DENVER (CN) – One of Colorado’s most conservative districts elected its first Democrat Tuesday night, with Jason Crow beating out five-term Republican Congressman Mike Coffman.
When he thanked his supporters, Crow also thanked his opponent.
“To be very clear, Mike Coffman and his supporters are not our enemies; this is politics, not war, and I will never stop trying to find common ground,” said Crow, a former Army Ranger.
Crow is the first Democrat to represent Colorado’s 6th District since the question mark-shaped congressional district was first drawn in 1983 to curve around eastern Denver, encompassing the suburbs of Aurora, Centennial and Brighton.
Coffman, a combat veteran who served in both Iraq wars, was the third Republican to represent the district, He first won the seat in 2009, following the retirement of conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo.
But in the decade since Coffman first took office, voting habits in the district shifted toward the center, and even lean left as more liberals and immigrants have settled into the Denver suburbs. Despite consistent outreach to his district’s diverse sub-communities, Coffman took the heat for the president’s anti-immigration policies and the fall of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s a wipe-out,” noted Steve, a lifelong Republican who declined to give his last name. “This solidifies that Colorado isn’t purple anymore. The state has changed and Republicans have to change with it. Republican policies are better than Democrats, but we don’t communicate that. We have to be fiscally responsible and socially progressive.”
Crow aimed to set a tone of inclusiveness in his concession speech.
“To this day when I think of America, the faces of those soldiers that I served with come to my mind,” Crow said. “They were from every background and every corner of the nation. They were black, white, Asian, Hispanic, some were straight, some were gay, and some weren’t citizens. I learned that America is great because we draw strengths from our diversity and we are at our best when we focus on what unites us and not what divides us.”
Voter Jeff Jeremiahs said the current national climate motivated him to vote.
“I generally don’t vote in the midterm but I saw this year as important,” Jeremiahs said after he completed his ballot at the Centerpoint Plaza in Aurora.
“If any good comes out of this, this is a test of American checks and balances system so that’s why I made a particular point to pick people who can check presidential power,” Jeremiahs, a Democrat, non-orthodox Jew and classic film buff, said, adding: “My biggest difficulty in voting today, I felt for Mike Coffman, but my overriding thing is healthcare. It’s not just about ourselves, we should care about our fellow citizens.”
Health care ranked highly among deciding factors for Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Marissa Aguilar, an active service member and a proud Broncos fan, said she first became aware of Coffman when the Affordable Care Act faced the chopping block in the first days of Trump’s presidency.
“I wasn’t familiar with Coffman until Trump came into office, and a big thing that changed my vote against him was the fact that when the Affordable Care Act came up and they were right across the street in the Aurora Public Library and people wanted to ask him questions,” Aguilar said. “He walked out without answering those questions that people who voted for him look for him to answer; when he walked out that was the deciding factor that he’s not here for the people.”
While Coffman was criticized by Democrats for pandering to Trump policy, he also came under fire from his own party for challenging the president.
“I have never been a Mike Coffman supporter after he came out as a critic,” said Weston Imer, the 15-year-old Republican supporter who co-chaired the 2016 Trump Campaign in Jefferson County.
Coffman’s campaign team a declined request for comment.
The 6th District is the only seat to flip in Colorado. Former congressman and Democrat Jason Polis will take over for Democrat John Hickenlooper as governor, and Democrat Jon Neguse will take Polis’ place in the 2nd District.
Three of the state’s districts remain steadfastly Republican.
Throughout the evening many Republican supporters watched the results, repeating the refrain “You get what you vote for.”
The state’s biggest win was its voter turnout.
Hours before polls closed across Colorado, a record 2.1 million ballots had already been cast in the midterm election – not far behind the 2.9 million cast in the 2016 presidential election. While the Democrats hold a 9,000-vote lead over registered Republicans, the unaffiliated voice of 639,000 voters ultimately decided the outcome of the election.