The outcome of Aurora’s 6th Congressional District race in 2016 could prove a bellwether in a swing district almost evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and that is also the state’s most ethnically diverse. Former Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll is facing longtime Republican incumbent Mike Coffman for the seat.
Stretching from Thornton and Brighton in the north, down through Aurora, and touching Littleton, Centennial, Greenwood Village, and Highlands Ranch in the South, the 6th Congressional District is one of the most racially diverse districts in Colorado. It is home to nearly 800,000 people, and includes portions of Arapahoe, Adams, and Douglas Counties. Nearly 50,000 veterans live within the district.
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By RACHEL SAPIN, Staff writer
Longtime Democratic state senator in tough race against incumbent congressional veteran in CD6
The outcome of Aurora’s 6th Congressional District race in 2016 could prove a bellwether in a swing district almost evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and that is also the state’s most ethnically diverse.
Former Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll is facing longtime Republican incumbent Mike Coffman for the seat.
Carroll said she would best describe herself as a populist, with a focus on how leaders in Washington, D.C., have not fixed middle-class issues such as soaring student loan debt, affordable healthcare, immigration reform and affordable higher-education opportunities. She said she has and always will side with the everyday residents in the district versus larger, monied interests.
The campaign sounds similar to the one Andrew Romanoff mounted against Coffman in 2014 in a race that was predicted to be one of the country’s most-competitive. It wasn’t. Coffman won re-election over the former Colorado House Speaker by 9 percent. Carroll said she expects this campaign to cost as much or more as in 2014, as both parties work to gain seats in Congress.
Carroll has seen a host of fierce legislative battles while serving in the statehouse. She worked on legislation to regulate the way homeowners associations operate in the state and played a critical role in passing gun control laws that mandated criminal background checks and put limits on the size of ammunition magazines. Carroll also led a state fight to corral the health insurance, developer and workers’ compensation insurance industries. She said those battles would serve her well in a Congress defined by stalemate and controlling big interests.
Carroll already has the support of high-profile D.C.-based organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Both campaigns have slung mud at each other over individual contributions. Carroll’s campaign has been tying Coffman to the Koch brothers, who have donated to his campaign through KOCHPAC. Coffman’s campaign also received a boost from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, which has launched a six-figure effort to campaign against Carroll.
Carroll said when it comes to immigration, she supports comprehensive immigration reform. Coffman said he supports specific paths to citizenship, such as his Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, a proposal that would allow undocumented minors a path to citizenship through the military.
The candidates also have different views on abortion. Last year, Coffman voted to defund Planned Parenthood, citing undercover footage of Planned Parenthood that months later found no wrongdoing by the abortion provider.
Carroll said she is pro-choice and she has been endorsed by pro-choice women’s organizations such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Emily’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado in this race.
Carroll’s opponent has had his own supporters. Coffman was first elected to CD6 in 2008 after the retirement of former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and he has since been able to hold onto the district, even after it was redrawn in 2011 to include most of Aurora and many more Democrats. In addition to defeating Romanoff in 2014, Coffman won over Democratic nominee Joe Miklosi by 2 percent in 2012.
Coffman, an Army and Marine Corps veteran, largely focuses on issues affecting veterans and the military. He said VA leadership is to blame for ongoing problems with veterans receiving adequate healthcare.
Two years ago, the congressman led the charge in demanding then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resign following information that revealed the veterans’ replacement hospital in Aurora was millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
A former state legislator, state treasurer and secretary of state, Coffman has worked to soften his reputation for being a staunch conservative, which appealed to the majority of conservative constituents in his former district.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Morgan Carroll’s biography“]
Morgan Carroll has represented Aurora for the past 12 years in the state Legislature, including previously serving as Senate Minority Leader.
Working her way up to leadership positions in the both the state House and Senate, she became Senate president as Democratic Majority Leader in 2013. Her career has focused on many measures protecting the rights of individual homeowners or residents at the expense of developers, homeowner associations, employers and government agencies. She said that mission has been her life’s work.
Carroll is a graduate of CU Denver and CU School of Law.
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Mike Coffman is a U.S. Army and Marine Corps veteran and former small business owner in Aurora that has served his state and country since enlisting at age 17.
