Daniel Sauve

Democratic candidate for Congress, Jason Crow (middle in dark jacket) with his supporters at the Utah Park in Aurora, Colo.  Saturday, September 29, 2018

Editor’s Note: This post was published before the November 6 U.S. midterm elections. The  results show Jason Crow defeating Mike Coffman by 10 points (54.1 by 42.9) 

Without a doubt one of the hottest races in the 2018 U.S. midterm election is being fought in Colorado’s Front Range which includes Aurora, Centennial, Brighton, and the surrounding cities of Denver and Littleton.

The area is part of the state’s 6th Congressional District or CD6 currently held by Representative Mike Coffman. Coffman, in his fifth term, has successfully fended off Democratic challengers and kept the seat in the Republican column despite the area’s changing demographics, which analysts say favors Democrats.

It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans in the Denver metro area alone. When you add to this the Ghanaians, Ugandans, Kenyans, and others who make up the community, you have a formidable voting block that can decide an election.

The African community in Colorado has been the subject of many a news story in past election cycles. But not like in the 2018 midterm election. The reason: the stakes could not be higher for the Democratic party, especially if they want to take back the House of Representatives, and even so if Democrats want to stop the agenda of President Donald Trump. Whether this comes to pass or not is another story. 

In this story I define “Africans” as a blend of generational Africans who migrated to America for varied reasons, including family ties, economic and social opportunity or as refugees, as well as African-Americans with roots from continental Africa.

Also I define “community” as not just people of African descent living in the district, but also friends of the community, those who work with them and advocate on their behalf. This includes primarily African-Americans, business people and the public that supports their ideas and well-being.

In CD6, increasingly politicians have discovered the strength that the community, concentrated in South East Denver and Aurora, has and their critical role in selecting leaders for the district. Coffman’s success in past elections is attributed to his connections to the community, something other politicians have seized upon.

In the many narratives about the community in the news—both local and national–Africans and people of color – undoubtedly are pulling the strings in the race.

I tracked recent coverage the community received in local and international news. You can read some of the coverage by following this link.

In the many news accounts on this subject between 2014 and 2018 one thing is very clear: the burgeoning population as well as the diversity of the community is something that makes it the subject of so much hardball politicking in the 2018 race. It’s partly why the fight to unseat Coffman by Democratic challenger Jason Crow is so intense.

On the one hand is the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Colorado Democratic Party, as well as the Super Pacs with all of the money they’ve poured into the race to defeat the incumbent. On the other hand is the Republic National Committee (RNC), the Colorado Republican Party, and several GOP-aligned Super Pacs. Even while Coffman lost support from some Super Pacs supporting him, he is said to be still forging ahead despite the circumstances.

And in the middle you have the voters who hold the sway.

While Coffman likes to mingle with the community, Ethiopians especially, at every opportunity, the community stands by his side because of what they say he’s done for them, according to the Aurora Sentinel. Just as the election was heating up Coffman quickly cut TV ads featuring the community that calls him one of their own. The ads have been running on local TV for some time.

But not everyone believes Coffman deserves their support. There are others who want to help Democrats defeat the five-term representative of the district. Which is why some are not just helping Crow with inroads into the community; Crow and the Democrats are courting the community mightily. At a September 29 Taste of Africa event at Utah Park in Aurora, Crow said he was humbly asking for the community’s support during the midterms.

The event included a food fair, an African market, soccer games, infused with a voter registration drive, and political speeches.

“I need your support and I humbly ask for that support,” Crow told the crowd. Before his speech Crow was introduced by Omar Montgomery, President of the Aurora Chapter of the NAACP, also running for office in the 2019 Aurora mayoral race.

In his brief remarks Crow touted his military credentials, as well as the need for new leadership in Washington, the need for someone who will hold the administration accountable, as reasons why he needs support from the community.

When I caught up with Milette Birhhanemaskel, one of the organizers of the event, she told me they are working to fill a gap in the community. Birnhanemaskel is part of a group of Africans –African Diaspora for Jason Crow—that wants to unseat Coffman in the November election by every means. The group says Coffman has taken them for granted even while he profits from their votes.

“There is a hunger in the African Diaspora to gather, not just for food and fun, but also to pool our political and economic resources,” she said. “The African Diaspora has made significant contributions to the area. It’s time we begin to recognize and build on that.”

By her own estimate Birhhanemaskel said “More than 1000 Africans and Friends of Africans” attended the event.