BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
The regular monthly meeting of the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club at Maggiano’s DTC on Feb. 5 drew 120 people, the largest crowd its seen in many months. The four Republican candidates who are anxious to challenge first-term incumbent Jason Crow in the sixth congressional district on Nov. 3 were there to make their case for support.
Republicans are still smarting over losing CD 6 to a Democrat in 2018 for the first time in the 35 years since it was created in January 1983. Even more stinging, a popular 10-year incumbent, Mike Coffman (now mayor of Aurora), was bested by a political newcomer by 12 percentage points.
Very popular former Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, who also lost his seat to a Democrat who’d never held elective office before Nov. 2018, moderated the question-and-answer format.
Steve House, a previous Republican party state chair, said he was “running to prevent this country from turning Socialist.” He named health care and college tuition costs as equally important to all CD6 residents, including the 32 percent who are black and Hispanic. House touted his enthusiastic support of President Trump, reminding fellow Republicans that he endorsed Trump in May 2016 and was on the region 8 transition team after Trump’s election. On the national debt, House said we could save $1 trillion by “doing health care right.” He feels that he can win in 2020 because “CD 6 likes Trump better than they did in 2018 and suburban moms want to trust government again.” Describing his view of the job, House said, “Being a good congressman has nothing to do with passing laws. It’s about helping people.” The candidate’s view on immigration is that it is “an opportunity because we have more jobs than available workers in the U.S.”
John Szemler, a senior functional consultant with MCA Connect, believes that “CD6 is anti-Trump. To win, we need to move to the middle.” He believes, ”If you want Democrats and independents to vote, stop talking about the frigging wall. Talk about supporting universal Pre-K and public schools. That will get women to vote Republican.” Szemler believes that supporting paid family leave will also draw voters to support Republicans. He believes President Trump is right about immigration, trying to get a better trade deal with China, and getting allies to pay more for NATO. He is not a fan of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act, because “80 percent of the tax breaks went to the top 3 percent of Americans. We need to give it back to the middle class.” Asked about whether he would join the Freedom Caucus if elected, Szemler said, “No. I’ll create a Restoration Caucus to return the Republican party to the middle.”
Casper Stockham, United States Navy veteran, small business owner, trainer, and HR consultant, has run for Congress from CD1 twice, in 2014 and 2016, never garnering more than 28 percent of the vote against 23-year incumbent Diana DeGette. He believes he can win in CD6. Says Stockham, “I support the 2nd Amendment and I support the President in words and deeds. I usually wear a MAGA hat. I’m excited about everything he’s doing, including building the wall.” He vows to “fight any red flag law because it is unconstitutional,” and says he “can go toe to toe with Jason Crow.” How will he win? Stockham, who is African-American, explains, “CD6 is very diverse. President Trump has 50 percent approval in Hispanic communities and more than 30 percent approval in black communities.” He believes strongly in a balanced budget. “In ten years, the deficit will be more than 80 percent of GDP. We need to cut the deficit by cutting aid to other countries and subsidies to colleges and universities. We also need to look at Medicare and defense spending.” Asked about how he would win over suburban college-educated women, Stockham said, “With the right messaging.”
Rounding out the group of candidates was 25-year-old Ryan Gonzales, who said, “We need to reach out to Democrats and independents, including my generation that is underrepresented. Not all millennials are like AOC (U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). I can attract Hispanics.” In responding to Crane’s question about the top issues in CD6, Gonzales followed instructions and made a list: “The number one issue is immigration, the number two issue is health care, including the cost of insurance and drugs, and the number three issue is the economy.” He said he supports what the President has done on the United States Mexico-Canada Agreement and China trade, because they are good for the economy and good for jobs. Gonzales believes that suburban college-educated women can be persuaded to vote for Republicans if “we remind them that there are more women in the work force and emphasize that Republicans want less government.” Asked about whether he would join the Freedom Caucus in the House if elected, Gonzales said, “I’d be open to it because I revere Congressman Jim Jordan.”
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