DENVER – Among the most closely-watched races in this year’s midterm election in Colorado is in the state’s 6th Congressional District.
Five-term incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., is fighting to keep hold of his seat and is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Jason Crow. The district is one of dozens across the country that Democrats are eyeing to flip from red to blue as they try to retake the U.S. House of Representatives from Republican control.
Coffman and Crow are both military and combat veterans, but they have vastly different ideas on many subjects, and both have to try and win support from voters of the opposing party and unaffiliated voters in what is the most purple district in Colorado—comprised mostly of the suburbs to the north, east and south of Denver.
In this Denver7 politics 360, we asked the same questions of both candidates so voters can see how they contrast with one another on topics like immigration, leadership in Washington and taking PAC money.
On what the two issues voters talk to them about the most
“I think first of … It is what I do in the Congress, my military background and on the Armed Services Committee -- making sure we have the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in the world. Making sure we honor our obligations to the men and women who made tremendous sacrifices for this country. I think the second biggest issue is fixing our broken immigration system. We need to make sure we have secure borders. We need to make sure we have policies that grow our economy and we need to also make sure that we are compassionate at keeping families together.”
“Health care is probably the thing we hear the most about. People are paying way too much for health care. There are still a lot of folks who don’t have quality, affordable, accessible care. We have to solve this problem. It’s unacceptable in 21st century America that people that cannot get care for illnesses or they go bankrupt. This is not a position we’re in. It’s an issue that has to be addressed. It’s gone on way too long and we have to have a Congress that’s going to protect the advances made under the Affordable Care Act and not try to blow that system up, but improve on that system and continue to move us forward.”
(Reporter: And the second issue?)
“It’s about corruption and campaign finance reform. There is a larger view in the community right now, and it’s accurate, that our career politicians and the people going to Washington have been captured by lobbyists and special interests. When you look at my opponent, who has taken millions of dollars from corporate PACs and these special interests, and it dictates how he votes. So, we need to restore confidence in our institutions and our democracy by ending the influence of this dark money in our political system.”
On if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be abolished and why or why not
“I think the larger concern here is the lack of complete accountability of this administration. We need to take a holistic look and we need to have absolute moral clarity at this moment in American history. We need to have a Congress that’s willing to hold this administration and its policies and the agencies accountable, and we don’t have that. We don’t have a Congress that’s willing to hold hearings, call agency heads and make sure they are not abusing their power and authority. That needs to be the focus. We need to have leaders that will go to Congress and fully hold the administration accountable.”
(Reporter: So, should ICE be abolished?)
“The focus needs to be a larger holistic issue. You know we – if you’re going to look at the agency level, you’re still going to have an administration that’s unaccountable and not doing the things it should be doing. We need to have a Congress that’s going to hold this administration accountable at a larger holistic level.” (Reporter: I’m sorry, that’s a yes or no question, should ICE be abolished?) “Approaching it at the ICE level is not the right way to approach it. I think we need to hold ICE accountable for its policies and we need to hold the administration accountable for its policies.”
“We need to fix our broken immigration system. It desperately needs an overhaul. But whatever direction we go we will have to have an enforcement mechanism to it, so whether we want to call it another name or whatever we want to do, we’re going to have to have an enforcement mechanism there. What we want is rational immigration policies that are uniformly enforced. We don’t have that now.”
On how fundraising has played a factor in the campaign and if either candidate refused anyone’s money
“I have been around in policy for a long time so I have a solid voter record. There are groups that come in and out based on where I am at a given time. For instance, I remember General Dynamics and I parted ways on an issue involving procurement acquisition and that lasted for a very long time and now we’re working together again. So, groups decide whether to support me based upon what my voting record is.”
“Yeah, I’ve taken a pledge very early in this campaign that I’m not going to take a dime of corporate PAC money. This is really important to me because, you know, I’m a first-time candidate, I’ve never run for office before, but I can tell you in the last year and a half since I’ve been running how absurd it’s been to see the influence of dark unaccountable money in our political system right now. What I’ve decided to do is lead by example on this issue. We need to have leadership that’s going to say we’re going to force culture change, we’re going to lead by example. I’m not going to take any of that money. At the same time, my opponent has taken, over the course of his Congressional career, close to $2 million dollars. I’m going to be loyal and listen to the voters of the 6th congressional district, not special districts and corporate PACs in D.C.”
