Many of Colorado's Congressional representatives were home for the first snow, and they took the opportunity to host town halls in their districts.
While the headlines back in D.C. were dominated by talk of the impeachment inquiry, constituents in Colorado were more interested in the political cornerstones in day-to-day life: the economy, health care and national security.
Democratic Reps. Jason Crow and Ed Perlmutter and Republican Rep. Scott Tipton all fielded those questions when they visited constituents Thursday.
Voters grabbing coffee with Crow are more worried about national security and healthcare than impeachment
Congressman Crow and his constituents huddled around a long coffee table at most recent “Crow On Your Corner” town hall at Enchanted Grounds in Highlands Ranch on Thursday morning.
Voter questions included topics such as election security, impeachment and climate change, but the most popular topic was U.S. withdrawing troops from Syria and leaving Kurdish forces in the region. Crow is an Army veteran and he served in that region.
“I’m very disturbed by the fact that we have turned our backs on some of our closest allies, people that have made great sacrifices for our country and our national security, people who we’ve made a promise to,” Crow said. “It’s important that we send a message that the American handshake matters.”
Crow plead to the audience to keep talking about the issue so it stays relevant. Crow, along with a bipartisan delegation made up of members from the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, released a statement Monday condemning the president’s decision to leave calling it “catastrophic and misguided.”
Kristen Hirsch, from Highlands Ranch, said she came to the town hall for two reasons: President Donald Trump removing troops from Syria and immigration relating to family separation.
“It threatens national security as well as threatens America’s ability to be looked at as a leader in the Free World in terms of making handshake agreements and doing our part,” Hirsch said.
Immigration was not a big topic at the town hall, but Crow does make weekly congressional oversight visits at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora.
Another voter, Laurie Ritchie from Centennial, also talked about the Kurdish ordeal but said she cares the most about health care. She gets her health insurance on the individual market since she’s self-employed. She said she pays $2,800 per month for her family’s coverage.
“I wanted to hear what initiatives he’s working on for health care parity [and] Medicare X as a public option for Colorado residents,” Ritchie said. “Insurance companies have way too much control about what plan they choose to offer and everyone needs more affordable options.”
Crow is a co-sponsor of Medicare-X Choice Act of 2019. The bill is supposed to establish a public health plan within the individual market. It would allow people in areas with few insurance companies to buy into Medicare.
Crow’s more immediate focus when he gets back to Washington is pushing a prescription drug legislation. It’s supposed to make a fair price negotiation program, protect Medicare from excessive price increases and make a limit for out-of-pocket costs.
Crow does support impeachment but emphasized that he isn’t gleeful about it.
“I’m not happy about this,” Crow said. “I don’t want to do this. It’s a dark time in our history, but I took an oath and I feel it’s my duty.”
Colorado GOP hopes Crow's support for impeachment will backfire
While Crow was meeting with constituents in Highlands Ranch, conservatives gathered outside his Aurora office to protest his support of the impeachment inquiry.
Around 20 people weathered the snow for the event, which was organized by the Colorado GOP and president’s Colorado campaign team. They held “Trump 2020” signs and listened to the two Republicans who want to run against Crow next year, Casper Stockham and Steve House, speak against the actions of House Democrats.
“I think these guys actually love impeachment and hate this president more than they love our country,” said House, who’s a former Colorado Republican Party chair. “They need to stop the madness and go back and do the work that needs to be done on our country and let who we voted for, govern us.”
House accused congressional Democrats, especially Crow and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “weaponizing the impeachment process” and misusing Coloradans money.
“Democrats have been trying to overturn the will of tens of millions of American voters since the 2016 election and they want to decide who will or won’t govern the people of this country,” House said. “And I believe that’s wrong.”
Crow is one of 60 “vulnerable Democrats” the Republican National Committee has announced it will target with anti-impeachment ads in the run up to next year's election.
State Rep. Patrick Neville said it's legitimate for the President to ask foreign leaders to investigate the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden.
“This is all about the Democrats [being] worried that he's actually going to get to the bottom and find the truth that they've been corrupt over these past years,” Neville said.
Halfway through Neville’s speech on the steps outside Crow’s office, building manager Wiley Price arrived to tell the group it had to move off the private property and onto the sidewalk. Price and the protesters exchanged a few short verbal jabs and before the rally followed his directions.
“We had Congressman Coffman here in the office for quite a few years, a Republican, so we had a tremendous amount of protesters,” Price said. “We dealt with them the same exact way. This is private property, not public property ... It’s not politics, it’s just this is a building and this is an interruption.”
Englewood resident Jan Weipert came to the protest because she thinks the country is moving in the wrong direction.
“I believe in our constitutional rights,” Weipert said. “I believe in freedom of religion, freedom of speech. There are a lot of those things that are being negated so that’s why I’m here.”
Protesters were also circulating a petition to require U.S. citizenship to vote in Colorado. That’s already mandated in the state constitution but backers fear that wording is not currently strong enough.
Health care and economy questions come before impeachment talk at the Tipton town hall
Republican Rep. Tipton spent Thursday morning in Pueblo visiting a company that provides home health care and occupational therapy. Tipton has been a strong supporter of such services as a partial solution to the lack of rural health providers in his district, which covers the Western Slope and Southern colorado.
When asked about impeachment talks in Washington, Tipton said he is hearing from constituents with views across the political spectrum. However, he said the topic doesn’t usually come up until after they’ve had a chance to discuss their more pressing, kitchen table issues, like health care and the economy.
Tipton is an honorary chair of the President’s Colorado re-election team. While the president lost the state in 2016, Tipton thinks if the campaign can avoid the political debate over the President’s unorthodox leadership style and instead focus on the administration’s tangible accomplishments, such as a strong economy and low unemployment rate, then it could have more success here in 2020.
At Perlmutter tele-town hall, health, not impeachment, dominates
Thursday morning, Democratic Rep. Perlmutter held a senior telephone town hall with around 5,400 participants. The topic was health care, but Perlmutter said he’d answer questions on any topic from impeachment and infrastructure to Syria and space.
Few took him up on the offer. Instead, most peppered him and experts he had on the call about what Congress is doing to lower prescription drug prices or the high cost of health insurance. Perlmutter used one question to dispel the rumor that members of congress get a special health care plan far above what’s available to regular citizens. He said he has to buy his insurance on the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
Still, a couple of callers during the hour-long virtual town hall did voice their concerns about President Trump, his phone call with Ukraine’s president, his actions in Syria and the White House’s disregard of congressional subpoenas.
Perlmutter, who was previously reluctant to accelerate the impeachment inquiry, said the whistleblower complaint changed his mind because “rule of law, the Constitution and national security” are at issue.
With the White House not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry, Perlmutter said the executive and legislative branches are in a “constitutional showdown.”
He told the call participants it’s “a sad time” in American history. “We’re going to be in a very rough slog right now. I don’t like what I’ve seen. I don’t like this disregard for the Constitution.”