Democratic congressional candidate Jason Crow named to DCCC’s ‘Red to Blue’ program

Author: Ernest Luning - November 17, 2017 - Updated: November 18, 2017

Democrat Jason Crow is pictured in this undated photograph. The attorney and decorated combat veteran is challenging five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. (Photo courtesy Jason Crow)Democrat Jason Crow is pictured in this undated photograph. The attorney and decorated combat veteran is challenging five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. (Photo courtesy Jason Crow)

Jason Crow, one of three Democrats running for the chance to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District, was one of 11 candidates nationwide named this week to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which provides fundraising and organizational support in districts the party organization hopes to flip in next year’s midterm election.

Ben Ray Luján, the New Mexico congressman who chairs the DCCC, said Crow earned a spot in initial round of the competitive program by demonstrating he’s putting together a topnotch campaign. The DCCC tapped candidates who surpassed goals for grassroots engagement, local support, campaign organization and fundraising, a spokeswoman said. Crow, a Denver attorney and decorated Army veteran, also qualified because he’s got a record of service, a message that connects with district voters and deep ties to the community, the DCCC said.

The designation isn’t an endorsement, a DCCC spokeswoman stressed, but is meant to help boost campaigns that are already operating at the top of their game. Landing a spot on the list can alert outside groups that the candidates are good investments, a Democratic strategist said.

“Former Army Ranger Jason Crow has never shied away from a tough fight,” Luján said in a statement. “He’s made it his mission to solve big problems for his community and helped lead the charge to bring the Veterans Medical Center to Aurora. I have profound respect for American heroes like Crow who volunteered to wear the uniform and serve our country. Jason is ready to unseat Mike Coffman in a year when Coloradans are ready for change.”

Crow welcomed the designation.

“From day one, this campaign has been about building a big tent,” he said in a statement, listing numerous endorsements he’s received, including nods from state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, former Gov. Bill Ritter, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and a slew of Adams and Arapahoe county commissioners.

“I’ve spent my life putting words into action and I’m honored to have the support of more folks who will help us bring change to the 6th district,” Crow continued. “Last Tuesday proved that the momentum is in our favor and with a year out, that momentum is just beginning.”

One of Crow’s primary opponents, however, slammed the DCCC for getting involved with one Democratic candidate while giving a cold shoulder to the others.

Levi Tillemann, a clean energy expert and former Obama administration official, said the results of last week’s election — including sweeping wins by Democrats in swing states and in longstanding Republican-held districts across the country — make it clear that voters in Colorado’s 6th District are ready to elect a Democrat, something they’ve never done.

“You saw a slate of progressive school board members and a number of strong, progressive city council members elected,” Tillemann told Colorado Politics, referring to election results in Aurora and Douglas County — both parts of the 6th District. “This is a red-to-blue district, it’s been a red-to-blue district. The question is how we can actually flip the 6th in 2018.

“Let’s be honest. The DNC has put its finger on the scale before voters even have had a chance to meet the candidates. We’ve seen what happened when the DNC gets involved in primaries, and it’s not pretty. I’d suggest they let the Democrats vote rather than seeking to inflict their will on the voters of Colorado.”

While the DCCC insists it maintains strict neutrality in races with contested primaries — “provid[ing] support to all Democratic House candidates willing to have open lines of communication and work collaboratively with the Committee,” a spokesperson said in a statement — skeptics made hay when it turned out that leadership PACs run by Luján and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democrats’ No. 2 leader, both donated to Crow’s campaign earlier this year but not to his primary opponents.

The spokesman for the DCCC’s GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, got in a similar dig at the party organization by invoking wounds still raw after last year’s presidential primary.

“Just like Hillary did to Bernie, the Democratic establishment rigging this primary against Levi Tillemann is a powder keg waiting to blow,” said Jack Pandol, the regional press secretary for the NRCC. “For every dollar Jason Crow accepts from Pelosi and her establishment cronies, he’ll need many more to distance himself from her toxic unpopularity.”

Republicans, including Coffman, have made a habit of tying former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Democrats running in the 6th District, although Democrats — and some conservative Republicans — are quick to point out that recent polling shows Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is as “toxic” with voters as Pelosi was at the depths of her unpopularity in 2010, when Democrats lost control of the House.

A spokesperson for the third Democrat in the primary, Aurora attorney David Aarestad, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Coffman’s 2016 challenger, former Senate President Morgan Carroll, was among the candidates named in the “Red to Blue” program’s initial round in the last election, although that didn’t happen until mid-February, three months further into the cycle than this year’s announcement. She lost to Coffman but was elected to chair the state Democratic Party earlier this year.

The DCCC, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, is targeting a record 91 congressional districts — 23 of them won by Democrat Hillary Clinton but held by Republicans, including Coffman’s seat — and has been racking up impressive fundraising totals numbers this year. The group reported Thursday that it brought in $7.68 million in October, its best-ever haul for an October in non-election year. It’s raised $89 million so far in 2017 — far ahead of the $57 million raised through October in 2015.

The NRCC has its own, similar program, the “Young Guns,” and last month named 31 candidates to the first level, known as “On the Radar” candidates. None are in Colorado.

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.