By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) - For the first time, candidates in one of the biggest Congressional races in the country went head-to-head in a debate. CBS4, CPT12, KOA News Radio and the Colorado Sun hosted the debate between Republican U.S. Representative Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger Jason Crow.
The race could determine which party controls the U.S. House, and Democrats are leaving it all on the field. Twelve super PACS have spent a combined $10 million on attack ads and flyers - a new record for a House race.
Coffman has defied the odds in the liberal-leaning district for four election cycles, largely because of his strong ties to the immigrant communities.
"Leadership on both sides of the aisle wants to use immigration as political leverage, and that's wrong," Coffman said at the debate, where immigration dominated the discussion.
"The Congressman has been saying the same thing for years," said Crow. "And, it just isn't getting done."
An attorney and political newcomer, Crow claims Coffman is all-talk, no-action.
"His party has had two years of unified control, and it hasn't gotten it done. So that tells me that we're not going to solve this issue with the same people that got us into this mess."
But Coffman says both parties are to blame.
"When the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress with super-majorities and the White House, they did nothing on immigration. Republicans say, 'You know, we'll take it step-by-step," but they never take the first step. I'm in a bi-partisan group of Republicans and Democrats who've come together to try to bridge the partisan divide in Washington D.C.."
But, Democrats are determined to frame Coffman as anything but bi-partisan, insisting a vote for him is a vote for President Donald Trump. Yet, Coffman has clashed with the president on everything from his ban on Muslims and transgender troops to the separation of families at the border.
While he and Crow disagree on issues like gun control and abortion funding, they largely agree on immigration. Both support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, legal status for people who have broken no other law but immigration law, and more border security, but Crow says he wouldn't vote for Trump's wall. Coffman voted for it as part of a compromise that included protections for Dreamers but he also says it's not the answer to immigration problems.
But Coffman says he has something Crow doesn't - a voting record.
"He has never stood up to his party on a single issue."
Crow insists he wouldn't go to Washington with a partisan agenda.
"The people of our community need help. They need leadership that's going to actually hold this administration accountable, not be a rubber stamp," Crow said.
Polls show Crow leading Coffman. If Democrats take control of the House, there will likely be efforts to impeach the new Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, and President Trump. Coffman indicated he wouldn't support a Kavanaugh impeachment and said that any impeachment of Trump would depend on the outcome of the investigation into collusion with Russia.
Crow said he wouldn't support impeachment either until seeing the evidence.
"I don't want any president to fail because we're talking about the President of the United States, and if the president fails, the country will suffer as a result of it."
Watch the complete debate below:
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