Saying he was moved to run when U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman endorsed the GOP replacement to Obamacare, Democrat David Aarestad announced Thursday he’s challenging the five-term Republican in next year’s election.
The Aurora attorney is the second Democrat to launch a campaign in the 6th Congressional District, joining Army combat veteran Jason Crow, a Denver attorney, who declared last week that he’s running.
“I am a candidate for Congress because families in this district NEED a representative who understands their struggles and works to solve the problems they face,” Aarestad said in a statement.
“I decided to run after hearing Congressman Coffman endorse Trumpcare. I was appalled by his decision because I understand personally how harmful Trumpcare would be to families throughout this district, this great state and this incredible country,” he said.
Aarestad, who stresses that he lives in the 6th District and grew up there — Crow lives a few blocks west of district boundaries in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood — ran for a seat on the Cherry Creek School District board two years ago, coming in second in a crowded field. He’s a 1986 graduate of Overland High School
He said Coffman’s stance on the Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act drove home the importance of defending Obamacare because the law helps protect his family from ruin.
“Hearing of Congressman Coffman’s support of Trumpcare took me back to when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, my son was five months old and my daughter was two years old,” Aarestad said. “We did not know what the next few months would bring. Would my children grow up knowing their mother? If I lost my job, how long could I afford COBRA? My wife would be either in cancer treatment or a cancer survivor, so any lapse in coverage and what would we have? My daughter has Down syndrome, so we depend on our health insurance. What would happen to her?”
Aarestad ripped Coffman for voting with President Trump’s young administration 96 percent of the time and for being the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to say he supported the American Health Care Act before House Republican leaders sidelined the legislation for lack of GOP support.
“My family’s story is not unique,” Aarestad said. “Many many other families in this district and state have also fought cancer and juggled the challenges of raising great children while needing two incomes to pay the bills. Obamacare expanded necessary care to tens of thousands of families like mine in our district who need health care coverage to keep their kids, parents and spouses alive and thriving.”
Coffman won reelection in November by a wide margin to represent the Aurora-based seat, one of 23 congressional districts nationwide carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton but represented by Republicans. Clinton won the district by about 9 points, while Coffman defeated former Senate President Morgan Carroll, who was elected state chair of the Colorado Democrats last month, by 7.3 points.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the campaign arm of the House Democrats — included Coffman on a list of target incumbents earlier this year, but his campaign team scoffed at the prospect, pointing out that the Army and Marine Corps veteran has dispatched increasingly high-profile Democratic challengers in recent elections even as the race has been ranked as among the most competitive in the country.
The 6th District wraps around the eastern side of the metro area, including eastern Adams County, Aurora, the more densely populated areas in eastern Arapahoe County and a dense sliver of Douglas County, including Highlands Ranch. Voter registration is nearly evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Crow welcomed Aarestad to the primary race.
“I’m excited about the enthusiasm that is out there right now, and I look forward to a substantive discussion on the issues,” Crow told The Colorado Statesman.
A spokesman for the Coffman campaign responded to Aarestad’s announcement by taking a swing at Crow.
“Jason Crow is to this race what Hillary Clinton was to the Democratic Presidential primary — the handpicked choice of D.C. establishment Democrats,” Coffman strategist Tyler Sandberg told The Statesman. “It’s no surprise the grassroots aren’t going to just coronate D.C.’s handpicked candidate. Hell, Jason Crow doesn’t even live in the district, and we’re not the only ones who noticed. David probably isn’t the last Democrat to jump into the race.”
Aarestad got his undergraduate degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and his law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He worked for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus negotiating contracts until earlier this month, when his spokesman says he stepped down in order to campaign full time.
This story has been updated to include comments by a spokesman for Mike Coffman’s campaign.