Another hat in 6th CD ring: Highlands Ranch lawyer hopes to capture Dem nomination

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By AJ Vicens

Barely three months into his first term as congressman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Mike Coffman already has two challengers gunning for his job in 2010.

The latest contender is Democrat David Canter, a Highlands Ranch resident who says his 20 years as a lawyer have given him the skills necessary to not only win the Democratic nomination but to beat Coffman.

Canter was the first to put his hat in the ring for the 2010 election, filing the paperwork on Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Coffman defeated Highlands Ranch Democrat Hank Eng. South Jeffco’s John Flerlage, an international airline pilot and an ex-Marine, also has announced he will run.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve represented people on an individual basis,” said Canter. “I want to take those skills and represent the 600,000 people in this district. I fight for justice on behalf of my clients. I’ll bring that fighting spirit to the table.”

Canter and his wife, Joni, and their three children, Joshua, 17, Sam, 16, and Amanda, 13, moved to Highlands Ranch from Southern California in 2001 because Canter wanted his kids to attend better schools.

Canter has been active in politics since the late 1970s, when he volunteered on a state legislator’s campaign as a junior at Beverly Hills High School. He went on to earn a degree in classical rhetoric and graduated from law school by 1988. He has worked in several areas of law but specializes in civil litigation and insurance law. He works for Miletich Pearl LLC in Denver.

Canter was active in the campaign to elect President Barack Obama and serves as counsel to the Douglas County Democrats.

Canter says he’s been watching Coffman and is disappointed in several ways. He says Coffman should have voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which aims to ensure equal pay for women and allows for litigation to address pay discrimination.

Canter said Coffman also should have voted for the $787 billion stimulus package.

He thinks residents of the district will ultimately view Coffman as another version of Republican Tom Tancredo, who held the seat for 10 years prior to Coffman.

“People in the 6th Congressional District are sick and tired of the politics of division, the politics of hate,” Canter said.

Canter says his positions on the major issues will be enough to win over not only Democrats but independents and Republicans as well.

• On national security: “It’s about time this country became a little bit selfish,” Canter said. “We need to focus on our own.” He says he backs a strong defense and secure borders, “but the priority right now is getting our house in order.”

• On the economy: “I like the direction that President Obama is taking on economic policy,” Canter said. “(The stimulus) is not a cure-all, but it’s a start.” He said that along with investing in key areas like education and renewable energy, Obama is “setting the agenda on what the priorities of this country should be.”

New economic policies should be weighed against the benefits for small business, Canter said, since “small businesses help drive the economy.” He said he knows the challenges of running a small business since he and his father ran a small law firm in California, where they had to make payroll, pay taxes and the like.

Canter was vague on what the federal government could actually do to help small businesses.

“I’ll defer to my constituents and hear what they have to say,” he said. “They’ll let me know how I can help them.”

Canter commented on the $160 million in bonuses handed out by AIG after the company took billions in taxpayer aid.

“That’s a tricky issue,” Canter said. He called the bonuses for the top executives “somewhat repugnant” but said the government had no way to prevent the bonuses since contracts for AIG employees were already in place.

Whatever his positions on the issues, Canter knows it will be a challenge to win the seat, which has never been held by a Democrat.

“The key is getting an early opportunity to get in front of as many people as I can,” Canter said. He thinks he’ll need more than $1 million to be competitive. He plans to mirror Obama’s game plan by focusing on grassroots efforts, which maximized campaign funds by getting small donations from a lot of people.

“This is a race that can be won,” Canter said. “This is a race that will be won.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and learn more about David Canter at www.canterforcongress.com.