There’s only one member of Congress facing a potentially competitive re-election among the diverse group charged with pushing the House’s case during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Rep. Jason Crow‘s appointment as an impeachment manager gives the freshman Democrat from Colorado a seat in the well of the Senate — where he presented before senators Tuesday — and places him at the center of a process recent polls have found to be as polarizing as the partisan divide of the electorate.
His high-profile role, which has also included defending Democrats’ impeachment arguments on national TV, comes just more than a year after unseating a five-term Republican incumbent and within months of needing to hit the campaign trail to defend the seat. Party leadership’s willingness to put him in that position is a testament to how a once-reliably Republican district outside Denver has changed politically with an influx of immigrants and younger voters who hold an antipathy toward the president, said Floyd Ciruli, a longtime pollster in the state.
“He was largely a product of suburban voters really, really unhappy with Trump,” Ciruli said of Crow. That base sees “it as a tremendous opportunity for him to express their concern.”
Crow’s inclusion provided the group of managers with a geographic diversity the party has been criticized for lacking. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also highlighted Crow’s military background and his time as a “respected litigator in private practice” when announcing the group.
The congressman said in an interview he separated politics from his decision to accept the role. One of the many goals he and the other impeachment managers have is to focus on the national security implication of Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from an ally, something he did in remarks Tuesday.
“We have over 600,000 American troops in Europe that stand ready to assist and stand by our allies, including Ukraine,” Crow said in the interview. “Those troops were put at risk as well.”
Still, the former Army ranger has already been criticized by the House Republican campaign arm for taking part in the proceeding. In a preview of potential attacks to come on the airwaves this fall, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera called him a “partisan hack who is more obsessed with baselessly removing President Trump from office than delivering on promises he made to his constituents.”
The list of Republicans taking him on this year includes Steve House, a businessman and former state GOP chairman who ran for governor in 2014. The NRCC included him in its program for the most competitive challengers.
A District in Transition
Rapid growth in Arapahoe County, which includes suburbs to the east and south of Denver and makes up the majority of the 6th District, moved the district from Republican territory since its creation in the 1980s to backing Barack Obama twice and voting for Hillary Clinton by 9 percentage points in 2016. Republican Mike Coffman continued to fight off the Democratic trend until 2018, when Crow unseated him by 10 percentage points.
“The district was steadily becoming more Democratic during that time, but Coffman was a powerful campaigner — he worked the ethnic and minority communities very hard, so he was able to hang on,” said Dick Wadhams, a Republican consultant and former state party chairman. “Unfortunately for Mike, in 2018, there was such an anti-Trump sentiment in the district that he was swept out of office due to that.”
Crow’s bid was supported by House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which deemed him a top-tier candidate. But he created distance from the party’s leadership during the campaign by announcing he wouldn’t support Pelosi for speaker, and he ultimately voted for fellow Army veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The decision likely sat well with the many independent voters in the district, said Ciruli.
“To the extent you exercise independence, such as criticizing the establishment, no one is going to be angry about that,” he said.
While Republicans in the district might be upset with Crow’s role in an impeachment they don’t support, most of them were unlikely to vote for him anyway, said Marie Logsden, a Democratic consultant in Colorado. Independent voters, who make up a sizable block of the district, will be more attracted to Crow because of how he handles the prosecutorial role, she added.
“For independent voters, the people who are independent thinkers rather than voting party line, they have respect for his way of being a true public servant,” she said. “Him having the courage to do the right thing whether or not it is popular is exactly why people like him.”
‘Making Sure the Process is Fair’
During the House’s impeachment hearings, Republicans displayed a sign showing many of the key committee chairs investigating Trump were all from coastal states. In contrast, the impeachment managers come from not only states along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but also Colorado and Texas.
“It’s important you have a team that represents diversity of the country,” Crow said. “That means racial diversity, gender diversity, diversity of backgrounds, and expertise.”
Crow, who was a partner in the Denver office of the Holland & Hart law firm and said he was surprised to be asked to be a manager, is pushing for witnesses and documents to be included in the trial.
“There’s a lot of interest in making sure the process is fair,” Crow said. “This cannot be the first trial in American history that doesn’t have witnesses and documents.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org