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Politics and Government

In their final debate, Mike Coffman and Jason Crow touch on everything from campaign tactics and abortion to immigration

Coffman and Crow attacked each other over outside spending and personal integrity in the 30-minute, 9News face-off

Democrat Jason Crow, left, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, in this photo illustration. (Left photo by Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun. Right photo provided.)
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Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger, Jason Crow, faced off Tuesday night in their final 6th Congressional District race debate before Nov. 6, where the incumbent attempted to get the last word in about why voters should stick with him.

It was a relatively docile face-off, especially compared with the candidates’ last two debates. The earlier meetings were filled with personal attacks and some tense exchanges.

MORE: 6th Congressional District battle gets even more fiery — and personal — as Mike Coffman and Jason Crow kick off final election stretch with tense debate

Still, there was some interesting discussion about policy and campaign tactics on Tuesday that leaves the candidates heading into Election Day with plenty to talk about with voters.

Crow continued selling himself as the new voice Congress needs while Coffman highlighted his experience and willingness to push back against his party.

Here’s what you need to know about the debate, hosted by 9News:

Political Action Committee money

The 6th District race has fluctuated between being the most expensive and one of the most expensive contests across the U.S. over the past several weeks. That’s because massive amounts of super PAC spending — mostly on Crow’s behalf.

Crow challenged Coffman last year to join him in pledging to denounce PAC spending in the race. The Republican did not.

Moderators asked Crow why he isn’t telling those big-money groups to stay out of the race anyways if he is campaigning on getting those large funders out of politics?

“We need to do that together,” Crow said. “If we’re going to have a clean campaign that’s about the issues that are facing this community, we should be able to together come to an agreement and say: ‘Let’s lead by example. Let’s step up. Let’s campaign the right way.’”

(If one candidate decided to tell PACs not to spend in their race and the other didn’t there would be a massive imbalance.)

Coffman then went on the attack, accusing Crow of not keeping his vow not to personally accept corporate PAC money, repeating earlier statements that the leadership PAC money Crow has taken in — which comes from party members, unions, etc. — is essentially just corporate funds packaged differently.

“Will you give back those corporate PAC dollars to the corporations that you say you’re not taking?” Coffman asked.

Crow retorted: “Will you take a pledge not to take any corporate PAC money? You have taken almost $2 million. … There is only one person at this table that has taken corporate PAC money.”

Crow said that he doesn’t have control over what money other people take and reiterated that “I haven’t taken a dime of corporate PAC money.”

(9News fact-checked this exchange, and pointed out that “corporate PAC money does filter into the Crow campaign committee through other PACs that themselves accept corporate PAC money.”)

Accusations of dishonesty and integrity issues

In the last few debates — and occasionally before them — Coffman and Crow have used the words “dishonest” and “shameful,” among others, to describe each other. Both men are combat military veterans.

The moderators asked: Why?

Coffman went on to attack Crow’s record as a defense attorney at the massive Holland & Hart law firm. The Republican also pointed to Crow’s stance on PACs.

Crow said that Coffman hasn’t honored his service. (Coffman did recently thank Crow for his service in an Aurora debate, but in the same breath snarked “although I didn’t have a film crew,” an apparent dig at footage from Iraq and Afghanistan Crow has used in campaign ads.)

“His claims about my background and the attacks that he has levied against me during this campaign have been repeatedly called ‘false, dishonest’ even ‘shameful,’” Crow said.

MORE: Get to know Mike Coffman. Get to know Jason Crow.

On the immigrant caravan

Both Crow and Coffman were asked about the immigrant caravan approaching the U.S.-Mexico border and what should be done about them. The questions for each, however, were framed slightly differently.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Coffman said. “They are in fact fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. I support secure borders. … I do believe that we can address this problem by — right now there is a tremendous shortage of seasonal workers in the United States.”

Coffman was asked if he would welcome immigrants in the caravan to Aurora and the broader district, though the moderators did not specifically say if they meant welcoming them into the city if they were in the country legally or illegally.  The Republican said he would not.

“We are a nation of laws and we do have to fix our broken immigration system to recognize the laws that we have and we have laws relative to political asylum,” Coffman said.

(Coffman’s campaign said on Wednesday that if the immigrants in the caravan were granted asylum in the U.S. he would welcome them in the district — albeit not all at once because it would overwhelm local social services.)

Crow was then asked by the moderators if he would welcome the migrants into the 6th District if they meet the legal requirement for asylum. Crow said “yes.”

“We have to be working with Mexico right now to make sure we are addressing the humanitarian crisis component of this,” Crow said. “I would like to see those folks seek asylum in Mexico. … If they do reach the border, we should treat them the same as anyone seeking asylum. There is a legal standard for that.”

MORE: Mike Coffman vs. Jason Crow: Where the candidates stand on the issues, from Trump to immigration and health care to guns

Other takeaways

  • Both Coffman and Crow said they disagreed with the Trump administration’s move to allow states to offer some health insurance plans that bar people with preexisting conditions from enrolling.
  • Crow echoed his  previous statements that he would not support impeachment proceedings for Trump in Congress if he was a member today. “I don’t believe it’s appropriate right now to mix what is a political process — impeachment is a political process — with an ongoing law enforcement investigation,” he said.
  •  Crow also said that he wouldn’t support impeachment proceedings against newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying an ethics investigation into him remains ongoing.

MORE: A Denver-based appeals court is investigating ethics complaints against Brett Kavanaugh. Here’s why nothing will likely come from it.

  • Coffman said if he had a minute to speak with Trump tomorrow, he would tell him: “Let’s get immigration reform done. Let’s have a path to citizenship for the Dreamers. Let’s have a path to citizenship for those with Temporary Protected Status.”
  •  Crow was asked where he would break with Democratic leadership in the House if elected and said he disagreed with the Trans Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP. He also said he wants more investment in the military.
  • Coffman was asked about his stance on abortion and kept the answer short: “I’m pro-life. I believe in exceptions — rape, incest, life of the mother.” (Crow wasn’t asked a question on abortion, though he has said he supports a woman’s right to choose.)

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