The son of a career soldier who grew up in the working class neighborhoods of Aurora, in 1972 Mike dropped out of high school to join the Army, later earning a high school diploma and attending the University of Colorado on the G.I. Bill.
Prior to graduating, he was able to take a leave of absence from the Army Reserve and the University of Colorado for one year to attend Vaishnav College in India and the University of Veracruz in Mexico.
After CU, Mike transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps where he became an infantry officer. In 1983, Mike Coffman came back to Colorado to start a property management business, which he sold in 2000.
He has previously served Colorado as a state legislator, the state treasurer and as the secretary of state.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Morgan Carroll’s issue questions and responses“]
Stipulating that Obamacare will not be repealed, what specifically would you want to change to improve it? Clearly, more work needs to be done to ensure that every Coloradan who gets sick can see a doctor. One of the biggest drivers of more expensive healthcare is the price of drugs, and the federal government needs to do more to keep these costs down through Medicare negotiations. We also need to increase oversight of insurance premiums, create a public option and consider better anti-trust laws against for-profit monopolies.
Stipulating that Obamacare will be repealed, what specifically would you do to instead? I do not believe that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed — not least because I fully expect that the next president will be a Democrat. However, a new healthcare bill should create a public option.
Would you agree with an effort to deport the approximately 11 million people who live here illegally? Many Colorado families have mixed immigration status and deporting undocumented people who have not been convicted of a violent crime would tear those families apart.
Would you vote for an immigration reform plan that includes some type of a “path to citizenship”? Yes, and that plan should include the DREAM Act.
Candidates have weighed in on preserving or dismantling the Department of Education. If you want to preserve it, how would you work to ensure state and local control of schools. If you want to dismantle it, what would you do to protect rights enforced by the Department of Education? One of the biggest risks to local control of schools is excessive testing requirements mandated by the federal government. We made good progress on this front under the new ESEA standards passed last year, which limited the number of tests that were imposed by No Child Left Behind. But there is still more work to be done to ensure that children are going to school and receiving instruction in the subject areas that are best going to prepare them for the 21st-century economy, and not simply being taught to take tests.
Recreational marijuana is a large and growing part of the Colorado economy, yet it’s frequently hamstrung by federal criminal drug laws. How can Colorado and other similar states persuade skeptical lawmakers to change laws to accommodate some states’ end of prohibition? In Colorado, we’ve seen the benefits of legalizing and taxing marijuana in helping to fund our public education system. We also understand that sending our young people to prison on minor marijuana charges has done little to curb drug use, and instead contributed to a growing civil rights problem, as young people of color are disproportionally punished with jail time over minor drug possession charges. In Washington, I will work with other members of Congress to help address this issue by showing them the model of what we’ve achieved here in Colorado.
Would you support or fight against the current effort to turn control of public federal lands in Colorado to the state? I would fight against any effort to sell our public lands.
Would you support an increase in the federal gas tax to increase cash for road and bridge construction? If not, what should Congress do to create more money for roads? I am open to a variety of options to increase funding for transportation.
Is global warming caused by human activity? What specifically should Congress do as a reaction to global warming? Science, not politics, should guide us here — and the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity. Congress must act to curb carbon emissions through better gas mileage standards, building efficiency codes and expanding support for renewable energy sources.
Should the United States close Guantanamo Bay prison? If so, what should be done with remaining prisoners? If not, how should their judicial status be resolved? Yes, the Guantanamo Bay prison is a risk to America’s moral standing around the world, and should be closed immediately. The prisoners should be processed through the federal court system, and if convicted placed in the most secure prison facilities available.
Would you recommend the next administration enforce or repeal the Iran nuclear proliferation pact Obama recently made with Iran? We are safer with nuclear inspections in Iran than without them. The nuclear deal, while imperfect, has eliminated Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in the near future, an important step towards achieving peace in this volatile region. We must, however, be vigilant in the enforcement of this deal.
