“Congress is not doing anything to reform our immigration system,” congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff told a roomful of Hispanic constituents, who erupted into applause. His words were not exceptional, except that they were in Spanish. "It’s very important to lower the cost of college education and to fortify our economy."
Romanoff, Colorado’s former House speaker, is the Democratic contender in the state’s 6th Congressional District.
The battle for swing votes in that district has turned to the Hispanic community, which makes up 20 percent of the population there and 12 percent of eligible voters.
Many analysts are keeping a close eye on the outcome of the highly contested district for signs for the Hispanic vote in the 2016 presidential election.
The changing demographics in Colorado mean that Republican incumbent Mike Coffman is facing a very different constituency from when he was first voted into office in 2008.
Since 2010, the district's Hispanic population has doubled — primarily because of Democratic-friendly redistricting but also because of a significant influx of Hispanics into the area.
“It’s a district that’s changed on Mike over the last five years, and it’s certainly not what he signed up for originally,” said Aaron Cole, managing editor of The Aurora Sentinel.
“Colorado has gone from pretty solid red to purple now to blue. State Democrats have had a much easier time redrawing these districts to be more competitive and more Democratic-friendly.”
The latest polls show no clear advantage for either political candidate, so how Coffman and Romanoff are perceived on issues important to Hispanics could be critical in attracting votes. However, that demographic consistently lags whites and blacks in voter participation.
According to Christine Alonzo, the executive director for the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO), the Hispanic vote could decide the race.
"This particular race is going to hinge on turnout," she said. "It's going to hinge on if the communities of color — primarily Latinos — come out and vote on the issues."
The Hispanic community will become increasingly vital for politicians who hope to get elected. "By 2040 in Colorado, Latinos will be 33 percent of the population," said Alonzo. "I think people need to be mindful about immigration and what the needs are of the Latino community, because ultimately it will be them who decide who will win in these elections."
Cole agrees, saying immigration could be the game changer. "Immigration is a big issue," he said. "Just how big remains to be seen."
A three-part documentary from director A.J. Schnack goes inside four key political races in three swing states. The next episode is Sunday, Oct. 26, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.