Millions of dollars have flooded into the competitive 6th Congressional District race between Republican incumbent Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow, one that could determine whether Republicans or Democrats will ultimately control the House of Representatives after next week’s midterm elections.
We spoke with Crow to get his thoughts on everything from polls to his first F to what he's sensing is going to put him over the top in this race.
Westword: How do you feel about the campaign now that it's in the home stretch?
Jason Crow: The energy is still remarkably high. One of the things that we've done since the beginning is invest very heavily in our grassroots network and forming relationships with various groups throughout the community, and I think you're seeing that it's been a successful approach. We had our last mega-canvass [the weekend of October 20], and again we had almost 300 people show up. That's the third mega-canvass that we've had in the past few months, and all of them had almost 300 participants. It had energy and enthusiasm. It's sustained, it's strong, and we're winning this in the field every day.
Do you pay attention much to the polls, which generally are showing you ahead?
I try not to. Polls always say different things to different people. I focus on what's going on in the community. I've held or attended over 300 community events over the last nineteen months. I get a much better feel for what's going on throughout the district, whether it's Highlands Ranch or Littleton or Centennial or Aurora or Brighton, by getting out and talking to tens of thousands of voters who I've talked to over the course of this campaign. It's given me a better sense for what people are struggling with in their daily lives and what they're motivated to do, and I've seen that energy and that enthusiasm and, really, that desire for new leadership and a desire for someone who's going to be a check on this administration, to hold the administration accountable. And that's something that you can never fully pick up in the polls.
It's pretty clear at this point that this race is going to be much closer than it has been in the past. Why do you think that is? Is it purely anti-Trump sentiment, or is there a certain issue or issues that people are gravitating toward?
I don't think that there's one driver, necessarily. I think the desire to have a representative in Washington who really will stand up to Donald Trump and hold this administration accountable and to promote Colorado values is really important. That's why [Mike Coffman] made the promise to the voters in this district to hold the administration, to hold Donald Trump, accountable, in his words. Plain and simple was how he put it. And he has failed to keep that promise in a very spectacular way, to the tune of a 96 percent voting record with the administration, which is the highest of any elected official in the state.
That broken promise is on the top of a lot of people's minds. But similarly, what's also at the top of people's minds is the danger to health care. The fact that this Congress and this administration has worked very hard to sabotage health care for the community by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and really important protections and coverage that has been provided to families. And the failure to pass immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Our DREAMers and folks in the community need that done. It should've been done years ago; it's just not happening. And the desire to get something done on gun violence. People are realizing now that we aren't just simply going to solve those issues by sending the same people back to D.C. that we've been sending there for years to get it done and who have failed us.
On health care, though, Coffman voted against the ACA repeal bill [in 2017]. What would you say is your biggest policy difference with him on health care?
Our biggest differences are our starting points. The value proposition behind the policies. I firmly believe that no American should go bankrupt or die because they don't have health-care coverage. Health care is a right; it is not a privilege that's reserved only for those who can afford it. Mike Coffman doesn't believe that. When you look back at the history, we've gotten to this point for a reason. Mike Coffman has voted over sixty times to sabotage the Affordable Care Act under the Obama administration. He voted seventeen times to repeal it outright, including protections for pre-existing conditions. Then you fast-forward to the first nine months of the Trump administration, and he came out in favor of the first version of Trump care version 1.0, which repealed pre-existing condition coverage. And then there was an uproar in the community, and he went radio silent. He ran out the back door of a town hall because he was avoiding questions and didn't want to answer people's questions about his position. And then, most tellingly, he wouldn't let anyone know where he was on the final version of Trump care. [Republican House Majority Leader] Paul Ryan comes out on May 3, 2017, and issues a press release that he has the votes within the caucus to move forward, and that he was going to call a vote on Trump care the next day. Literally hours after Paul Ryan said that he had the votes, Mike Coffman comes out and says that he's not going to vote for it. So very clearly, he was given a pass by Paul Ryan to vote no on this, and given his very strong history of voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, if they had needed his vote, they would have had his vote.
This is a district that has obviously been very hard hit by gun violence [with the Aurora and Columbine shootings]. Any other reason that you've decided to make this such a central theme of your campaign?
