Mike Coffman jumps on opponent for skipping debate, Joe Miklosi says he never RSVP'd

Now who's hiding from voters!

That's part of the message from campaigners for Representative Mike Coffman, who is criticizing challenger Joe Miklosi for not attending a congressional debate on Monday. The attack comes after opponents' accusations that Coffman is unavailable to constituents. But Miklosi's team says he never planned on attending the debate in the first place.

Late yesterday, Coffman's team sent out a "breaking" news press release announcing that Miklosi, the Democratic challenger, is ducking out of the very first debate, organized by the Metro North Chamber and Denver Regional Council of Governments and scheduled for Monday morning. This news, Coffman's team says, is a sign that Miklosi is afraid of debating the issues that matter most to voters.

Screenshot of Monday event announcement and attendees, without Joe Miklosi.
Screenshot of Monday event announcement and attendees, without Joe Miklosi.

"He is hiding from his record. He is hiding from voters," says Coffman spokesman Owen Loftus. "The fact is, he does not want to discuss jobs in the economy."

But a spokesman for Miklosi says he was surprised by the last-minute attack, given that he never planned on attending in the first place, due to a scheduling conflict. Likewise, the criticism is completely unmerited, argues Miklosi spokesman Ryan Hobart, considering that there are five more scheduled debates or forums between now and Election Day, including three televised ones.

"They are claiming that we are skipping...the debate," says Hobart. "We never accepted that invitation to that forum, because it didn't work with our schedule."

One thing is clear: The race has gotten increasingly negative and will likely stay that way over the next month. In recent weeks, both sides -- seeking to represent the sixth district, which includes Aurora and features recently redrawn boundaries -- have campaign tactics that seem very focused on attacks.

An official with the Metro North Chamber of Commerce tells us that the organization invited Miklosi, but he never confirmed he would be attending. The event includes four different Congressional districts, and Coffman's team says he is still going to attend, though he won't have anyone to debate.

Hobart says this latest attack is ironic given Coffman's history of hiding from voters.

"For months, people have been trying to meet with him, talk with him, ask him questions, and he's been avoiding them," he says. On Thursday, in fact, advocacy groups [corrected] Progressive Action and Colorado Fair Share held a colorful protest against Coffman captured on video.

Continue for more back and forth attacks and disagreements from the two campaigns.   In response to criticisms from the opposing campaign, Hobart brings up Coffman's Barack Obama birther comments back in the spring, saying that for months, the congressman avoided voters and the press after he was caught saying the president is "not an American." Hobart sent us this 9News report as proof -- in which a reporter who has been unable to get an interview with the congressman approaches Coffman after a closed-door fundraiser.

Screenshot of recent Joe Miklosi ad.
Screenshot of recent Joe Miklosi ad.

Loftus says this issue is a lame distraction that should remain in the past. "Joe Miklosi doesn't want to talk about jobs. Period. That's why he keeps bringing this up.... [Coffman] apologized for his remarks."

He also says that Coffman has always been available: "The people of the sixth congressional district -- both old and new -- find the congressman easily accessible." (Some, despite these kinds of statements, have continued to dispute that).

And the campaign is accessible to the press, too, Loftus tells us: "I've always returned your calls. We have interviews everyday."

Hobart declines to comment on what the specific conflict was on Monday, saying, "We have other commitments going on." But he says that the Miklosi campers take part in as many public events and forums as they can, including the aforementioned five debates.

Loftus says his campaign first heard from organizers yesterday that Miklosi would not be attending -- and points to a Denver Post article as proof that Miklosi had committed to the debate -- something Fox31 emphasized in its report on the Monday event.

Hobart, though, says he did not tell the Post Miklosi would attend that specific debate. "We never told anybody we were going to attend," he says.

Hobart says Miklosi has committed to the following debates and forums: CBS4/Colorado Public Television 12, 9News/Denver Post, Rocky Mountain PBS, a Highlands Ranch Community/South Metro Chamber of Commerce Debate and a Jewish Community Candidates Forum.

More from our Politics archive: "RTD: Meet the three men running against Westword cover girl Claudia Folska"

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