Hot Sheet

As Levi Tillemann enters 6th Congressional District primary, national Republicans gleefully stoke Democratic divisions

Author: Ernest Luning - June 28, 2017 - Updated: June 28, 2017

Hillary-Bernie-W.jpg
In this file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, during a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, where Sanders endorsed her for president. (AP File Photo/Jim Cole)In this file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, during a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, where Sanders endorsed her for president. (AP File Photo/Jim Cole)

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday rolled out the red carpet to welcome Democrat Levi Tillemann into an already crowded primary race for the chance to challenge GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

Sounding positively gleeful, NRCC regional spokesman Jack Pandol used the occasion to invoke tried-and-true GOP bogeyman Nancy Pelosi — naming her five times in 10 sentences — and mock early Democratic frontrunner Jason Crow, even throwing in the still-tender rift between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters for good measure.

Tillemann, a former Obama administration energy official and scion of two pioneering political families, told Colorado Politics on Tuesday night that he’s making his candidacy official on July 9 after exploring whether to run for about a month and a half.

Under the headline “Crestfallen,” Pandol expressed sympathy for Crow while stoking what could turn into a spirited primary contest.

“Poor Jason Crow,” Pandol wrote in an email to reporters. (The links are ones he included.) “Nancy Pelosi & the DCCC wooed him into the race for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District against battle-tested Congressman Mike Coffman. We’re sure they made him big promises to get him in. Alas, noted Bernie Sanders supporter Levi Tillemann apparently didn’t get the memo that Crow is Pelosi’s hand-picked candidate. Tillemann announced today that he’s running against Crow in the Democratic primary, setting up a contentious and divisive Pelosi-Sanders proxy contest in Colorado.”

Tillemann, for his part, told Colorado Politics he initially supported Sanders last year but got behind Clinton once it was clear she’d won the nomination. “I was the opposite of Bernie-or-bust,” Tillemann said. “To me, the most important thing was to beat Donald Trump.”

But Pandol doesn’t appear to have been interested in nuance.

“Did Nancy Pelosi sign off on Tillemann’s run?” he asked. “Why couldn’t she clear the field for her hand-picked candidate? These important questions need answering!”

Pandol’s counterpart across the aisle, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee regional spokeswoman Rachel Irwin, was having none of it and declined to take the bait.

“Mike Coffman’s record speaks loud and clear, especially when it comes to his record of voting more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We fully expect to have a strong candidate to challenge Coffman in 2018,” she told Colorado Politics.

Both the Coffman campaign and the NRCC have been hammering Crow since he got in the race this spring, charging he was recruited by the DCCC and is one of the Democrats’ pre-fab candidates stood up to take on potentially vulnerable Republicans across the country. But, while Crow acknowledges he has attended a DCCC training session, he says he got in touch with them when he was first considering a run, not the other way around.

In a separate statement to Colorado Politics, Pandol didn’t mention that Crow and Tillemann are just half of a four-candidate primary field, also including Aurora attorney and former Cherry Creek School District board candidate David Aarestad and Gabriel McArthur, who attended last year’s Democratic National Convention as a Bernie Sanders delegate. Instead, he sang Coffman’s praises, got in another swipe at Crow and brought up Pelosi yet again.

“Levi Tillemann apparently didn’t get the memo that Jason Crow is Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked candidate in Colorado,” Pandol said. “While these two slog through a contentious, divisive, and expensive Democratic primary, Mike Coffman will continue doing what Coloradans have entrusted him to – fighting for families and jobs, and getting things done.”

— Ernest.Luning@coloradopolitics.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *