6th Congressional District: Crow seeks second term as House pushes for upset

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When people from the neighborhood wander into Steve House’s East Colfax Avenue campaign office, he tells them “we can talk about any issue you want to talk about.” Sometimes it’s the economy or health care or social justice, but overwhelmingly it’s “when is this COVID thing going to be over?” he says.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has come to define many things about American life in 2020, and congressional campaigns are no different. House, the former state GOP chairman, is hoping to swing the 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Aurora and swaths of the southeastern region of the metroplex, back to Republicans. Freshman Congressman Jason Crow won the seat in 2018 by 10 points from now-Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, who held the seat for a decade.

The 2018 race was highly contested amid a so-called “blue wave” that proved purple suburban counties are indeed trending blue. Political scientists have been watching the district particularly closely because it can be an indicator for other high-profile races.

“The current iteration of CO-6 has existed since 2012 and, in statewide elections, has typically picked the winners — despite Gardner’s success there in 2014, then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) carried it as part of his successful re-election effort that year,” Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics wrote of the district earlier this year.

“Two years later, Hillary Clinton would carry the Centennial State’s electoral votes by a 5 percent margin, but she fared even better with the suburbanites in CO-6, winning it by nine percentage points. In fact, between those 2014 and 2016 contests, CO-6 swung nearly 13 percentage points from Udall to Clinton — no other district in the state saw a double-digit blue shift. Perhaps more notably, in 2016, CO-6 leaned four points more Democratic than the state as a whole.”

The pandemic has meant all of the things that have come to define the previous election — debates, large campaign rallies, and offices full of volunteers — have gone by the wayside or have evolved. In terms of issues, 2020 looks much different than 2018, too.

If the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t taken off in the U.S. it’s possible the CD6 race would look entirely different. Crow’s role as an impeachment manager — his job was to prosecute the case against the president — feels like a distant memory to most just nine months later.

“That doesn’t even feel like that happened this year,” Crow said in a recent Sentinel editorial board interview. Crow was one of seven impeachment managers. Politicos speculated he was chosen, in part, because of his purple-tinged district. 

But local pollsters familiar with the district weren’t convinced Crow’s involvement in impeachment would have much of an impact on voters later in the year.

David Flaherty, a conservative pollster at Colorado-based Magellan Strategies, said in January there probably isn’t much room to sway people’s opinions on impeachment at this point.

“Barring something really out of left field… we haven’t really seen anything that would show decline in support (for the president) among Republicans,” Flaherty said. 

Likewise, he said Democrats and many independents probably won’t waver on their support for impeachment either.

In responding to questions of whether he believed the trial would help or hurt his campaign for re-election, Crow said he was keeping the trial and the politics independent of each other.

“I’m being very careful to completely separate politics from this because my oath means a lot to me. I’ve taken many of them throughout my life…So, for me, I am compelled to fulfill my oath, and politics do not play a part of that,” he said. “What I do think is that Coloradans and people in our community are very concerned about some of the most egregious abuses of this administration. They’re concerned about their public officials doing the right thing and putting the interests of the community and the country ahead of their own. When people don’t do that, they are rightfully concerned about it, and that’s what’s happening here.”

Since the January trial, as the pandemic has taken over nearly every news cycle and racial justice issues have once again risen to a top priority, impeachment has barely been a political issue in the race. 

Instead, topics like health care and how to jump start a suffering economy have dominated the race, despite the two candidates rarely going head-to-head. Even each of the candidates’ campaign ads have been mild, highlighting the candidate and their accomplishments or experience instead of attacking the other. 

On health care, House’s plan is to implement more transparency in pricing so “all products and services have a price tag.” The Republican is in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, but told the Sentinel in an interview “Obamacare was a well-intentioned program, but it was put on top of a very dysfunctional market. When you don’t know how supply and demand is going to react, you just don’t have any information about how you’re going to pay for this.” 

