Election 2018News

Trail Mix: The road to Colorado’s 2018 election, March 25 edition

Author: Ernest Luning - March 25, 2018 - Updated: April 6, 2018

Colorado lawsThe Colorado Capitol (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

A majority runs through it … Before U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman dropped to the floor at an Aurora restaurant last Sunday for his birthday pushups — 63 of them, one for each of his years on this planet — his fellow Republican George Brauchler ribbed Coffman about his age and whether or not the Marines perform authentic pushups the way they do in the Army. But first, Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney and the GOP candidate for attorney general, talked  about Coffman’s congressional district and the stakes involved in his bid for a sixth term.

This all took place at Coffman’s 63rd birthday party, a fundraiser held, as has become the tradition, at Salvage Steakhouse — as the venerable Aurora Summit was renamed last fall after changing hands.

Brauchler recalled growing up in the 6th Congressional District, which Coffman has represented since 2008, but which once covered the southwest metro area before its boundaries were redrawn several times in a series of changes due to redistricting.

“We have seen that thing shift over time,” Brauchler told the several dozen Coffman supporters at the party. “It went from Dan Schaefer over to Tom Tancredo. Every time there’s a shot at redistricting, they try to draw this thing so competitively — and by competitively, I mean so it favors the Dems — but there’s one guy who consents to stand up and fight and win every single time.”

Since Coffman was elected twice to the solidly Republican seat, it was redrawn before the 2012 election into a district with an equal number of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters and is considered one of the country’s most evenly divided seats. Last election, for instance, Democrat Hillary Clinton won it by about 9 points at the same time Coffman defeated Democrat Morgan Carroll by about 7 points — after what turned out to be one of the most expensive and hard-fought congressional races in the country.

“It doesn’t matter who they throw at him,” Brauchler said. “They can throw anyone with any amount of money, and the guy just seems to widen the gap every single year. But I don’t want us to take that for granted. This year is particularly competitive. Now, they have decided that maybe the fact that Mike Coffman has served his country overseas and here in uniform, maybe that’s a fact they can out-do with their own veteran.” (Attorney and Army Ranger combat veteran Jason Crow is one of four Democrats running for the seat.)

“This is as serious a fight as Congressman Coffman has ever been in. I’m going to tell you, if we don’t hold this seat, I don’t think we’re ever getting it back. There isn’t anybody else who can do what Congressman Coffman has done, in terms of the outreach to underserved parts of the community, his ability and willingness to get all over,” Brauchler said. “I will tell you, if the Democrats take this seat, it is going to remain a Democrat seat, and that is why it is crucial that we find a way to send Congressman Mike Coffman back to Washington, D.C. That is a big deal.”

Coffman picked up the same theme when he took the microphone.

“This race, really in my view, will settle whether or not Nancy Pelosi is going to be the next speaker of the House,” he said. “It really runs through this district. If (Democrats) win the majority, the gains that we’ve made on the economy through regulatory reform, though tax reform — the gains that we’ve made in terms of rebuilding our military, to make sure that we’ve got the best-led, the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world, will be reversed. So much hinges on this.”

About those pushups … After impressing upon his supporters the gravity of his race, Coffman turned to the pushups, but first he noted that he’s an Army and Marine Corps veteran — and is the only member of Congress to have served in both the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

Brauchler, a colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard, made a joke about Coffman’s transition from the Army to the Marines and then challenged Coffman to do his 63 pushups — “but not those Tyrannosaurus Marines pushups,” he said.

And at that, a smiling Coffman challenged the much-younger Brauchler, in turn, to do the same. The two dropped to the restaurant floor and, as the crowd kept count, knocked out their pushups. After that, the crowd serenaded Coffman, and, looking only a bit winded, the birthday boy blew out the candles on his birthday cake.

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.