Election 2018

Congressional District 6 candidates get combative at forum

Coffman, Crow target each other's credibility in Aurora event

Posted 10/18/18

With less than three weeks left before Election Day, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow went for the political jugular at a forum that saw attacks on credibility as much as …

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Election 2018

Congressional District 6 candidates get combative at forum

Coffman, Crow target each other's credibility in Aurora event

Posted
With less than three weeks left before Election Day, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow went for the political jugular at a forum that saw attacks on credibility as much as it drew lines between the candidates on immigration, gun reform and how the younger generation can succeed in today's economy.
 
Coffman, a Republican, held up on stage a printed online biography on Crow from his law firm, calling Crow out for defending people accused of white-collar crime.
 
And that was just the opening statement.
 
The race for the seat in the 6th Congressional District — which includes Aurora, Centennial, Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Brighton and part of Thornton, among other areas — offers Coffman his steepest challenge yet in a district known for its ethnic diversity. FiveThirtyEight, a prominent data-based political outlet, gives Crow an 8.5-point advantage across polls conducted since February. Local analysts have said it’s likely the outcome of the race will reflect whether Democrats can take control of the U.S. House.
 
But they also say not to count out Coffman, who has defied the odds before.
 
Here's what the candidates had to say Oct. 17 at a forum hosted by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and the Aurora Association of Realtors.
 
Taking shots
 
Coffman, a five-term congressman, attacked Crow over two versions of the bio on the website for the Holland & Hart law firm, after Coffman's campaign handed out copies before the forum started.
 
One version from 2016 notes Crow is an attorney in the firm's “commercial litigation,” “government affairs” and “white collar defense” groups. The current version mentions similar topics but omits the “white collar” term in the initial description. Crow's campaign site points to “pro bono” work and “helping local businesses both small and large” understand regulations.
 
Not to be outdone, the Army veteran came back with a quip about Coffman's stance on gun control.
 
“I just got the first 'F' of my life,” Crow said, referring to his rating from the National Rifle Association, an organization that widely opposes gun-control measures. “My opponent has an 'A' from the NRA.”
 
Coffman, also a military veteran, started swinging again when asked about campaign-finance policy.
 
“If you're going to say, 'I'm not going to take corporate (political action committee) money,' and you take it from the leadership PACs,” Coffman said, “that's not being honest. And that's what Jason Crow is doing right now.”
 
Leadership PACs are often set up by members of Congress and other political leaders to support federal or non-federal candidates, according to the Federal Election Commission. Coffman’s campaign claims Crow has received money from leadership PACs that take funds from corporate sources, despite Crow’s repeated pledge not to accept corporate PAC funds.
 
Crow took the opportunity to advocate for overturning “Citizens United,” referring to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that protected the political spending ability of corporations and unions.
 
“To be clear, there's only one person on this stage who's taking corporate PAC money, and it's the gentleman sitting to my right,” Crow said. “I've taken none of that money.”
 
As of Sept. 30, Crow had received roughly $4.5 million in total receipts — contributions and other money received — and Coffman had received about $3.2 million, according to the election commission.
 
'Behind closed doors'
 
While discussing immigration reform, Crow brought up a recording of Coffman and criticized “the difference in his rhetoric on the campaign trail versus what he says behind closed doors.”
 
That's a reference to a recording of Coffman the The Washington Post reported in August, in which he said President Donald Trump “probably has a more generous plan for DACA than I would (propose),” according to the newspaper. The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy gives protected status to those who arrived illegally in the U.S. as children.
 
In the recording, Coffman said the country needs to “transition to zero tolerance,” the Post reported.
 
This spring, the Trump administration announced a zero-tolerance policy to prosecute as many border-crossing offenses as possible, national outlets reported. Adults were separated from more than 2,300 children at the U.S.-Mexico border during the resulting process. Coffman vocally opposed separating families, a practice the administration later reversed.
 
At the forum, Coffman called Crow's statements “a gross distortion of what I said.”
 
Coffman previously told Colorado Community Media he differed with Trump over how many DACA-eligible immigrants should be provided a potential path to citizenship. Trump floated a number of 1.8 million, “higher than anyone used,” Coffman said. But Coffman did vote for Trump's proposed number, he added.
 
“We need a path to citizenship for the 800,000 on DACA,” Coffman said at the forum, adding he would support a renewable work visa for undocumented adults who haven't broken other laws. He supports a transition to a more stringent enforcement policy but wants to allow those already here to “come out of the shadows,” he told CCM previously.
 
Crow went further, saying the country needs “a path to citizenship for (all) 11 million folks who are here for those who have not committed violent crime,” Crow said.
 
He also voiced support for the DREAM Act — for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors,” first introduced in 2001 but never passed by both houses of Congress. Generally, it would give a path to citizenship to those who arrived as children.
 
'American dream' fading?
 
The jabs between the candidates slowed during talks on housing affordability and college debt.
 
Crow noticed a common theme at community and public events during his campaign, he said: People in their 20s, 30s and early 40s see a wide gulf between them and where their parents and grandparents were at their age, he said.
 
“They believe the American dream is eluding them,” Crow said, citing complaints young people can't keep up with the cost of housing or health care.
 
Defending the Affordable Care Act while also being willing to improve on it, and student loan-forgiveness programs for teaching, firefighting, and other public and high-demand private positions, would be part of the solution, Crow said.
 
Coffman said more progress is needed regarding the construction-defects issue in Colorado — critics have said it's too easy to bring lawsuits regarding condominium construction, stifling development — so more affordable units can spring up.
 
The congressman also said when he visits schools, particularly in lower-income areas, he is told the metric of success is a four-year degree. It's a problem when young people get degrees that would land them the same kind of job as if they hadn't gone to college, Coffman said.
 
Schooling “needs to be more focused on skills-based education,” he added. “Jobs that pay a living wage.”

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