Well, it's because the people in the community are demanding it. And they should. It's a community that's been impacted by gun violence disproportionally, between Columbine and Aurora and the violence we see in our streets because of gun violence. People are fed up, and they should be fed up. There's been complete inaction by most elected officials in Washington. And the contrast between Mike Coffman and me is very stark on this issue. Just two weeks ago, I got the first "F" of my life because my NRA rating came in. Mike Coffman has a lifetime "A" rating. He takes more money from the NRA than any other member of Congress in Colorado. He is unwilling to do common-sense things on this issue that will save thousands of lives. In the absence of his leadership, I'm going to lead on this issue. We're going to do common-sense things that will save thousands of lives that the community is demanding, and I'm going to lead on it.
Coffman referred to your law firm's defense of gun-control advocates as hypocritical and referred to you as a "born again" gun-control advocate. What's your response to that?
Well, Mike Coffman is desperate at this point. He's attacked me in a lot of different ways throughout the campaign. The bottom line is, he does not want to be talking about his 96 percent voting record, how he has failed to keep his promise to the people of this district, and how he is behind Donald Trump on every issue. My long career is very clear. These attacks of his and his allies have been repeatedly fact-checked by local media and have been called false, misleading, even shameful. I've never been a lobbyist, I've never been involved in that type of work. I have a very strong record on this issue. Mike Coffman has zero credibility when it comes to gun violence in America. I've been endorsed by Gabby Giffords, by Moms Demand Action, by the Brady Organization. I've released an aggressive but common-sense plan for addressing this issue, and I've developed a coalition around the community. I'm going to lead, and I'm going to get something done. Mike Coffman knows that he's vulnerable here, because he knows that he's done nothing to address the issue.
One thing Coffman touts about himself is that he's sometimes willing to buck party leadership. We know that's something you question in terms of his voting record, and we know you wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi as Democratic Majority Speaker [should Democrats re-take the house], but would you at times disagree with the current trajectory of the Democratic Party?
Sure. I came out in the past and said I didn't support the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] because I didn't think it had environmental protections and strong enough labor protections, and that it didn't protect American workers and American manufacturing. Of course that was the deal that was being pushed very hard by the Democratic Party. I didn't think it was right for this district or right for Colorado. I came out against the party on that.
In addition, I don't think that the Democratic Party pushes hard enough on strong defense. We face a lot of very severe threats in the world. We see China ramping up very aggressively in the Pacific region. We see Russia making substantial investments in defense infrastructure and cyber-capacities, and I don't think we are where we need to be after seventeen years of war in regard to making the necessary pivot to the Asian region and to counter increased Russian aggression. I think we need to be making the investments to ensure a safe world and to keep our nation safe, as well.
Why do you think Pelosi shouldn't be the party leader at this point?
First off, I think it's funny that I'm only asked about Nancy Pelosi by reporters. People in the community ask me about health care, immigration, affordable housing and jobs. This is Washington insider baseball that only reporters seem to be interested in. With that said, I think we need a new generation of leadership to move this country forward. And that applies to both sides of the aisle. From day one of this campaign, I have said repeatedly that we are not going to solve the very big, challenging issues facing our nation with the same folks that have brought us here. I think that that requires new leadership on both sides of the aisle that can start unifying folks and working in a more bipartisan fashion and move the country forward again.
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Any final thoughts or anything that you want to address?
I'll end with this: There is something really big happening in the country and in our community right now. There are folks rising up everywhere, in every corner of the district. I go to parties and meet-and-greets in church basements and in community centers in every corner of the district and there's fifty, sixty, seventy people. And not just the red areas, not just the blue areas — everywhere. Half the people who are attending these events have never been to an event like this before. They've never engaged in politics. But people are standing up because they realize the major challenges that our country faces. They realize what is going on in Washington doesn't really represent who we are. We are stronger and better as a country when we're united, not divided. They want new leadership, they want change, and they're stepping up to demand it.
And they want new leaders who have served outside of politics. People who have built businesses, people who are raising families, who have served this country in uniform and that haven't been spending their life working to get elected, checking boxes along their political career. They want new leadership that can actually get something done. And they know that someone like me, who's never run before but has proven myself in service to this country when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, can work with Republicans and Democrats and independents. We can move forward again together. But we need new leadership to do that.
This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.