DENVER (AP) – Immigration has been the main issue in Colorado’s most competitive congressional race, and it took center stage again Thursday in the final English-language debate between Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff.

The two are jousting for a seat in Denver’s eastern suburbs that is almost evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents. The district is about 20 percent Latino.

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The winner likely will determine which party controls Colorado’s congressional delegation, currently made up of four Republicans and three Democrats.

Romanoff is trying to pry the seat from Coffman by constantly reminding voters that when Coffman was first elected in 2008, he opposed pro-immigrant measures like a plan to allow provisional status for some people brought illegally to this country as children.

Coffman said his mind has been changed by meeting immigrant families with “parents that live in fear on a daily basis” over the prospect of being separated from their children.

“We do have to secure the borders and enforce the laws,” Coffman said. But he added, “You have to be compassionate in keeping families together.”

Romanoff reminded voters again that Coffman once opposed provisional status for children brought to the country illegally. And he faulted Congress for failing to solve immigration troubles.

“We haven’t gotten action from this government,” Romanoff said.

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Underscoring the importance of Latino and immigrant voters in the contest, the pair’s final debate Oct. 30 will be in Spanish.

The race is shaping up to be the most expensive House contest in Colorado history.

Romanoff, former speaker of the state House, has outraised Coffman thanks to help from national Democratic allies including Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Fundraising numbers released by the campaigns Thursday showed the challenger maintaining his fundraising advantage. Romanoff raised about $1.1 million in the last fiscal quarter, compared with about $850,000 for Coffman.


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