Crow agrees that health care has become much too expensive, saying lowering prescription drug prices and stabilizing the market would be the best way to fix the ACA, which he would keep in place because it has allowed millions more Americans to have insurance. 

Crow is also in favor of working toward universal health care by first implementing a public option. 

Immigration has also become a leading issue in the district. The U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Agency detention center operated by the GEO Group Inc. in north Aurora has been host to a bevy of protests and a focus of Crow’s since taking office. The congressman launched a weekly “inspection” of the facility last year, saying there isn’t enough transparency from ICE or the prison. Crow’s staff posts the reports on his congressional website each week. 

Crow has been vocal about disallowing private companies to run federal detention centers. 

House said he would support increasing transparency for the Aurora facility if elected, but most of his focus on immigration has been how to handle the nation’s immigration system.

“The U.S. is a compassionate country, in my opinion. Sometimes it doesn’t always act like it,” House said, adding that the term “illegal alien” shouldn’t be applied to immigrants who enter the country illegally. He’d like to see a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. Polls show most of the country, regardless of political affiliation, agrees. 

“However, we should not provide amnesty to those who break and defy our laws and enter the United States illegally to do harm to our country or our citizens,” House writes on his campaign website.

On moving through the economic burden the pandemic has caused, both think more aid is necessary to recovery. 

House told the Sentinel he’s most interested in helping restart businesses, particularly Black and Latinx-owned businesses, that didn’t make it through the hardest months of the pandemic. For restaurants, which were hit particularly hard, House said he’d like to see some more aid, too. While he doesn’t support continuing providing an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits, he said perhaps $300 is more appropriate, as the process has been mostly trial-and-error so far.

The next term of Congress will surely be defined, at least in some part, by racial justice issues and police reform. Aurora has become the center of that issue via the death of Elijah McClain, the young Black man who was stopped by local police, detained, and injected with ketamine. He later died at the hospital. He was never charged with a crime, only called “sketchy” by a person who saw him dancing down the street in a facemask and called 911. While state lawmakers, Aurora police and city leaders have instituted a handful of measures to shore up what many perceive as inequities in the system, there are questions of what can be done on the federal level.

“This year, the Colorado state legislature took action with one of the most transformative police reform bills in the country which included legislation that would address qualified immunity. I’m proud to support this bill,” Crow said in a candidate questionnaire. “I introduced the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act in Congress. This bill would help increase accountability and standards for law enforcement, which would help build trust between police departments and the communities they serve.”

House has highlighted the need for more and better training for police departments. 

For more information on where the candidates stand on issues, read surveys completed by the candidates and look for more coverage at www.sentinelcolorado.com before Election Day.

Meet Jason Crow

Democratic Congressman Jason Crow

Jason Crow

Freshman Congressman 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 then pursued a legal career.

He received a law degree from the University of Denver in 2009 and went on to be a partner with the Holland and Hart law firm in Denver. During his first term in Congress, Crow served as an impeachment manager in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Crow lives in Aurora, in the newly-named neighborhood of Central Park with his wife, two children and golden retriever.

Jason Crow Policy Questions

Jason Crow
POLICY QUESTIONS

Do you support a larger COVID-19 relief bill?

Yes. We must protect families, small businesses, health care providers, and our most vulnerable populations. Too many Americans are forced to choose between staying home if they are sick or putting dinner on the table.  Addressing this public health and economic crisis requires that we provide free testing, support for small businesses, PPE for our schools, rent assistance, and food assistance for families.

Would you support a bill that would limit or eliminate qualified immunity for police officers?

This year, the Colorado state legislature took action with one of the most transformative police reform bills in the country which included legislation that would address qualified immunity. I’m proud to support this bill. I introduced the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act in Congress. This bill would help increase accountability and standards for law enforcement, which would help build trust between police departments and the communities they serve.

Calls to dismantle the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency have grown louder over the past two years. Do you support eliminating ICE?

