All eyes are on Aurora this November. Pundits, news junkies and politicos are watching to see if a “blue wave” will sweep up Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. It would be a feat Democrats have yet to achieve in the growing region often relegated to a “Denver suburb” on national newscasts.

The high stakes race, which GOP incumbent Mike Coffman has won since 2008, is among the most expensive in the country. Some reports put spending at up to $17 million in ad buys alone, between Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow and for good reason: many speculate the race will be close. Really close.

Some pollsters have the race as a toss up. Others have given the edge to Crow.

In 2016, Coffman beat Morgan Carroll by nearly 8 points. Two years before that, Coffman won with 51 percent of the vote. But this year, Democrats are hoping Crow, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star, will be able to pull off what other past Democratic candidates have not been able to.

Coffman is also a military veteran. Between the Army and Marine Corps, he’s served 21 years. Before landing in Congress, Coffman served in the Colorado legislature and as the state’s treasurer and secretary of state.

Crow is a political newcomer, though he has served as an adviser for state and federal officials on military and security issues. He’s a lawyer with the Denver Holland and Hart firm.

JASON CROW

Political newcomer Jason Crow is an Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division and served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. Crow left the military in 2006 and went on to pursue a legal career.

He earned a law degree from the University of Denver in 2009. He’s originally from Wisconsin. He’s a partner with the Holland and Hart law firm in Denver. Crow, a Democrat, moved into the district, within in his neighborhood of Stapleton, shortly after announcing his candidacy. Crow has served as a military and security adviser to state and federal lawmakers. He’s also been a board member on various boards and non-profit organizations in the Denver metro region.

MIKE COFFMAN

Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman served 21 years between his time in the Army and Marine Corps. He joined the military at 17 and eventually earned a high school degree and then later a college degree before running for the Colorado State House, state treasurer and secretary of state. He won each of those seats.

This year, Coffman is seeking a fifth term as the representative for Colorado’s Sixth District. Coffman, a Republican, inherited the seat from former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Coffman won in 2016 after a campaign built on standing up to whomever was elected president. Coffman has been vocal about the president’s end of immigration programs, such as DACA and TPS. Even so, he’s remained aligned with the GOP on issues such as tax and healthcare reform.

The biggest difference this year, pundits say, is President Donald Trump. Armies of experts, and even Trump himself, warn that every and especially this mid-term election is a referendum on the ruling president. If that’s true, a district that voted for Hillary Clinton and has shown no love lost for Trump could be a real danger for Coffman. Crow’s supporters have worked hard to tie Coffman to Trump, point out that he “votes with” Trump 96 percent of the time. At the same time, Coffman and his supporters have workd to distance themselves from the controversial president, pointing out times that Coffman has publicly disagreed with Trump.

The two candidates have been sparring, directly and indirectly, over issues ranging from gun rights to immigration to the economy.

A television ad from the Giffords PAC, ran by former Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabby Giffords, highlights Coffman’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Another ad from the PAC gained attention for its similarity to a text conversation between Emily Keyes, a 16-year-old Bailey student, and her family during a shooting at Platte Canyon High School. The family requested the ad be taken off the air, and the ad was eventually altered.

Crow held a town hall meeting earlier this year specifically on gun violence.

He supports measures such as expanding background checks and allowing more research into gun violence as a public health problem.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman answers questions at his second town hall meeting this Congressional session at Prarie View High School August 1, 2017.

Coffman said he would also support that research. Earlier this year he sponsored “red flag” legislation that would encourage states to take up laws like the one in Indiana, which allows courts to temporarily take guns if a person presents a serious threat to themselves or others.

Representing a culturally rich Aurora, Coffman has come out strong on immigration polices and even stood in contrast with many of his fellow Republicans on ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.

Coffman has said while there needs to be a constitutional fix to the Obama-era executive order, Congress should pass those laws.

Mike Coffman Campaign 

Jason Crow Campaign

“I took on the leadership of my own party by initiating a discharge petition – something not done by a member of the legislative majority in many years – to force a vote on my bipartisan bill to protect those in the DACA program,” Coffman told the Sentinel. “The tactic succeeded, with 216 members of Congress signing onto another discharge petition effort, forcing Republican leadership to eventually put an immigration bill on the House floor that offered protection to those in the DACA program. No Democrats supported the bill, however, so there remains more to be done to force the issue.”

Crow held a news conference outside of the Aurora ICE facility over the summer, calling on Congress to act on DACA and urged people to vote in candidates that will get the job done.

The candidates differ more noticeably on healthcare and economic policy. Coffman says the Trump tax cuts have spurred the economy, while Crow has claimed the measure bodes ill for the economy and less-than-wealthy taxpayers.

“Rather than invest in middle class tax reform that helps us, Mike Coffman voted to kick 30,000 of his constituents off of their health care plans and raise the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion,” Crow said in a statement after the tax vote earlier this year. “He chose to raid our children’s futures while enriching his corporate benefactors.”

