AURORA | A Denver lawyer and decorated Army veteran said he will run as a Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the 2018 election for the 6th Congressional District.

Jason Crow announced his candidacy Tuesday. A decorated U.S. Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is currently a law partner with the Holland and Hart Law Firm. Crow also served on the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs from 2009-2014, where he helped secure funding for the new Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora.

Crow said his experience growing up in a working-class family and his time in the military would shape the lens through which he sees Washington politics.

“One of the defining moments of my life was working with and leading young American soldiers into combat. There were soldiers who came from every walk of life, people from urban areas and farmers, soldiers of every ethnicity, from every rung of the socioeconomic ladder, from every political persuasion,” Crow said. “We came together as a team, to fight together as a team and to fight for our values and come home together alive.

“I know what Americans can do when they have good leadership, when it’s not cynical and when they put purpose over politics,” he added. “And I know we can get back to that in this country.”

Crow, along with wife, Deserai, and young children, Anderson and Josephine, currently lives in  Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, outside of the 6th Congressional District, but he said he would move into the district in preparation for the run next year. Crow says he has long served in and around Aurora. 

“I’ve always gone where the fight is, and I have had a long history of activism in the 6th Congressional District,” he said. “I was selected to lead the veterans’ effort to secure funding for the new VA hospital in Aurora.  I have a long-standing history of service in the community.”

After Crow’s announcement, Coffman’s campaign issued a statement painting Crow as another liberal attached at the hip of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Nancy Pelosi has an unhealthy obsession with beating Mike Coffman — but give her this much credit, she always raises a lot of money and Pelosi always recruits a quality challenger,” the statement read.

Coffman will be running for his sixth term in 2018. He defeated current Colorado Democratic party Chairwoman Morgan Carroll in November. This will be the first time the U.S. Army and Marine veteran will run against a fellow Armed Services member. While the Coffman campaign praised Crow for his military service, it criticized his support for the Iranian nuclear deal and “his conspicuously bad judgment” as a Democratic activist.

“Jason took the stage of the Democratic National Convention to praise the previous administration’s handling of veteran’s healthcare, which remains one of the biggest moral failing’s of President Obama’s tenure,” the statement read.

For his part, Crow said he wasn’t recruited by Pelosi or anyone else in the party to run against Coffman.

“As a matter of fact I’ve never met (Pelosi) and I’ve never spoken with her. I’m nobody’s candidate expect for voters of the 6th Congressional District. I have a history of service in this county, and in this country, that’s outside of politics,” Crow said. “Nobody’s pitting me against Mike Coffman. This is a decision my wife and I thought about for a long time — how can we best be a check against Donald Trump and how to stand up against him?”

Crow criticized Coffman for claiming he’d stand up against President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, saying the five-term congressman has instead supported the administration’s agenda, including supporting a failed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said the 6th Congressional District was a top priority for both state and national Democrats. Carroll, who lost to Coffman in the 2016 election, said there was huge interest from Democrats in running against Coffman in 2018, including from state Sen. Rhonda Fields, who replaced Carroll in the Colorado Senate this year, state Rep. Janet Buckner and several other people in and out of politics.

“We’ve seen unpredicted interest in unseating Mike Coffman, and I’ve been in conversations with a lot of people in different stages of deciding if they’re going to run. I don’t know if they’ll all run in the end or not. But there’s an intense commitment on behalf of community to replace Coffman,” Carroll said. “I feel like the Democrats will have a good chance not only with this seat but others as well (in 2018).”

Fields was not immediately available for comment.

Carroll said a contested primary could be good for the party as long as Democratic candidates ran the right type of race against their fellow party members.

“It really depends on how people run their primary races. Sometimes it’s simpler with there’s only one candidate,” Carroll said. “On other hand, the fact that there’s such a strong interest from every sector of the community to replace Mike Coffman means there’s a lot of energy, and multiple candidates in the race could drive turnout up and energize the grassroots of the party.”

“It does depend on how those primary campaigns are run on whether it will be harder for everyone to come together around one candidate after the primary is over,” Carroll said.