Three things we learned from the Rep. Coffman-Crow debate in Denver, which shows the incumbent isn’t done yet

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow are locked in one of the most-watched congressional races in the country.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (right) sits next to to Jason Crow (middle) while Univision Colorado Anchor Juan Carlos Gutierrez looks at notes before the start of a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (right) sits next to to Jason Crow (middle) while Univision Colorado Anchor Juan Carlos Gutierrez looks at notes before the start of a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

It’s pretty clear the fight between Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger Jason Crow will go to the twelfth round. There will be no knockout punches or TKOs.

Although, some people may have characterized last week’s news as a devastating haymaker: The National Republican Congressional Committee canceled advertising buys on Coffman’s campaign and shift them to another race. It was the second time a national PAC pulled money from Coffman’s campaign.

But on Monday inside a studio in Denver, we got a glimpse at why Coffman is currently 5-0 against Democrats. Coffman started off a little shaky before matching the younger Crow’s confident and self-assured responses to several questions during a Spanish-language debate moderated by Univision Colorado. The two even had a few exchanges, calling each other out while avoiding outright yelling.

The debate was organized with Mi Familia Vota (which Coffman’s campaign accused of being partisan), Politica Ya and USA Tu Poder. The questions were asked in English and Spanish, while the candidates responded in English. Coffman flexed his Spanish by initially asking if he had to answer in English or Spanish. He gave his closing remarks in Spanish.

The odds are seemingly falling in Crow’s favor, but — okay, last boxing metaphor — Coffman is not going to throw in the towel. We won’t know the winner until Nov. 6.

Here are three things we learned from Monday’s debate between Coffman and Crow, which tackled several local, national and international policies. The debate was moderated by Univision Colorado anchors Juan Carlos Gutierrez and Karen Vega. Each received about a minute to respond to questions.

Healthcare is a concern for both, but neither offered a ton of details about how they would address rising costs.

Coffman famously voted against the Republican healthcare bill passed in 2017 due to issues with how it handled pre-existing conditions. He said he supported community healthcare clinics, including eight in Aurora and two more in Adams County.

He wants to work to make more people eligible for programs like Medicaid and Medicare and wants to bring overall costs down, especially since rate have recently increased nationally.

“I think, obviously, affordable healthcare is very important,” Coffman said.

Crow said nobody in this country should die or go bankrupt because they can’t afford quality healthcare. He called out Coffman on his votes against the Affordable Care Act.

Jason Crow, the Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, during a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Jason Crow, the Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, during a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

“We need a Congress that’s willing to stand up to Donald Trump, not vote with him 96 percent of the time to protect our healthcare and also continue to fight to make it more affordable and more available to our families and our communities,” Crow said.

A follow-up question replacing the Affordable Care Act was missed by Crow, who said the translations didn’t work. He continued to speak about the importance of having a congress that would hold Trump’s administration accountable and not repealing protection on pre-existing conditions.

“I believe that we can do better than the Affordable Care Act,” Coffman said.“The deductibles are very high. I think there needs to be a number of changes.”

Coffman added that people with pre-existing condition must be protected. He believes costs can be lowered by taxing insurance products and using the money for a fund helping people with pre-existing conditions.

The two were asked about how they would help veterans in Colorado.

Both Coffman and Crow are veterans. Crow said he’s volunteered to care for his fellow veterans and their benefits after leaving the service about 10 years ago. He said he’s helped expand benefits for veterans experiencing homelessness or need substance use treatment.

The discussion quickly turned into a discussion over the long-delayed VA Hospital in Aurora. Crow said there aren’t enough primary-care beds and is understaffed.

“We need to continue to focus on keeping our obligation, but we also need to have to complete the (VA) hospital here in Aurora,” Crow said. “It’s still not done, it’s still not fully staffed.”

Crow said the VA hospital’s delay happened under Coffman’s watch. Crow said there needs to be someone in Congress who can help get the hospital fully-staffed to provide proper services.

Coffman said in response that the project would not have been completed without his leadership.

“What I did was in January 2013 I became the congressman for that, where the hospital is, and I joined the VA committee at that time,” Coffman said. He said he noticed issues like poor design and out-of-control costs.

He credited the Army Corp of Engineers for successfully completing the project and said he stood up to the VA, adding Crow hasn’t stood up to his party on behalf of veterans. He said he’s also supported veterans court.

“What I’ve done is provided leadership as a Marine Corps combat veteran to change the laws, for instance, passing the law that gives mental health benefits to veterans that come back in less than honorable discharges,” Coffman said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman speaks during a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman speaks during a debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Both candidates support the inclusion of transgender troops in the military. President Trump earlier this year endorsed a policy banning certain transgender people from joining the military; the policy is currently being assessed in court.

On climate change, both candidates believe the government has a role in helping avoid a national disaster.

The moderators referenced the United Nations report issued earlier this month that painted a grim future of earth due to climate change. The report warned the effects of climate change could begin causing major impacts by 2040.

Coffman said he believes the government does have a responsibility to help avoid such catastrophic disaster. He received an award in August for his work in supporting renewable energy and this month introduced the Fair Environmental Trade Agreements Act.

He said he’s added he’s been a strong advocate for renewable energy. He thinks all trade agreements should have environmental clauses in them.

“The United States has made extraordinary gains in the use of carbon emission,” Coffman said. “We are down 42 percent from our 2005 levels, primarily due to cleaner-burning natural gas.”

Crow called the report “deeply disturbing.” He said people with kids especially understand they will end up handing over a plane that looks different than the one parent’s inherited unless something is done.

“That’s why we need members of Congress who will enforce the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, who will call for us to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords,” Crows said.

What to hear more from them?

The two will take part in their final debate on Tuesday on 9News. It will stream live starting at 7 p.m. on 9News.com.

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election 2018