a reflexive dislike for somebody on the other side, and the fear that goes along with that."
With Election Day nearing, local Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are working hard to get the word out about their candidates.
"We're optimistic about a good turnout for this election," said Cheryl Cheney, chair of Jefferson County's Democratic Party. "We have people who are actually anxious to vote. We get a lot of questions about how soon the ballots will be sent out." (Ballots will be mailed to registered voters Oct. 17.)
Both Clinton and Trump had to fend off nominees with a great deal of support --; Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, respectively. And it has been up to local advocates and volunteers to help bring the parties together.
"All of the concerns and challenges of the primary season were not all resolved by the convention," said Don Ytterberg, chairman of the Jeffco Republican Committee. But "most of that has gone away, and we're united. I think it's safe to say the excitement is building."
Robert Blaha, chairman of the Colorado for Trump campaign, describes the election as "contentious" rather than "divisive."
Both Trump and Clinton have made inappropriate comments, Blaha said, but they are only "one of the things in the mix." A bigger cause of the divide, he said, is their different approaches to issues like the economy and immigration.
"There is a lot of emotion about this race," said Blaha, who likes Trump's businessman's perspective. "When you add that emotion and excitement to the mix, you get a lot of people who are upset on both sides."
Residents can expect a big push from all parties heading into the home stretch. The parties will have phone banks calling people and volunteers knocking on doors and at community events.
"Everybody is doing a bit of something to get the word out about our candidates," said Antonio Esquibel, chair of the Adams County Democrat Party. "Hopefully, the message will resonate with people."
But the unpopularity of both major party candidates also has caused more people to consider third-party options such as Libertarian Gary Johnson.
"Gary is turning heads and getting people to look at our party," said Jay North, state chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado. "People are saying both Clinton and Trump are so terrible, they want another option."
The unpredictability of the election could signal a change in how people think about elections and the two-party system, North said.
"If people don't just go back to their normal lens, we could see more attention on our system," he said. "It'd be great to see people more focused on liberty and our rights."
Saunders, the CSU professor, who contends third-party voters tend to make choices along partisan lines in close races, also notes the challenge to reboot the political system is complex and depends on more than just the politicians.
Polarization in Congress has become unyielding in the last 10 to 15 years, with party lines taking precedent over principle, he said. That opposition, he said, is reflected in the electorate.
"How do we get past that?" Saunders asked rhetorically. "It's really hard to think about how that would happen without a pretty large reset of the system."
If voters supporting Trump and Clinton follow their leaders' example, there may not be much cause for optimism.
"We have one candidate who says 'Can't we all get along?' and another candidate who says 'Nope, we can't,' " Saunders said. "It's a tough time."]]>
The added expenditures will be paid for with funds from additional revenues like fees and dues collected by the Parks and Recreation Department and money acquired through police seizures. The remaining balance will be covered by the town's reserves.
Among the added disbursements are $8,000 for a reusable pre-lit Christmas tree, $19,000 for improvements to TRAKiT, the town's online government information service, and more than $175,000 for renovations to the Schoolhouse Theater.
The revisions increase the town's operating budget for the year from $123.2 million to $123.9 million.]]>
Council voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance to impose a fee on businesses that file sales tax forms and payments on paper. The ordinance is intended to encourage business owners to use online tax filing systems and streamline the entire process, according to Parker Finance Director Don Warn.
Warn proposed a fee of $20 per paper return filed, though the actual amount will be decided in a future vote.
"If we can get more people filing online as opposed to paper it would be much more efficient," Warn said before the meeting. "We have staff that are spending four hours a day just doing data entry for tax returns. That's a lot of time wasted doing clerical work."
But Councilmember Joshua Rivero opposed the policy, saying it punishes small business owners who collect sales taxes on behalf of the town.
"These businesses aren't the taxpayers, they are the tax collectors," Rivero said during the bill's comment period.
After the meeting, he elaborated on that concern.
"It irks me that the town would look to penalize the people who are collecting the town's revenue," he said.
In making the proposal, Warn said the fee would be "pretty much a wash" for entrepreneurs, considering the cost of stamps, envelopes and the time spent sending the check through the mail. He also stressed the need for funds to address the administrative costs of processing the returns.
Rivero said he understands the town has to cover those costs, but he would prefer an incentive-based system over a penalty. He suggested waiving a $10 biannual registration fee business owners currently pay to do business in Parker. He added it's an entrepreneur's decision to pay sales taxes in a way that's comfortable for them.
"We have a high number of mom and pop businesses in Parker, and not everybody is comfortable sharing their information online," he said.
Councilmember Amy Holland also voted against the measure.]]>