This is what a political wave looks like. In 2011, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Col.), who had previously sought to repeal a portion of the Voting Rights Act mandating that ballots be printed in multiple languages, went on a local talk radio station and warned that President Barack Obama planned to steal the 2012 election by granting blanket amnesty to some 12 million undocumented residents. On Sunday, Coffman, who succeeded Rep. Tom Tancredo, a notorious opponent of illegal immigration, in Congress in 2008, endorsed a path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants—and legal status for everyone else. That announcement came just two weeks after Coffman introduced a new bill to allow Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (i.e. formerly undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as kids) to serve in the military legally and be put on the path to citizenship.
So what’s eating Mike Coffman? It’s pretty simple, really: He heard footsteps. The reconfigured sixth congressional district is now 20-percent Latino (it was previously 9-percent Latino before dicennial redistricting). It went to Obama by five points in November. The Democratic House Majority PAC has put Coffman as one of its top-10 targets for 2014. And the Dems have secured a top recruit, former state speaker of the house Andrew Romanoff, to run against him.
Whether the immigration evolution will be enough for Coffman to keep his seat is unclear. Coffman is still a bit cagey as to whether he’d support a path to citizenship for non-DACAs, which, as Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent points out, still puts him at odds with the majority of voters. But for immigration reform advocates wary of another hardliner insurrection, it’s an encouraging sign.