Crow’s economic plan includes: protecting net neutrality, decreasing the cost of childcare and “creat(ing) tax reform that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy.”

 

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

Campaign Questions for Jason Crow

How would you compel a Congress unwilling or unable to pass a DACA bill, to get the job done?

It has become clear that the same political leaders who have failed on this issue for years are not going to solve it anytime soon. Border enforcement mechanisms will be an essential part of this negotiation. But re-electing career politicians who have refused to hold President Trump accountable will not solve this issue.

Is President Trump’s wall a needed component of national security, or a waste of money?

It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. I helped secure the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when I was in the Army – I know from personal experience that advanced technology is the best way to accomplish our goals. Immigration experts in our country agree. My opponent voted to provide funding for the wall, but I believe it’s an ineffective, extremely expensive boondoggle – one that won’t make us any safer.

Would you vote to hold House impeachment hearings at this time? If not, what would prompt you to support holding impeachment hearings?

I’m not going to Washington with a partisan political agenda. We need to make sure Robert Mueller’s investigation is protected from political interference. With my background in workplace investigations, I know these processes work best when investigators like Mueller can produce thorough and neutral reports. The investigators should be allowed to find and report the facts, so we can decide how to best move forward as a country.

The GOP tax cuts and jobs act have reportedly greatly increased the national debt. If this trend continues, would you revise them and how? If the national debt is relatively unaffected by the tax cuts, would you support them?

The Sentinel itself was correct to call the bill a “middle class nightmare.”

My opponent’s vote for this tax bill sold out the working families he promised to fight for in this district. Over eighty percent of the benefits of that bill went to the wealthiest individuals in this country – in other words, those who needed it the least. This bill has left every family in America with an additional $5,000 debt burden that our children will be forced to pay. And now, Republicans are threatening to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for it.

Immigration reform is complicated. In cases where families could be split by incarceration or deportation, what should the Congress do?

Comprehensive immigration reform has to make family unity a priority. Everyone is better off when families are kept together and a pathway to citizenship is provided for those who haven’t committed violent crimes.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating children at our southern border is a moral abomination. There are still young children separated from their parents – and Congress is not taking action to resolve this crisis.

Fundamentally, this is a failure of leadership and accountability. The most important thing we can do is bring in a new generation of servant leaders who can fix our broken immigration system while keeping our borders secure.

Should Congress rescind Dickey Amendment restrictions on researching gun violence, especially research conducted by the CDC?

Even former Congressman Dickey himself has publicly called this amendment a mistake. Gun violence is a public health crisis, and we can’t expect to make significant progress toward keeping our children safe if researchers aren’t able to explore the causes of this epidemic and recommend policy solutions. The Dickey Amendment should be rescinded immediately.

Would you support an effort by the House and Senate to compel the Trump Administration to rejoin the Paris Accord?

The Paris Accord was a groundbreaking agreement that represented some of the most significant multi-national progress ever made on combatting climate change. Just last week, new research underlined the dire need for immediate action on this issue. Congressional action that re-commits America to our international obligations will send the right message to our allies, meaningfully address this existential crisis, and pave the way for investments in the clean energy economy.

Would you support either expanding Medicare for most Americans, or creating some kind of public health insurance option?

I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. No American should die or go bankrupt because he or she can’t afford healthcare.

We need to lower healthcare costs and improve access to every American and safeguard protections for those with pre-existing conditions. That’s why I support a federal public option. Allowing Medicare to compete in the marketplace with other insurance options should drive down costs and give more Americans than ever a chance to access quality and affordable coverage.

Would you support a bill that would essentially nullify Roe v Wade and have states regulate abortion rights?

A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is non-negotiable. Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land, and I will vigorously oppose any efforts in Washington to nullify or weaken its protections.

What could Congress do to address what some say is a student loan debt crisis?

Student loan debt limits Americans’ ability to invest a home, save for retirement, and start a family. We should set interest rates for student loans equal to those for other federal loan recipients – like big banks – and establish loan forgiveness programs for college graduates who work in public service careers. Let’s also protect programs to make college more affordable, including the student loan interest deduction and graduate student tuition waivers. I will also work to keep for-profit colleges accountable to provide marketable skills to their students.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

George Clooney, so my wife would actually watch it.

What was your favorite childhood candy?

Candy corn

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be?

My five-year-old daughter’s nickname for me is Sweetie Pie. She’d get a kick out of that.

If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts.

Don’t Stop Believing, of course.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

A hot dog is not a sandwich.

What is the last concert you attended?

My wife and I saw Bon Jovi with some friends for our birthdays.

What movie do you never tire of watching?

Shawshank Redemption

 Candidate Questions for Mike Coffman

How would you compel a Congress unwilling or unable to pass a DACA bill, to get the job done?

