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Candidates Face Off in Spanish-Only Debate in Tight Colorado Race

Image: Andrew Romanoff, Mike Coffman
In this Oct. 9, 2014, photo, Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, left, makes point as his opponent, Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, listens during taped debate in the race for the seat in Colorado's 6th Congressional District in the studios of Channel 12 in Denver. House Democrats are scaling back their spending in Colorado as a potential opportunity for upending a Republican congressman has diminished. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the same time is increasing its spending in California, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire and West Virginia to help save incumbents. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)David Zalubowski / AP

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It’s one of the most contentious – and expensive - Congressional races in the country. And Thursday night, the candidates for Colorado’s 6th District will debate in Spanish – no translators.

Both candidates are white and don’t come from Hispanic descent, but the growing Latino population in the district that includes some Denver suburbs and the town of Aurora has caused these politicians to shift their tactics. It’s the only known such Congressional debate in U.S. history.

Democratic candidate Andrew Romanoff, Speaker of the Colorado House, speaks fluent Spanish from his time teaching in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

For Republican candidate Rep. Mike Coffman, this is the latest step in a sharp transition to appeal to Latinos.

Coffman won the seat after Rep. Tom Tancredo gave it up to run for President in 2008. Tancredo was stridently anti-immigrant, a position that Coffman mostly adopted.

But after his district was shuffled to include more Hispanics, Coffman made an about face. He became more moderate on the issue of immigration and began learning Spanish. He hired a tutor and invested in Rosetta Stone. He watches Spanish language news, campaign manager Tyler Sandberg said.

Less than two years after diving into the language that many of his constituents speak, Coffman is going to face off against his challenger in a televised 30 minutes Spanish language debate on Univision.

Coffman is leading the way in the Republican Party, Sandberg said. The GOP won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. “I think it’s a really important thing for the Republican Party,” he added.

But this is politics. Nothing is done without an expected return. Coffman sent out a fundraising email highlighting the debate.

“Mike is working hard to win the Hispanic vote. We need your help,” the plea says, asking voters to donate up to $250.

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