CongressElection 2018News

Rep. Coffman fends off primary challenge in Colorado’s swing 6th District

Author: Ernest Luning - April 8, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman thanks the crowd after Republican Roger Edwards failed to win a spot on the primary ballot at the 6th Congressional District GOP assembly on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Hinkley High School in Aurora. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman at the 6th Congressional District GOP assembly on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Hinkley High School in Aurora. (Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, held off a challenge Saturday at the GOP’s 6th Congressional District assembly from Roger Edwards, a conservative activist who criticized the five-term incumbent’s moderate positions and attempts to distance himself from President Donald Trump.

Coffman’s supporters, however, cheered their candidate, who has won an unbroken string of elections since the late 1980s, as the only Republican who can keep the battleground 6th District seat in GOP hands.

Republican delegates to the district assembly at Hinkley High School in Aurora delivered 76 percent of the vote to Coffman, leaving Edwards shy of the 30 percent required to win a spot on the June primary ballot.

Democrats have yet to settle on a candidate for the seat in a district that’s nearly evenly divided politically, and which ranks high on the party’s list of targeted districts.

After the results were announced, Coffman credited Edwards for his passion and courage but turned his attention to the fall.

“The path to (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi becoming the next speaker runs through this district,” Coffman said. “They are coming at us again. If Pelosi becomes the speaker, further tax reform is gone, our push to rebuild the military (is) over, (and) all those Obama-era regulations (are) back with a vengeance.”

He added, “Together, we can win this race.”

Coffman, an Army and Marine Corps veteran and regular critic of leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs — he claimed victory last week after Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin, something Coffman had been urging — praised Trump for assembling an “extraordinary national security team,” pointing to the president naming Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state and John Bolton as national security advisor.

Edwards, a business owner and Vietnam veteran, launched his campaign last fall ripping Coffman’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act after years of campaigning on promises to overturn the law, known as Obamacare.

In his speech at the assembly, Edwards blasted suggestions that Coffman’s less strident positions — including his support for a path to citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country illegally — were necessary to win in the district.

“Establishment Republicans tell me, ‘Mike has to vote that way to get elected.’ No, he does not. Each time Mike votes that way, conservatism is pushed to the sideline, (and) liberalism, socialism and communism is advanced,” Edwards said.

He later added, “Perhaps if he had focused his energy on supporting conservatism, he wouldn’t need to worry about a primary.”

The results were delayed for more than an hour when assembly officials determined that some ballots might have been distributed in error. But both candidates agreed that any problems wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

On Saturday after he learned his campaign was over, Edwards told Colorado Politics he was proud of the race he’d run.

“My effort was to give a voice to conservatives, and if the conservatives don’t turn out, for whatever reason, they don’t turn out,” he said. “It wasn’t like they didn’t have a chance to vote for somebody who represented conservative values. We fought the best we could, and we were short.”

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. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.