Who, specifically, would you recommend to the U.S. Supreme Court? While Supreme Court nominations are the domain of the United States Senate, I believe that any nominee for the bench should firmly believe in protecting our personal freedoms, including a woman’s right to choose, and pledge to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision. Those might include Anita Hill, Jacqueline Nguyen and Sri Srinivasan.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mike Coffman’s issue questions and responses“]
Stipulating that Obamacare will not be repealed, what specifically would you want to change to improve it? Obamacare is not working. We were promised we could keep our health insurance if we liked it and we could not. We were promised premiums would decrease and they have not. What we have seen is a huge increase in cost, in deductibles, and a huge decrease in choice. According to the Colorado Division of Insurance, individual health care plan premiums will increase significantly in 2017 — by as much as 40 percent by one insurer. The bottom line: broken promises, penalties, rules, and red tape have made health insurance more expensive and worse for Coloradans.
Unlike my opponent, I absolutely oppose a single-payer, Canadian style option. We need to start over and implement reforms that are patient-centered and focus on reducing costs and improving quality.
For example, the fundamental goal of Obamacare was to extend health care coverage to those who were uninsured or underinsured. The best way to extend care to these groups is not what Obamacare really did but there is an alternative: For primary care, the local community health centers, such as Metro Community Providers Network (MCPN) here in Aurora, is a far better solution. These community health centers have been the safety net for the uninsured and the underinsured by providing health care on a sliding scale based on the ability to pay. Focusing on them as the primary care provider of first resort for those who otherwise do not have health insurance is where to start.
Stipulating that Obamacare will be repealed, what specifically would you do to instead? The goal of health care reform is to reduce costs and increase access. I believe the best way to accomplish these two goals goal is by putting individuals rather than government in charge their own health care.
The first and most important step is to “level the playing field” for the purchase of insurance. Making the purchase of health insurance by a business tax deductible but not for individuals is nonsense. A combination of thoughtful tax deductions and possibly even tax credits based upon people’s ability to pay will go a long way.
Key to this is allowing people to buy health plans that are actually tailored to their needs. Obamacare’s requirement that young healthy people have to buy plans no different than those for the elderly takes away consumer choice and is a major reason for the failure of Obamacare. States should be allowed the option of having a high-risk insurance pool to take care of individuals with pre-existing conditions rather that force everyone to have identical policies.
Next, in the instance of people who do not have the means to purchase health insurance, even with a tax incentive, we need to increase access and support for Community Health Centers such as the Metro Community Providers Network (MCPN) here in Aurora. These community health centers do an outstanding job of delivering cost-effective health care with high levels of customer satisfaction.
We can further promote price competition by allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines increasing competition among insurance companies.
Finally, and of no less importance: No reform plan would be complete without medical malpractice reform. We should not let trial lawyers continue to ruthlessly drive up the cost of our health care. States that have implemented medical malpractice reform have proven far more successful on medical cost containment than those that have not.
Would you agree with an effort to deport the approximately 11 million people who live here illegally? No. Donald Trump’s big talk about deporting all undocumented individuals is absurd, unworkable and out of touch with America and the Republican Party. If he’s elected, and tries to break-up families, he can expect a fight from me.
Would you vote for an immigration reform plan that includes some type of a “path to citizenship”? I would support a legal status but not a special path to citizenship for the adults who knowingly violated our immigration laws. I have been and will continue to be an outspoken proponent for reform. I have routinely and publicly stood up to my own my party to call for reform. Immigration reform is about securing our borders, growing our economy and keeping families together. Conversely, in 2009, my opponent Morgan Carroll cast the deciding vote to kill the DREAMer bill in the Colorado State Senate.
Specifically, on the question of a path to citizenship: I introduced the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act (H.R. 3698) in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill, if enacted, will permit DREAMers to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. Those who choose to do so would earn citizenship through their military service.
DREAMers are individuals who already have conditional immigration status and who consider this country their home. The bill extends to DREAMers the same life experiences that were afforded to me, my late father and countless others — the opportunity to serve with other Americans from every corner of our nation as one team toward a common goal: our nation’s security.
Earlier this year, I also co-sponsored the Recognizing American Children Act, which if enacted, will provide legal status and a path to Lawful Permanent Resident status for those currently eligible under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program is for individuals who were brought here as children, grew up here, went to school here and don’t know of any other country as home. If they can demonstrate their commitment to keeping a job or getting an education, or they enlist in the military, they can become lawful permanent residents and from there they can apply for citizenship.
