Coffman loses GOP seat in Colorado

Coffman loses GOP seat in Colorado
© Greg Nash

Democrat Jason Crow on Tuesday unseated Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.) in a suburban Colorado district the Democrats have targeted for the better part of the last decade.

The victory was not a surprise — election handicappers had deemed Coffman among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, and the National Republican Campaign Committee had pulled money from the district several weeks ago. But it was seen as crucial to the Democrats’ chances of seizing the House after eight years in the minority. 

Crow, an attorney and former Army Ranger, was among the long list of military veterans Democrats recruited this cycle. And the district, encompassing Denver’s near suburbs, was exactly the kind of terrain where Democrats had hoped to make inroads — particularly among female voters — in the age of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE.

Although national Democratic leaders had encouraged candidates to avoid making the elections about the mercurial president, Crow ignored the advice and sought to tie Coffman to Trump at every turn. 

Crow also went after Coffman on gun reform — a prominent issue in a district that was home to the 2012 Aurora shooting massacre. 

Coffman pushed back hard, portraying himself as a fiercely independent voice in an otherwise partisan Washington. He touted his membership in the Problem Solvers Caucus as evidence of a willingness to cross party lines for the sake of getting things done. 

It wasn’t enough.

Heading into the polls, Crow had a steep money advantage, raising $5.1 million for the cycle, versus Coffman’s $3.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

Crow, who received a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, may also have benefited from controversial ads, run by a leading GOP superPAC, portraying him as neglectful of district veterans. The ads were widely panned by independent fact-checkers, and protesters descended on Coffman’s office demanding they be abandoned. 

Crow’s victory highlights the changing demographics of Colorado’s 6th District. Once a conservative stronghold, the district was redrawn in 2010, creating more favorable terrain for the Democrats. Indeed, former President Obama won the district by five points in 2012, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE, the Democratic nominee, swept it by nine points two years ago. 

Through it all, Coffman, Colorado’s former secretary of state, had managed to keep his seat for five terms in the face of heavy targeting by Democrats. In 2016, despite Clinton’s strong showing, he won by more than eight points. 

Hoping to prove his bipartisan bonafides this cycle, Coffman had bucked GOP leaders on immigration reform — a leading topic in a district where 14 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic. 

Last year, Coffman joined forces with Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezDHS to make migrants wait in Mexico while asylum claims processed Coffman loses GOP seat in Colorado Trump changes mean only wealthy immigrants may apply, says critic MORE (D-Ill.), a liberal immigrant rights advocate, on legislation to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after President Trump attempted to scrap the initiative. More recently, he was among the more than 20 moderate Republicans who signed onto a discharge petition to force legislation protecting DACA to the floor. 

The strategy failed, however, in the face of conservative opposition, putting Coffman in a tough spot to make the case that Republicans are the party to fix the nation’s defective immigration system. 

Outside groups spent lavishly in the district, pouring $16.2 million into the race to make it the 10th most expensive House contest in the country this year, according to CRP figures.