We need to hold ICE accountable and reform the agency, not abolish it. We’ve seen how the agency’s lack of transparency and accountability puts the health of the detainees, staff, and the community at risk. It’s clear that this administration has no interest in holding ICE accountable and that Congress must stand up and fight for the decency and dignity of all people. After multiple disease outbreaks in the Aurora ICE facility, we launched regular visits to provide the critical oversight missing from this administration. Last year, I introduced and enacted into law the POD Act to promote transparency and accountability by allowing all members of Congress to gain access to detention facilities without prior notice to ensure Congress is getting an unfiltered look of the facilities.

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

Absolutely. As Vice Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I have led the way on overturning this special interest restriction and secured $25 million in federal research funding for gun violence. Our community knows the horror of gun violence all too well and Colorado knows that we do not have to choose between the 2nd Amendment and safe communities. In addition, I helped pass the Universal Background Checks Act, introduced a bill that would close the loophole on interstate firearm sales, and stood with victims of gun violence by helping introduce legislation that would repeal gun sellers and manufacturers from liability.

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

Yes, healthcare should be available to every American, not just those who can afford it. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Medicare-X Choice Act, which would allow consumers the option to buy into Medicare as a health insurance option and includes tailored subsidies to assist those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Coupled with my work to protect coverage for preexisting conditions, increase pricing transparency and address the cost of prescription drugs, we can make large gains towards the goal of universal and affordable health coverage. The bill also allows those who like their private insurance to keep their coverage.

Should the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement?

Absolutely. Refusing to address a problem won’t make it go away. We need to restore America’s leadership on the global stage and take action on climate change - which is why I voted in support of H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act. The Trump administration’s decision to formally leave the Paris Climate Agreement is a step in the wrong direction. The climate crisis is not a future catastrophe. It is here, right now. We’ve seen how wildfires in Colorado and across the west are devastating our communities. We need to come together, rejoin the Paris Agreement, and figure out real climate solutions. Our children are counting on us.

Which topic are you most likely to reach across the aisle to work on?

I’m proud that over 60% of my bills have bipartisan support including efforts to support our veterans, provide student loan debt relief for public health workers, address holes in our nation’s pandemic response strategy, advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and re-establish U.S. leadership on the global stage. Much of my work on the Armed Services Committee and Small Business Committee remains bipartisan.

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

No, a woman’s right to choose is a private decision between her and her doctor. The government shouldn’t come in between a woman and her healthcare decisions.

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

I helped pass legislation that would reduce student debt by allowing graduates and borrowers currently repaying their federal student loans to refinance at a lower interest rate whenever a lower rate becomes available. This is a simple, commonsense measure that could have a profound impact on millions of Americans. I’m also working on policies to incentivize employers to offer additional student loan assistance by providing tax exemptions for tuition assistance programs for companies that help their employees pay off student loan debt. As part of my COVID-19 relief efforts, I introduce a bipartisan bill with my Republican colleague Michael Burgess that establishes a workforce loan repayment program for public health workers. I look forward to continuing to advance these policies because our young people should not have to make the choice between an education and eventually owning a home.

How would you compel a Congress unwilling or unable to pass a DACA bill?

The community I represent is stronger and more vibrant because of the contributions of our immigrants. That’s why I’m so proud to have cosponsored and voted for the Dream and Promise Act. Our neighbors who come to America seeking refuge deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and we all are better off when we keep families together. The House passed this important bill and I will continue to stand up with community members to hold elected officials accountable to the people they were elected to serve.

The lighter side of Jason Crow

LIGHTER SIDE QUESTIONS

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

At this moment, it would be convincing my kids to pay attention during their Zoom classes.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A zoologist. To this day, I am fascinated by animals and our family has a growing number of unusual pets.

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

I am able to clap with one hand.  This not only answers a philosophical question but is helpful when eating hot dogs at sporting events.

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure?

