Democrat Jason Crow has won Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, beating long-time Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in a high-stakes, high-dollar battleground race. Nationally, the victory helped Democrats gain the 218 seats they needed to take control of the U.S. House.
The attorney and former U.S. Army Ranger claimed victory with 53 percent of the vote, a large nine-point lead over Coffman’s 44 percent. The multi-million-dollar race to represent the diverse district, which includes Aurora and most of the eastern Denver Metro area, was one of the most closely watched in the country. Crow’s victory flipped Colorado’s seven-person congressional delegation in favor of the Democrats.
Crow succeeded where bigger-name Democrats before him couldn’t – unseating the four-term Republican who had hung on in an increasingly left-leaning swath of Colorado. He was beaming, with his wife and children standing alongside him, as he gave a victory speech promoting unity among political rivals.
“Tonight I ask you to tune out the voices of hatred and division because where we are going, we will not need them,” he said.
Crow attacked President Donald Trump for having “separated children from their parents and locked them in cages,” and for his policies on health care, the transgender community and climate change.
“Our current leadership has gotten away with corruption, incompetence and outright bigotry for far too long,” Crow said. “There have been far too many in Congress who have simply allowed it to happen, and that time is over.”
All 435 seats in the U.S. House were up for election in this midterm. Republicans held 235 seats to the Democratic Party’s 193 seats, with seven vacancies. Democrats needed to win 23 GOP-held seats to take control of the House.
And they did.
Democrats gained the 218 seats they needed to win the majority in the U.S. House, the Associated Press reported around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Colorado time, and Crow’s CD6 victory helped put them over the top.
“It’s a pretty competitive district,” said Seth Masket, chair of the political science department at the University of Denver. “It’s represented by a Republican, so if the Democrats are going to make inroads nationally, they need to target districts like this.”
The district was solidly Republican when Coffman was first elected in 2009 to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican who is a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and gun control. After the 2010 Census, lines were redrawn, making CD6 a competitive district. Now, the east side of the Denver Metro area is populated with many younger residents, and it is more diverse than the state as a whole, with a large population of African and Asian immigrants.
In 2012, when the district voted for Barack Obama, Coffman barely held onto his seat, with a winning margin of 2 points. His opponent was Democrat Joe Miklosi, a former state representative for District 9. In 2014, Coffman’s winning margin expanded to 9 points when he faced off against Democrat Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the state House.
Then in 2016, when voters in the district voted for Hillary Clinton, Coffman once again held on by a margin of 8 points, according to the Colorado Secretary of State voting records. His opponent was Democrat Morgan Carroll, former state representative for District 36 and current chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party.
“I knew this was going to be a tough race,” Coffman said in his concession speech. He said he tried to make it a referendum on his performance and not on Trump’s performance. He knew that if the race became one about national issues, he’d lose.
“Whenever a new president takes office, the party that has the White House historically pays a political price in the first midterm election,” he said. “In the end, the waves were too big for this ship of ours to stay afloat.”
As of Nov. 1, about 146,000 Democrats, 135,000 Republicans and 176,000 unaffiliated voters in CD 6 were registered to vote. About 70,000 CD6 voters were inactive, according to Colorado Secretary of State voting records.
Leading up to Tuesday’s election, polls and race trackers anticipated a win for Crow. The district showed a strong Democratic lean, according to four ratings by each of three race trackers, The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
Morgan Carroll, now chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said she feels confident the “blue wave” has hit Colorado.
“I’m waiting until every vote is cast, but (Crow) just took out one of the most corporate-funded candidates in Washington,” she said. “Things are looking really good.”
About the candidates
Crow is a lawyer who has worked both as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney and now conducts independent legal investigations. He advised former President Barack Obama on military and veteran issues during Obama’s re-election campaign and co-chaired Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Veterans Affairs Transition Committee.
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Crow served in the U.S. Army, spent time in ROTC in college and served in the National Guard. On the campaign trail, he emphasized his military service and work with veterans. His platform also included support for universal health care, a detailed firearms policy, and advocacy for more affordable housing and changes to U.S. immigration policy.
Mike Coffman also has a military background, having joined the U.S. Army in a mechanized infantry battalion in 1972. He left to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado, then re-enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and stayed until 1982. His political career began in the Colorado House of Representatives in 1989, and he then served in the state Senate, as the Colorado treasurer and as secretary of state from 1994 to 2008 before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009.
He is the former husband of state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who briefly ran for governor this year before getting knocked out in that race’s Republican primary in June.
Coffman touted his service as a U.S. Marine, his efforts to stand up to Trump, and his work on immigration legislation. His re-election platform centered around providing a legal status, not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants, promoting skills-based education, and giving states discretion to reduce health care costs and broaden health care access.
The two candidates ran aggressive campaigns, attacking each other on various issues. Crow repeatedly called Coffman out for taking National Rifle Association money and for voting with Trump 96 percent of the time, claiming that Coffman said one thing to get elected, and then did another while in office. Coffman slammed Crow for his record as a defense attorney, saying that he deleted parts of his biography on the Holland & Hart website to hide the fact that he never sided with victims of crimes.
