In Colorado, congressional challengers are opening their personal wallets

Depending on how things go in Colorado’s primaries June 26 and in the general election in November, this will either be the year that congressional challengers were able to buy their way into office or the year in which challengers spent millions of their own money only to say in the end that they gave it their best and lost anyway.

The most well-known of the self-funding candidates, Joe Coors, has dropped almost $600,000 of his own money into his 7th CD race. Not to be outdone, Republican Robert Blaha, mounting a primary challenge to 5th CD incumbent Doug Lamborn, has invested at least $722,082 so far. Not far behind, Democrat Perry Haney spent $551,887 in a battle for the Democratic nomination in the Sixth Congressional District before pulling out of the race earlier this year.

Joe Coors may not be a beer, but he has no trouble spending some of his family’s equally famous beer money. In reports filed Friday, Coors revealed that he contributed $350,000 to his campaign in May, bringing his total self-financing to $583,248, according to FEC records.

Coors has raised $449,494 from individual contributions and just $3000 from PACs according to the most recent disclosures. He has $227,792 on hand.

Even with so much of his own money in the game, he still trails Seventh District incumbent Democrat Ed Perlmutter in fundraising and in cash on hand.

Perlmutter so far has brought in $1,549,012 of which $730,602 has come from individuals and $808,968 has come from PACs. He has not given the campaign any money of his own so far. He reports $668,020 on hand.

Leslie Oliver, communications director for Perlmutter, says that Coors is running largely to support the Ryan budget plan, which would reduce taxes on the wealthy.

“Passing the Ryan budget would benefit him personally but it would be paid for by seniors, students and the hard working people of the middle class. Ed is in Congress to fight hard for jobs and the middle class,” she said.

The Coors campaign did not return a call seeking comment.

In the Second District, which features a heated Republican primary, political newcomer Eric Weissmann is vastly out-raising establishment Republican and state legislator Kevin Lundberg, having brought in a total of $199,388 compared with Lundberg’s total of $67,827. Weissmann has contributed $46,501 to his own campaign.

Incumbent Democrat Jared Polis has a healthy fundraising lead on both of the Republicans, having raised $788,959 so far, with $586,748 coming from individuals. He’s contributed $186,000 of his own money so far and has more than $335,000 on hand. With a primary election this month, neither Republican has much cash on hand at this point.

In the 4th CD, incumbent Republican Cory Gardner is handily out-raising Democrat challenger Brandon Shaffer, having brought in $1,633,888 so far compared with $471,252 for Shaffer. Gardner is sitting on a war chest of $883,219 v. $223,765 for Shaffer.

In the newly competitive 6th District, fundraising has been anything but competitive. Incumbent Republican Mike Coffman has brought in $2,151,941 and has $1,586,173 on hand to battle Democrat Joe Miklosi.

Political newbie Perry Haney threw $551,887 of his own money into the race, but raised only $21,800 from other people before dropping out.

State legislator Miklosi has raised $642,229, including $436,206 from individuals. He is sitting on $394,182, which puts him in position to begin a run at Coffman this summer.

In the Fifth Congressional District, fundraising norms have been flipped — with incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn trailing Republican primary opponent Robert Blaha badly. Lamborn has raised only $480,369, while Blaha has brought in nearly twice that at $818,711, most of it coming from his own coffers. Blaha has given his campaign $722,082 and has raised $96,229 from individuals. He has $13,917 in the bank.

Lamborn has gotten two-thirds of his money from PACs, raising $154,247 from individuals. He has $44,376 in the bank.

Reached by phone, Blaha was philosophical about his investment. “My family and I are very concerned about the condition this country is in and the direction it is heading in. I don’t believe the people who got us in this mess can get us out,” he said.

“For me, this is an investment in our country and in our future. America is based on people being willing to stand up, speak their mind and take risks,” he said.

Blaha says he is confident that he will win the nomination. “There are no guarantees in politics, just as there are no guarantees in business, but we are thrilled with where we are and we are confident,” he said.

In the most recent fundraising period Democratic 3rd District congressional candidate Sal Pace raised $216,000 and has about $614,000 on hand. Altogether, he has raised $983,854, with $718,806 coming from individuals.

Incumbent Republican Scott Tipton has raised $1,420,544 and has $928,215 in the bank according to the most recent reports, which were filed Friday. He’s raised $987,511 from individuals and $400,957 from PACs.

Pace said in a press release he has had over 1,100 individual donors since April, with 94 percent of those contributions coming from Coloradans.

“Our fundraising shows our momentum is strong and our message is resonating with Coloradans in the Third Congressional District,” Pace said. “People are responding to the idea of having someone in Washington who stands up for Colorado priorities and has a proven track record of working in a bipartisan manner to get things done.”

(Images of Joe Coors: JoeCoors.com)

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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