Candidates have weighed in on preserving or dismantling the Department of Education. If you want to preserve it, how would you work to ensure state and local control of schools? If you want to dismantle it, what would you do to protect rights enforced by the Department of Education? I support having a limited federal role in public education, but I believe issues pertaining to public education are best left to parents and their locally-elected school boards and state legislatures. Unlike my opponent, I support parents and their right to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs whether it is a neighborhood school, like the ones I attended as a kid, or a charter school.
I also believe there are limited but important ways where our federal government can support our schools. For example, consider school safety. I am a member of the bipartisan Congressional School Safety Caucus. The School Safety Caucus brings together education, law enforcement, government and private sector leaders to discuss ways to protect our nation’s schools. In addition to joining the School Safety Caucus, I have already taken a number of actions to address this issue. Specifically, I have co-sponsored several bills to improve safety in our schools including the School Safety Act, the Mental Health First Aid Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Keeping our students safe must be a priority for everyone.
Recreational marijuana is a large and growing part of the Colorado economy, yet it’s frequently hamstrung by federal criminal drug laws. How can Colorado and other similar states persuade skeptical lawmakers to change laws to accommodate some states’ end of prohibition? I am not an advocate for recreational marijuana, but the fact remains that the voters of Colorado have spoken and it’s my job to make sure that federal laws comport with the will of the voters of Colorado. Specifically, I have been working to change financial regulations so that the marijuana industry can have access to the same financial services that any other business can have. I fear that by denying retailers the ability to use banks or credit unions forces them into being an “all cash” business, making them more prone to criminality and making it harder for government to collect taxes without the audit trail of a banking relationship.
Would you support or fight against the current effort to turn control of public federal lands in Colorado to the state? I support more state and local say in the use and protection of our public lands. The federal government too frequently ignores the local facts and specifics regarding the use and the protection of these lands. This knowledge resides in our states and our local communities, but too often federal bureaucrats disregard their input.
While local communities deserve greater say in the management of public lands, it is important also to note that our national parks, national forests and public lands serve important public purposes. The father of public land management in this country is a man I admire greatly, President Theodore Roosevelt. The balance he called for is one that should be embraced today — the public should enjoy the use of and access to our public lands and they must be protected for the benefit of future generations.
Would you support an increase in the federal gas tax to increase cash for road and bridge construction? If not, what should Congress do to create more money for roads? I do not support an increase in the federal motor fuel tax at this time. Our country’s growth and prosperity are tied to our transportation infrastructure, so I am a strong supporter of increased investment in our nation’s transportation system. Unfortunately, the federal government has not proven itself a very good steward of the tax dollars it collects from the motor fuel tax. Specifically, the motor fuel tax is essentially a user fee imposed upon those who drive on our nation’s roads, but nearly 25 percent of the funds appropriated by Congress go for non-highway uses.
The federal government has also, along with its funds, imposed such complex and byzantine rules on recipients of these dollars that way too much money goes into project development rather than highway construction. For these reasons, I think it far more efficient and effective for states rather than the federal government to take the lead on increased transportation infrastructure investment.
Is global warming caused by human activity? What specifically should Congress do as a reaction to global warming? Climate change is real. Exactly how much it is being caused by humans as opposed to occurring under natural processes is a matter for debate. But we don’t need to have conclusive agreement on all of the many causes of climate change to work toward balanced solutions that protect the environment without harming jobs. Technology has made clean energy abundant in the U.S. We should leverage these technologies and the energy resources they make available. These same technologies also reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, and lessen the likelihood of conflict in the future. The extreme environmentalists who oppose the development of these domestic energy sources — many of whom are strong supporters of Morgan Carroll — are flatly wrong, as a matter of energy policy, environmental policy, and of foreign policy.
Should the United States close Guantanamo Bay prison? If so, what should be done with remaining prisoners? If not, how should their judicial status be resolved? Unlike my opponent, I remain adamantly opposed to closing GTMO. These hardened terrorists are irregular enemy combatants who should be held at Guantanamo, and not in Colorado nor in any other state.
Like most Americans, I do not view terrorists and terrorist attacks as just another criminal justice problem or that these terrorists should be afforded all of the due process protections that bringing them onto U.S. soil may provide.