A discharge petition that would force a vote on the House floor. I took on the leadership of my own party by initiating a discharge petition – something not done by a member of the legislative majority in many years – to force a vote on my bipartisan bill to protect those in the DACA program. The tactic succeeded, with 216 members of Congress signing onto another discharge petition effort, forcing Republican leadership to eventually put an immigration bill on the House floor that offered protection to those in the DACA program. No Democrats supported the bill, however, so there remains more to be done to force the issue.

Is President Trump’s wall a needed component of national security, or a waste of money?

I don’t think a wall is the solution. Nearly half of those in the country illegally are visa overstays, which a wall would do nothing to prevent. We do need to strengthen our borders, but a wall isn’t even physically possible in some sections of the border. We need drones, sensors and a plus up of the border patrol. We also need to determine how we process claims of asylum quicker, so we can adjudicate the claims and not take years to make decisions on the immigration status of those people that come to our border seeking entry. In the bigger picture, we need to deal with what is possible to get one. If President Trump would sign legislation protecting DREAMers and giving them a path to citizenship, then funding for a wall is worth the trade-off.

Would you vote to hold House impeachment hearings at this time? If not, what would prompt you to support holding impeachment hearings?

We need to let the Mueller investigation finish. Too many in politics want to leap to conclusions or make decisions based on their political ideology, rather than the facts. Right now, we don’t have the facts from the investigation.   

The GOP tax cuts and jobs act have reportedly greatly increased the national debt. If this trend continues, would you revise them and how? If the national debt is relatively unaffected by the tax cuts, would you support them?

The projections about the impact of the tax cuts on the debt were based on assuming economic growth of only 1.9%. Last quarter, our GDP grew 4.2%. The tax cuts have spurred the economy, put an extra $2,500 in the hands of voters of my district, and doubled the child tax credit. They are working. Our federal government has a spending problem, not a taxing problem, which is why I voted against Trump’s $1.3 trillion spending bill this year. I have taken on wasteful spending by both parties, and will continue to fight for common sense spending reform.

Immigration reform is complicated. In cases where families could be split by incarceration or deportation, what should the Congress do?

We need to fix our broken immigration system. Our system is so broken, that a 4-year-old girl in my district, adopted by two American parents, was almost deported after her application for citizenship was denied. I was thankfully able to fight for her and have her case reversed, but she should never have been at threat of deportation in the first place. Congress needs to fix our broken immigration system by keeping families together, securing our borders, and creating an immigration system that grows our economy.

Should Congress rescind Dickey Amendment restrictions on researching gun violence, especially research conducted by the CDC?

I support allowing research into gun violence, but I don’t want to see government research politicized, where researchers have a political conclusion in mind and work backwards from there.

Would you support an effort by the House and Senate to compel the Trump Administration to rejoin the Paris Accord?

I believe that the Obama Administration erred in not bringing it to the Senate for ratification. However, I also have urged the Trump Administration to renegotiate the issue, allowing America to take a leadership role on the issue. I am member of the bipartisan Climate Change Caucus, and believe the only way we’re going to tackle the issue is finding common ground across the parties. It can’t be a partisan issue. There are many common-sense solutions to dealing with climate change, such as supporting renewable energy research, supporting renewable energy jobs like those at Vestas, a wind turbine company in Brighton, and tying trade policies to environmental standards, so we don’t outsource jobs and manufacturing to countries with no environmental standards. 

Would you support either expanding Medicare for most Americans, or creating some kind of public health insurance option?

The cost of Medicare is growing and it’s increasingly eating up the federal budget and adding to our national debt. We need to find ways to reform it, so that it remains in place for those that have paid into their entire careers. The expansion of government-run healthcare in Obamacare has had devastating effects on the cost of healthcare. Before Obamacare passed, the average deductible for someone with employer-provided insurance, which is where most people get their health insurance, was $310. This year, that average deductible has exploded to $1,350, and it’s far worse for those with individual health insurance. We need to find ways to reduce the cost of healthcare, not expand government-run healthcare.

Would you support a bill that would essentially nullify Roe v Wade and have states regulate abortion rights?

No, as although I’m pro-Life, I support federal protections for abortion in the case of rape, incest and life of the mother.

What could Congress do to address what some say is a student loan debt crisis?

I believe we have a deeply flawed system, that pushes students into expensive and debt-burdening college degrees. It’s easy to get huge amounts of loans to go to a four-year college, but there is very little support for those that want to pursue technical training, that lead young people to well-paying careers at a fraction of the cost. We need to restructure how we incentivize education loans to support more technical higher education.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

What food do you hate most?

Oatmeal.

Do you indulge in recreational marijuana?

No.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Ben Kingsley.

What Olympic sport do you wish you could win gold in?

Cross-country skiing.

What was your favorite childhood candy?

Baby Ruth candy bars.

If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be?

The signing of the Declaration of Independence.

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be?

The Six.

If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts.

The Marine Corps Hymn – since I can’t sing anyway.

What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone?

He worked hard to make a difference.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

No.

What is the last concert you attended?

U2 concert last year.

What movie do you never tire of watching?

A Christmas Story.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs

What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado?

Recreational marijuana.