Crow supporters and CD6 residents Linda Champ and Bonnie Fleming said they hope Crow will bring about comprehensive immigration policy change, gun control and health care reform. “We needed to see Coffman go away,” Champ said.
The race centered around guns, immigration, health care and Donald Trump.
In a debate on gun legislation, Crow emphasized his background as a former Army Ranger and hunter, but noted that he’s fed up with inaction about the gun violence crisis. He wants federal laws that mandate universal background checks, magazine limits, a ban on military and assault-style weapons, and “red flag” laws, which allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from someone who may be a danger to him or herself or others.
In Crow’s first campaign TV ad, he called Coffman out for accepting money from the NRA. Since the 2018 election cycle began in January of 2017, Coffman received $8,000 from the NRA Political Victory Fund, according to the Federal Election Commission. The gun group also gave him an “A” rating. Despite this, Coffman backed “red flag” legislation and said he supports states’ rights to set gun laws, as state lawmakers did in 2013 when expanding background checks and limiting gun magazines to 15 rounds.
In a diverse district that increasingly leans Democratic, Coffman tried to strike a balance between supporting and pushing back against Trump administration policies.
He distanced himself by denouncing Trump aide Stephen Miller and the immigrant-family separation policy that Miller helped to design. Meanwhile, Democrats tied Coffman as closely to Trump as possible, noting that he voted with Trump 96 percent of the time. While that statistic is accurate, many of his votes were on bills that also had the support of Democratic lawmakers and addressed non-controversial or bipartisan issues.
“Coffman has survived by being able to distinguish himself from the national Republican Party and from Trump specifically,” Masket said. “In some ways he’s a conservative Republican, and in some ways he’s a very successful incumbent, and does a lot of outreach with moderate voters, voters of color, and immigrants.”
Coffman positioned himself as a bipartisan leader on immigration issues. While he was against a special path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he supported a legal status for them. In 2015, Coffman introduced the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, which gave DREAMers a path to citizenship through time served in the armed forces. He also co-sponsored the Recognizing American Children Act in 2017, which would provide a path to lawful permanent resident status, and subsequently citizenship, for people eligible under the DACA program. He backed some Trump administration policies, like the GOP tax cut.
Crow is in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. He supports family-based immigration as equal to business- and skills-based immigration, and he is against building a wall on the border with Mexico.
Crow advocated for revising the Affordable Care Act and for introducing a federal, public health care option based on Medicare that would compete in the marketplace.
Coffman supported some sections of the ACA, such as allowing dependents to stay on a parent’s policy until age 26 and prohibiting discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions should remain. Coffman voted against his party and repealing the ACA because there weren’t enough protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Millions of dollars have flowed into the contest between Crow and Coffman.
Coffman’s campaign committee, Coffman for Congress 2018, raised $3.4 million as of Oct. 17. Three industries donated the most: real estate with about $239,000, securities and investment with almost $145,000, and oil and gas with about $115,000. Political Action Committees gave $1.2 million, with ideological PACs donating about $443,000; finance, insurance and real estate PACs giving $174,000; and defense PACs giving $111,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Crow’s campaign committee, Jason Crow for Congress, raised $5.1 million. The top three industry donor were: securities and investment with almost $548,000, lawyers and law firms with about $448,000, and education with just over $187,000. Democratic and liberal industry donors gave the most, roughly $566,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District
Republican Rep. Scott Tipton won with 52 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state representative, with 43 percent of the vote.
CD3 is Colorado’s largest, covering nearly the entire western half of the state. The district went for President Trump in 2016 by a margin of 11.9 points. However, some Democrats thought this district, which was represented by Democrat John Salazar before before 2011, could be contentious.
Growth in Grand Junction and the Roaring Fork Valley, especially among youth and Hispanic voters, made the region’s voting base more diverse and “purple” instead of staunchly conservative.
Tipton is the Republican incumbent who has represented the district in Congress since 2011. He was a member of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010 representing the 58th District, which includes Montrose, Dolores, San Miguel and Montezuma counties.
Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush is also a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, having represented the 26th District, including parts of Jackson, Eagle and Grand counties at the Statehouse from 2012 to 2017.
In 2016, Tipton won about 55 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent, Gail Schwartz, received about 40 percent.
In an op-ed for the Steamboat Pilot, Bush called for an investigation into health insurers, citing “outrageous premiums” and limited choice in medical providers on Colorado’s West Slope. She also called out Tipton for his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
Tipton also wrote an op-ed for the Steamboat Pilot touting his voting record on tax cuts and his introduction of legislation taking away the federal government’s ability to require the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition for the use of public land.
The Grand Junction Sentinel’s editorial board reluctantly endorsed Tipton, saying Bush was even more “unappetizing” because of her probable stance against the proposed Jordan Cove natural gas pipeline. Bush has not come out against the project, which would transfer Piceance Basin gas to be liquefied in Oregon, but the paper implied the questions Bush has raised made her “no ally” of the project.