As my staff would tell you, I eat more Cheez-itz than is probably healthy

What was the last book you read?

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a facemask during the pandemic?

It has given me a new chance to show off my Colorado pride on Capitol Hill with my Colorado logo and Broncos masks regularly making appearances in Committee hearings.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Decorating our Christmas tree and house every year while listening to holiday music. It’s really the best.

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith.”  It reminds me that people can be shaped by their upbringing but also not limited by it.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A vaccine for COVID-19

Meet Steve House

Steve House

Steve House held a small campaign event at Generals Park, Sept. 3, where he discussed his platform and met with local support.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Former Colorado Republican State Party Chair Steve House has lived in Colorado for about 15 years. He grew up in rural Michigan. He currently resides with his wife in Brighton. House ran for governor in 2014, but failed to get the GOP nomination. House says being an ill child with a rare urinary birth defect shaped his three-decade career in the health care data industry. He was the first child of six siblings to go to college. House has six grown children of his own and six grandchildren.

Steve House Policy Questions

Steve House
POLICY QUESTIONS

Do you support a larger COVID-19 relief bill?

I support one that targets the hardest hit industries, restaurants, events, and travel related businesses. I also think we must act to address the very disproportionate loss of more than 440,000 black owned small businesses and we must deal with educational problems created by COVID.

Would you support a bill that would limit or eliminate qualified immunity for police officers?

Yes. I would support a bill that would allow for the process to fairer for victims without removing all qualified immunity for police officers

Calls to dismantle the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency have grown louder over the past two years. Do you support eliminating ICE?

No, I do not support eliminating ICE. There are currently around 300 serious violent criminals being held in the Aurora detention center and our neighborhoods would not be safe with them on our streets. Customs enforcement plays an important role in fighting the illegal drug trade and helps stop plants or animals or insects that can harm our environment from being brought into the country illegally.

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

The research needs to be done. I believe we would be better served if a law enforcement agency, such as the FBI, was funded to do the research rather than the CDC.  The FBI, working with help from experts in mental health and intelligence has better capacity, tools and resources.

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

No. We have a much better option then either Medicare for all or a public option. We are the most expensive healthcare system in the world but only 12th in quality. We are offering a solution that will cover everyone, includes pre-existing conditions, provides significant real incentive for healthy behavior and lowers cost by half or more.

Should the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement?

Not as written. It is not enforceable and more importantly not practical. If we were to rejoin, It should be rewritten with consideration for what we can do right now, with incentives for near term innovations. Only the US is on track to meet the 2030 guidelines.

Which topic are you most likely to reach across the aisle to work on?

Healthcare reform, education, immigration and racial justice.

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

No.

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

Education suffers from the need to raise high school outcomes performance and restructure value in higher education so that value is there and students don’t start a year and a half behind because their high school education didn’t give them enough to avoid remedial learning. We have a plan to restructure it all.

How would you compel a Congress unwilling or unable to pass a DACA bill?

I would offer a bill that allowed those in the U.S. under DACA the ability to apply for citizenship as long as they are not violent criminals.  I would ask that they pay a means tested fee while they are going through the process and mandate that they must buy health insurance to avoid waiting until they are really sick and showing up at an emergency room without coverage.

The lighter side of Steve House

LIGHTER SIDE QUESTIONS

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Having spent considerable time in Kenya doing humanitarian work with the poor it would be the power to end hunger.

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

Armageddon. I love innovation that saves the world.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An Astronaut.

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

I’m a good ping pong player.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

2nd Chance Life

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure?

A cheeseburger

What was the last book you read?

Apocalypse Never

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a facemask during the pandemic?

It’s always an icebreaker and conversation starter.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Turkey cooking competition at Thanksgiving.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Destination Curiosity

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

Doobie Brothers, “Taking it to The Streets.”

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

American Ninja Warrior

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

An engine that runs on CO2 as a fuel.