On what makes them the voice of Colorado veterans, and why vets should trust one candidate over the other
“There is no one person who is the voice of Colorado veterans. I have worked over a decade with amazing men and women who have spent thousands of volunteer hours to fight for veterans in this community and their families. These are fantastic folks that I will continue to work with in Congress to lead on this issue. I’m proud of the fact that when I left the service I felt this great loyalty to the men and women I served with and I made a decision shortly after leaving active duty that I was going to be a veterans’ advocate and I was going to continue to fight for my fellow veterans and their families. And I’ve fulfilled that promise to the tune of thousands of hours, all volunteer. I’ve never been paid a penny for any of that work. I’ve given up my nights and weekends to mentor veterans and make sure we’re addressing veterans’ homelessness issues, that we’re addressing the crisis of substance abuse in the veterans’ communities and I’ve received a lot of accolades and a lot of support from the veterans as a result of that work and I’m very proud of it. And I’m going to continue to lead on that issue.”
“I think the VA hospital is a good example. I was Marine Corps tough on the Department of Veterans Affairs. I became a congressman for the area that had the construction project. In January 2013 immediately got into that project and found it didn’t smell right. Led the effort to push the VA construction management team off that project, bring the Army Corps of Engineers on that project, and they have brought that project to completion.”
On one thing they would change about their party’s platform or leadership
“I think what has to occur, in my view, is a change in the culture of the House of Representatives. I’m in a bipartisan working group called [the] Problem Solvers [Caucus]. We have a series reforms that I think are very important that would say if there so many co-sponsors on a bill, leadership from either party can’t block it from coming to the floor for a vote; that we want to undo this restrictive rules process that doesn’t allow amendments on bills in the floor and we want to give every member of Congress the ability to have a vote on a bill in committee. None of these things are a part of the process in Congress right now, so what we have is too much power in too few hands with too little getting done for the American people. That has to change.”
“Well, we need new leadership, right? I’ve come out and I’ve said I’m not going to support the current leadership of the party. I think it’s really important that we change the culture of Washington. We need a new generation of leadership who is going to come in to Washington and say ‘enough is enough.’ This partisan bickering and fighting and the back and forth gamesmanship – that happens on both sides of the aisle. Democrats do it and Republicans do it. I have had enough of that. We have seen the dysfunction that creates and we’ve stopped moving forward. The people of this district and community deserve leadership that’s willing to put them first, not political gains. So we’re going to go into Congress and we’re going to select the next generation of leadership that’s going to do that and start moving us forward again.”
On if the candidates are proud of the way leadership is operating in Washington, D.C.
“I’m certainly not proud of this administration. Donald Trump and his policies have taken us down the wrong path. A lot of his policies are, in my view, immoral. We need to have a Congress that’s willing to step up and push back and truly hold this administration accountable. Mike Coffman campaigned in 2016 on holding Donald Trump accountable. He said in his own words he would stand up to Donald Trump, plain and simple. You fast forward to today and he now has a 96-percent voting record with this administration – the number one voting record with any official in the state of Colorado. That’s not leadership. That’s not anyone who is willing to step up to the plate and hold the administration accountable.”
“No. I think it goes back to that disfunction. But I think that dysfunction has evolved over time. What we need to do, and my bipartisan group is involved in this, is to force changes in the process. We Republicans and Democrats, together in the Problem Solvers group, are planning a major push by virtue of not allowing the nominee from whichever party happens to be seated as Speaker [of the House] until we get these rule changes.”
On if they believe Republicans will keep control of the House
“I don’t know if Republicans will remain in control. I know that I think that my chances are pretty good of being re-elected. But here’s what I think will happen: I think whatever party has the majority, it will be a very narrow majority. And I think, obviously, that makes it ripe for people in the center, like the Problem Solvers group, 24 Republicans, 24 Democrats together to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, D.C., to force changes on the system.”
“My focus is not on the inside baseball in Washington, D.C. My focus is on the needs of the 6th congressional district. Whether we’re talking about health care, the need for true immigration reform to pass the Dream Act and to give our dreamers the protection they need and deserve, to making sure we’ve got clean air and clean water and environmental protections, to tackling the gun violence crisis in our community. We need to have leaders who are willing to address those issues and put them first, not political partisan games in Washington.”
On if they would support possible impeachment proceedings for the president should Democrats win the House and the Mueller investigation wrap up
“I don’t think it’s appropriate right now to be talking about a political process when we have a law enforcement investigation that’s ongoing. Right now, our No. 1 priority has to be to protect the Mueller investigation, to insulate that investigation from partisan political meddling and to make sure that it runs that course and to make sure we get the facts. I’m not going to Washington with a political agenda. I want to go there and I want to support this investigation, this process and get the facts. And once we get the facts and that investigation is complete then we can decide whether to proceed and whether a political process is appropriate.”
“We don’t know what the Mueller investigation is going to bring in, so I think it’s premature to say.”