WASHINGTON – Rep. Jason Crow doesn’t worry about oversharing when it comes to his daily schedule.
The freshman Democrat in the U.S. House posts his daily activities on his congressional website. Since he arrived in Congress in January, he’s met with bankers, union officials, immigration reform advocates, high school students and a host of others.
The minutiae of a congressman’s daily schedule might seem mundane, but it’s unusual in Washington, D.C., for a lawmaker to publish the details of his or her activities and meetings.
“I wanted to be very transparent,” he told the Colorado Independent in an interview. “This office belongs to the people of the 6th Congressional District. If people are going to come see me, the people of the district deserve to know who these people are.”
Crow, who represents Aurora and the eastern suburbs of Denver, said posting his calendar gives his constituents a peek into his week and counters the sense that politicians conduct their most important business “behind closed doors.”
Publishing his agenda is one way Crow says he is “leading by example” in Congress. Another is refusing to accept contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs). Crow pledged to refuse so-called “dark money” in 2017 – becoming one of the first of many House Democratic candidates to do so in the 2018 election.
“We decided a year or so ago that one of the most powerful ways of leading and of showing folks that government can work for them is just to start doing things,” Crow said. “I’ve seen over the last few years how little trust people have in elected officials … It’s a big danger for our country.”
Refusing those campaign contributions was a political gamble, especially against his well-funded opponent Mike Coffman, a five-term incumbent. But the risk paid off. Last fall, Crow handily defeated Coffman in one of the most closely watched House races in the country, and in so doing became the first Democrat to hold the seat since it was drawn in 1983.
Crow framed his campaign around a “new generation of leadership” – a theme he has hit hard since taking office. In January, he voted against Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House — one of only 15 House Democrats to do so.
The first bill he introduced was the End Dark Money Act, an effort to prevent high-dollar donors from remaining anonymous when they give to certain nonprofit organizations. The measure was rolled into H.R. 1, a larger election reform package that was passed by the House earlier this year, but stands virtually no chance of advancing in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Such loopholes, Crow said, are a root cause of political dysfunction. “Whatever we’re talking about, we’re not able to get big things done … because the system is corrupted by special interests.”
One of the issues Crow talks a lot about is gun violence – an especially sensitive subject in the 6th District, home to the Highlands Ranch school where nine students were shot – one fatally – on May 7. It is also home to the movie theater in Aurora where a mass shooting took place in 2012 and one mile away from Columbine High School, where another school massacre took place two decades ago.
Crow attended a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims and survivors on May 8, telling the audience they deserve – “and should demand” – more than thoughts and prayers. “You elected leaders to pass laws, to create policy, and to show leadership,” he said. “Our children deserve action.” Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, also reportedly spoke about the “need for federal action” at the event.
But some students “rebelled against” the program, cursed at the media and walked out in protest because, as one student said, it “gave too much time to politics and not enough to the students.” When asked about complaints that the event had been politicized, Crow said in an interview with ABC News that students hadn’t been given an opportunity to speak and justifiably demanded one. “I supported that,” Crow said. “I stayed late until every student was heard and had the opportunity to tell us what they felt about this issue … It was really important that we keep the focus on the students.”
A combat veteran and a vice chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Crow backed legislation that passed the House in February that would require unlicensed gun dealers to conduct background checks. He introduced a bill that would close a loophole that allows gun buyers to obtain rifles and shotguns when traveling out of state. The move came after an 18-year-old Florida woman traveled to Colorado last month and bought a shotgun in a Littleton gun shop. The woman was obsessed with the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, and metro Denver schools went on lockdown out of fear for students’ safety.
Crow is also pushing for health care and immigration reform and environmental protection – issues that cause Republicans to see an opening in his district in 2020.
“Jason Crow ran as a moderate but has been nothing but a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the socialist Democrats since being sworn in,” said Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Coloradans won’t look kindly on Crow’s failure to stand up to his party’s radical proposals like socialized medicine and the Green New Deal, and will send him packing in 2020.”
But political observers aren’t convinced. Regarded as a battleground district in 2018, the district is now considered a fairly safe bet for Democrats by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter.
“National politicos are seeing Colorado as less and less of a purple state,” said Matthew Hitt, a political science professor at Colorado State University. Democrats, he notes, now control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature, and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is regarded as the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate.
What’s more, Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, and the demographics of the 6th District are changing as the percentage of Latino residents increases, Hitt noted. “That suggests their ability to field and support a competitive candidate in the 6th might not be where it should be,” Hitt said. “Without a quality challenger, it will probably be hard” to oust Crow.