CongressElection 2018News

Democrat David Aarestad suspends congressional campaign, endorses primary rival Jason Crow

Author: Ernest Luning - March 20, 2018 - Updated: March 27, 2018

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Aurora attorney David Aarestad is one of four Democrats challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in the 2018 election. (Courtesy David Aarestad)

DENVER — David Aarestad is pulling out of the Democratic race in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District Tuesday and endorsing primary rival Jason Crow, saying the Army veteran has the best chance of unseating five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, the Republican incumbent, Colorado Politics has learned.

The Aurora attorney said he decided to end the campaign he launched last April when it became clear he couldn’t raise the money to keep it going.

“It’s about dollars. It’s really tough to find a way to run for Congress unless you have ties to a lot of money. Ties to your neighbors and the community aren’t what they used to be,” Aarestad said in an interview. “Money is necessary but not sufficient to win these elections,” he added. “It is, nonetheless, necessary.”

Aarestad reported contributions of around $122,000 through the end of December and estimated he pulled in less than $10,000 since then. “It fell off a cliff in February,” he said.

By comparison, Crow’s campaign said the Democrat surpassed the $1 million mark in fundraising sometime last week, and Coffman reported raising roughly $1.28 million through 2017.

Aarestad said he decided to endorse Crow because he “thought it was time we unify behind one candidate who has the best shot against Coffman.”

“Jason has maintained a strong message of family and community throughout the race,” Aarestad wrote in a letter to supporters he planned to post to Facebook Tuesday morning. “I have had an opportunity to hear him speak many times over the last year and he has remained unflappable and unswerving in the face of personal attacks. He has the resources, commitment and drive necessary to flip the seat. Additionally, he has a willingness to listen, amend his views and serve this community that we have been lacking for so many years.”

Other Democrats running are clean energy expert Levi Tillemann, activist Erik Stanger and pharmaceutical sales rep Jennifer Diffendal, who threw her hat in earlier this month.

Aarestad, whose campaign was initially motivated by Coffman’s position on repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, said he will co-chair a health care advisory committee for Crow

“Keep in mind, the goal of this campaign was to beat Mike Coffman, not to beat Crow or Tillemann,” Aarestad told Colorado Politics. “Since I didn’t have the money to get me out there in front of the hundreds of thousands of people here in the district, then my goal of beating Coffman did not seem achievable. So I had to step aside and throw my support behind someone I thought had a better shot of that.”

“I think this is a great year to unseat Mike Coffman,” Aarestad added.

“Coffman’s never had to run for reelection with a Republican in the White House,” Aarestad said. “One of his talking points is that we need a balance, and last year” — when Coffman defeated former Senate President Morgan Carroll by more than 7 points — “everyone though Democrats were going to win the Senate and White House, so a vote for Coffman was a vote for divided government. That won’t be true this year.”

Aarestad, who lost a run for the Cherry Creek School Board in 2015, said he is considering running for something else — maybe something that didn’t require as much fundraising — in the future.

He said he was disappointed he wouldn’t be able to campaign on a couple of gun safety proposals he’d recently come up with — make the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives a presidential appointment rather than subject to Senate confirmation, since there’s only been one director confirmed since the law changed last decade; and reassign immigration agents to take guns away from domestic violence perpetrators, as a seldom enforced federal law requires.

Voter registration in the district is nearly evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. It covers parts of Adams County, Aurora, the more densely populated areas in eastern Arapahoe County and slice of Douglas County, including Highlands Ranch.

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.