Finally, releasing enemy combatants or any attempt to close Guantanamo Bay will endanger those who do not prescribe the extreme ideologies of these detainees. In fact, as of March 2015, the Director of National Intelligence reported that 29 percent of detainees released from GTMO have engaged in or were suspected of engaging in terrorist or insurgent activity. Those who remain in GTMO are the “worst of the worst” so it is safe to presume that if released an even higher percentage of them will remain a threat to our national security.
Would you recommend the next administration enforce or repeal the Iran nuclear proliferation pact Obama recently made with Iran? I have been and remain an outspoken opponent of this agreement. I voted against it in October. Having served in the region with the U.S. Marine Corps, I know that when Iranian leaders chant “death to America,” they really mean it. This is a bad deal that will endanger our security and further destabilize the region.
The president believes that if Iran is diplomatically treated with the same trust and respect afforded to responsible governments that Iran will somehow suddenly begin to conduct its affair in a responsible and rational manner. I disagree. Based on my personal experiences in the Middle East, I know that the Iranian government cannot be trusted. Simply put, as long as Iran legitimizes state-sponsored terrorism, publicly states that Israel has no right to exist and continues to develop delivery systems that can target Israel (as well as its regional neighbors), that it cannot be trusted to negotiate and uphold, in good faith, an agreement to give up its quest for a nuclear arsenal.
If Hillary Clinton is elected and follows the same erratic and dangerous foreign policy as the current president, I will stand up to her every step of the way. ISIS isn’t the “JV team” and our president’s head-in-the-sand foreign policy makes us weaker and less safe.
Who, specifically, would you recommend to the U.S. Supreme Court? The United States House of Representatives has no constitutional role in this matter, but I would hope that the vacancy would be filled by someone who would uphold the balance of power between our legislative and executive branches of government.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Morgan Carroll’s personality questions and responses“]
What food do you hate most? Calamari.
Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Jody Foster.
What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Pole vaulting.
What was your favorite childhood candy? Hot Tamales.
If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The Selma to Montgomery march of 1965.
If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Boudica.
If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Danny Boy”
What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? “She lived a full life.”
Is a hot dog a sandwich? Yes.
What is the last concert you attended? Norah Jones.
What movie do you never tire of watching? “Contact”
Dogs or cats? Cats and dogs and horses and goats.
What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Cost of living.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Mike Coffman’s personality questions and responses“]
What food do you hate most? Kale.
Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Tom Cruise. He’s small but mighty and plays great action heroes.
What Olympic Sport do you wish you could win gold at? Too bad push-ups aren’t an Olympic sport. I would choose the decathlon.
What was your favorite childhood candy? I liked it all. My favorite candy right now is Enstrom’s toffee.
If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The Gettysburg Address.
If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Maverick. I’m not afraid to stand up to the leaders of both parties.
If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Marine Hymn”
What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? Semper Fidelis.
Is a hot dog a sandwich? No. A hot dog is in a class by itself.
What is the last concert you attended? Aurora’s own Colorado Korean Chorus’ 10th anniversary celebration.
What movie do you never tire of watching? The 1962 version of “300 Spartans.”
Dogs or cats? Dogs.
What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Nothing. I love Colorado.
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Morgan Carroll’s campaign finance“]
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mike Coffman’s campaign finance“]
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Morgan Carroll’s endorsements“]
[/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mike Coffman’s endorsements“]
Douglas- Dave Weaver
Douglas- Jill Repella
Arapahoe- Nancy Sharpe
Arapahoe- Nancy Doty
Arapahoe- Rod Bockenfeld
Adams- Jan Pawlowski
Adams- Erik Hanson
Steve Hogan- Aurora
Dick McLean- Brighton
Cathy Noon- Centennial
Heidi Williams- Thornton
Mike Waid- Parker
Ron Rakowsky- Greenwood Village
Bruce Beckman- Littleton
Log Cabin Republicans
National Tax Limitation Committee- Tax Fighter Award
Ethiopians for Coffman
No Labels- Problem Solver Seal of Approval
National Association of Realtors
Colorado Farm Bureau- Friend of Farm Bureau