Tipton’s campaign raised $1,457,234, as of Oct. 17, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The banking industry and retirees were Tipton’s top industry contributors.
Bush’s campaign raised $1,566,822, and Democratic/liberal donors and retirees were top industry contributors.
Colorado’s 4th Congressional District
Republican Ken Buck won 62 percent of the vote, while Democrat Karen McCormick garnered 38 percent of the vote.
Ken Buck is a prosecutor by trade, having served as one in the Justice Department in Washington D.C., then the chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado and as Weld County’s District Attorney from 2004 to 2014.
The 59-year-old Windsor resident has held Colorado’s 4th Congressional District seat since 2015, beating Democrat Vic Meyers with 65 percent of the vote. Buck ran against and was defeated by Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Senate race.
Buck is a member of the Judiciary Subcommittees on Immigration and Border Security and Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law. He also sits on the Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Subcommittee on Interior. He has sponsored and cosponsored legislation on balancing the Federal Government’s budget and giving businesses and individuals tax deductions.
Buck was diagnosed with lymphoma in March 2013 while serving as Weld County’s district attorney. Two months later, he announced the cancer went into remission.
Democratic Nominee Karen McCormick, a veterinarian practicing in Longmont, had never run for office before her bid to unseat Buck. She has lived in Colorado for 23 years and has served on the boards of multiple non-profits focused on animal health.
Buck and McCormick disagree on immigration policy, with Buck supporting more border security and President Donald Trump’s policies. McCormick has argued for revamping the immigration system in the Longmont debate. Both also disagree on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, with Buck saying the law put more money in Americans’ wallets, and McCormick saying the cuts have hurt small businesses and raised the national deficit.
Buck’s campaign raised $576,112 for the 2018 race as of Oct. 17, with oil and gas and Dish Network being the top contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McCormick raised $813,067, with Democrats/liberal organizations and electronics companies as top industry contributors.
Colorado’s 5th Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn won with 59 percent of the vote, while Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding trailed with 38 percent of the vote.
After being elected six times, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn again won the Republican primary in Colorado’s 5th District and has faced off against Spaulding. Douglas Randall was the Libertarian in the race.
The 5th District incorporates mostly Colorado Springs and its suburbs and has been held by Republicans since its creation.
Lamborn was a member of both the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives before beating Democrat Jay Fawcett in 2006. He is a 64-year-old attorney who lives in Colorado Springs and practiced law throughout his tenure in the Colorado General Assembly. Spaulding, 40, is a pastor and professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, as well as a community activist.
Lamborn faced a lawsuit before the June 26 primary alleging that he used out-of-state signature gatherers to qualify for the ballot. The Colorado Supreme Court sided with Michael Francisco, the attorney behind the suit, and removed him from the slate. Lamborn argued that the requirement for gatherers to live in Colorado was unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer agreed and overturned the previous ruling, allowing Lamborn once again on the ballot.
The Democratic nominee faced her own campaign hurdles, with three of her staffers resigning due to perceived financial misconduct by Spaulding. The Federal Election Commission campaign finance reporting requirements were met by Spaulding’s campaign and no violations were found.
Lamborn wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and is a proponent of free trade and tax cuts, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. He is also for the repeal of the ACA.
Spaulding is against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, saying it targets and hurts education, from K-12 teachers to graduate students. She supports the ACA and is a proponent of “health care for all.”
Lamborn’s campaign raised $669,186, as of Oct. 17, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Defense and pro-Israel industries topped his contributor list. Spaulding raised $337,023 with Democrat/Liberal and printing industries as her top contributors.
Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District
Democrat Joe Neguse won CD2 in a decisive victory, becoming Colorado’s first African-American representative in Congress. Neguse won with 60 percent of the vote, a 25-point lead over Republican Peter Yu. CD2 spreads from the northwestern Denver Metro area and Boulder into the mountain towns of Vail and Idaho Springs.
Prior to his victory, Neguse served on the University of Colorado Board of Regents and in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet. Yu is a businessman, long-time Loveland resident, and like Neguse, a child of immigrants.
Colorado’s 7th Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat who has lived Jefferson County his whole life, won with 60 percent of the vote, a 23-point advantage over Republican Mark Barrington.
Perlmutter almost didn’t run for re-election. He had wanted to run for governor in a competitive Democratic primary, but dropped out after Boulder congressman, and now governor, Jared Polis, entered the race. During an emotional press conference in July, Perlmutter choked back tears while saying he would be leaving the race for governor. He later decided to run for re-election, pushing two other Democrats out of the race, including Brittney Patterson, who won a pivotal race for state Senate.
Colorado’s 1st Congressional District
As expected, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette won CD1 in a landslide. DeGette started her newest term with 72 percent of the vote, a 46-point lead over her opponent, Republican Charles Casper Stockholm.
DeGette has firmly held on to the district surrounding Denver since 1997. This year marks the second time that Stockholm, an Air Force Veteran and businessman, has tried to take the seat. In 2016, Stockholm lost to DeGette by 28 percent of the vote.