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Fact Check: Coffman claim that Carroll “never really stood up to a Democrat” misleads

Deepan Dutta, CU News Corps

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On Oct. 12, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) faced off against his Democratic challenger for the 6th Congressional District, former state Sen. Morgan Carroll, for the second of three debates before the election.

Early in the debate, hosted by Colorado Public Television and KCNC-Channel 4, Carroll was put on the spot about her seemingly unwavering support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Carroll avoided criticizing Clinton in her response, and Coffman pounced:

“The fundamental difference is that I’ve stood up to Republicans, and I have a career of standing up to Republicans. But yet, Morgan has never really stood up to a Democrat.”

Carroll interjected, saying “That’s not true.”

Coffman continued by asserting that Carroll had never criticized Clinton for the numerous controversies she has become embroiled in, including the email scandal and paid speeches to Wall Street.

Carroll rebutted Coffman’s claim, saying, “My entire legislative career has sometimes been a thorn in someone’s side, and sometimes that’s the Republican leadership, sometimes it’s the Democratic leadership.” Coffman shook his head during Carroll’s response, which mentioned bipartisan and anti-establishment legislation which she helped pass in the state Legislature. He retorted, “Never stood up to Hillary Clinton. Never once.”

Coffman is mostly correct in his assertion that Carroll has not “stood up” to Clinton, as Carroll has avoided harshly criticizing her party’s candidate during the campaign. However, having reviewed Morgan Carroll’s legislative career, CU News Corps considers Coffman’s broad statement about Carroll ‘never standing up to a Democrat’ to be untrue.

“Morgan has never really stood up to a Democrat.”

Morgan Carroll’s legislative career, which spanned 10 years, includes a number of instances in which the Aurora Democrat openly challenged other Democrats in the House and Senate.

The most significant example occurred in April 2009, when Carroll placed one of the deciding votes to defeat a Colorado version of the DREAM Act, which would have granted in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. The bill, SB09-170, failed after Carroll and four other Democrats broke ranks and joined Republicans in voting it down. At the time, Carroll cited cost and the need for federal immigration reform to resolve key issues before a DREAM-like measure could pass in Colorado.

However, in 2013 Carroll was a co-sponsor for the ASSET bill, SB13-033, which contained most of the same provisions of the 2009 bill. The bill was eventually signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper and became known as “Colorado’s DREAM Act.”

Coffman has countered attacks against his own immigration record by bringing up Carroll’s initial no vote as recently as their third debate Oct. 20, but did not acknowledge that Carroll had “stood up to Democrats” by voting against the 2009 bill.

Carroll’s vote against the initial DREAM bill also occurred just a month after she riled up fellow Democrats by calling them out by name on her public blog. Those Democrats had drawn her ire for voting against SB09-166, a bill which sought to ban pharmaceutical companies from providing gifts to doctors and using patient prescription information for marketing purposes.

“I knew it would be a difficult bill,” she wrote, “but what did surprise me was that the Democratic leadership was so complicit in spiking the very health care reform we all campaigned on.”

In February 2009, Carroll was only one of two senate Democrats to vote against SB09-108, better known as the FASTER law dealing with highway infrastructure funding, citing provisions which would allow local governments to toll existing highways. FASTER later became subject to controversy after it was revealed a private company would collect tolls on U.S. 36.

These bills may not reflect Carroll’s overall record when it comes to bucking the Democratic party establishment. However, some of the positions she took early in her career seem to contradict Coffman’s portrayal of Carroll as a legislator who has never challenged members of her own party.

Thus, Coffman’s broad statement that Carroll has never stood up to Democrats should be considered untrue.

Deepan Dutta is a second-year master’s student in the journalism department of the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. He earned a law degree in 2010 from the CU law school, and he holds a bachelor’s in political science from SUNY-Albany.

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
Fact Check: Coffman claim that Carroll “never really stood up to a Democrat” misleads