The big spending is on for state House and Senate races

The big spending is on for state House and Senate races

With Election Day just 48 days away — and mail ballots out in 26 days — candidates for the state House and Senate are spending big to woo voters.

At stake: control of both the state House and Senate. In the Senate, Republicans hold a one-seat (18-17) advantage and have at least one competitive seat to defend, that of state Sen. Laura Woods of Westminster. Democrats must hang onto at least two competitive Senate seats being vacated by term-limited Democratic Senators Mary Hodge of Brighton and Linda Newell of Littleton.

In the House, where Democrats have 34 seats to the Republicans’ 31, at least nine seats are considered competitive, mostly in districts where the largest bloc of voters are unaffiliated with either major party.

The latest campaign disclosure statements, which cover the two weeks from Sept. 1 to Sept. 14, show that three groups have been kicking in big bucks to Democratic candidates. The three are: One Colorado, which supports LGBT rights; a pipefitters’ union, and Colorado WINS, the state employees union.

Among Republicans, the big donors have been the Colorado Republican Party; Coloradans for Common Sense, which was started by former state Treasurer Mark Hillman and backs candidates who support low taxes, tort reform and the Second Amendment; and NAIOP, a political committee backed by the commercial real estate industry. The NAIOP PAC gives almost exclusively to Republicans; its small donor committee gives mostly to Democrats. A small donor committee takes contributions of no more than $50 per person, usually defined as members of that group.

One Colorado’s political action committee donated more than $14,000 to 36 candidates in the past two weeks, at $400 per donation. Only one of the 36 was a Republican: Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs. The group also gave to her Democratic opponent, former Rep. Tony Exum. The group’s small donor committee spent $35,364 in the last two weeks, with contributions to 28 Democrats and one Republican (Roupe), of between $400 and $2,100 each. Exum received an identical donation from the small donor group.

Colorado WINS donated a total of  $30,150 in increments ranging from $400 to $1,000 each to 50 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa.

Pipefitters Local 208 sent $21,150 to 34 Democratic candidates for House and Senate, in contributions of $200 to $2,000 each.

The next campaign finance update is due on October 3. Mail ballots go out on October 17.

Here’s a closer look at some of the money flowing into — and out of — the hottest races in the state.



District 59, Durango. The most-contested House seat may be in this southwestern Colorado district. Representation has swung back and forth between the same Democrat and Republican legislators over the last two elections. The current incumbent, Republican J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, first won the seat in 2010. Two years later, he lost to Democrat Mike McLachlan, but Brown took the seat back in 2014. He’s now facing a challenge from McLachlan’s wife, Barbara, for the 2016 contest.

How much has each raised in the last two weeks? Democratic challenger McLachlan of Durango continues to hold a fundraising lead. In the past two weeks, she’s taken in $15,150. The incumbent, Rep. Brown of Ignacio, took in $4,433.

Who were the big contributors? The biggest contributions for both candidates during the past two weeks have come from far outside the district, showing the attention being paid to this seat statewide.

McLachlan’s biggest donors have been the state Democratic Party ($5,000) and several Front Range teachers’ unions ($2,000 total).

Brown’s biggest donor, at $500, was Coloradans for Common Sense.

What’s the grand total, so far? McLachan is at $127,334, and Brown is at $108,870.

What about expenses? McLachlan has spent $19,028, mostly on mailers.In the past two weeks, Brown has spent big – $48,888 on radio, cable TV ads and mailers.

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? McLachlan, a teacher, still has $55,856 on hand for the last six weeks of the election contest, far ahead of the $23,650 left for Brown, who is a sheep rancher.

District 3, includes Englewood, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village and Sheridan. While the race in Durango may be the hottest, this district race has featured the biggest fundraising, due in part to its location: Denver’s wealthiest suburbs.

Who’s running and how much has each raised in the last two weeks? It’s an open seat, with term-limited Rep. Daniel Kagan of Greenwood Village now running for the state Senate. The Democrat is Jeff Bridges, son of millionaire philanthropist Rutt Bridges, who has worked on behalf of both U.S. Rep. John Salazar and Salazar’s brother, former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar. The Republican candidate is Katy Brown of Cherry Hills Village. She’s a software consultant and former member of the Cherry Hills Village City Council.

Bridges has brought in $17,168 in the past two weeks. Brown’s most recent two-week haul is $17,990.

Who were the big contributors? Bridges’ biggest contributors have been the Colorado Democratic Party ($5,000), and similarly large donations from One Colorado, Colorado WINS and a Realtors’ small donor committee.

The Colorado Republican Party has been Brown’s biggest donor, at $7,500, in the past two weeks.

What’s the grand total, so far? Bridges still holds a commanding lead in money race, with $163,956 raised to Brown’s $85,810.

What about expenses? Bridges spent $23,068 during the past two weeks, and $14,848 of that went to mailers, with the same mailing house that McLachlan used – Mad Dog Mail of Florida. Brown spent $17,191 in the last two weeks, with the biggest amount going to Magellan Strategies for advertising ($7,337).

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? Bridges heads into the next two-week cycle with $20,724 on hand; Brown’s cash on hand is $30,622.

District, 30, Adams County. Two years ago, Republican newcomer JoAnn Windholz beat her Democratic challenger, Rep. Jenise May, by just 106 votes. The district favors Democrats by voter registration, with 16,858 registered Democrats, 11,829 Republicans.

But unaffiliated voters will make the difference in this district, as is the case for many other competitive House races. In House District 30, unaffiliated voters make up the largest voting bloc, with 18,210 registered voters.

Windholz came under fire after the shooting last November at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, where three people died and nine were injured. The lawmaker did not express any public sympathy for the victims, among whom were a police officer, who was opposed to abortion. Instead, she blamed Planned Parenthood for inciting the violence through abortion practices. Windholz was later targeted for a recall for those remarks, but her critics dropped that effort to focus on unseating her this November.

Related: GOP lawmaker: Planned Parenthood is the real ‘culprit’ in shooting

Who’s running and how much has each raised in the last two weeks? Windholz is trying for her second term, facing Democrat Dafna Michaelson Jenet.

Windholz’ remarks may have cost her in the fundraising department. In the past two weeks, she’s taken in only one contribution, of $50. Jenet, on the other hand, had a strong two-week showing, raising $11,859.

Who were the big contributors? Jenet’s biggest donor for the year has been the Colorado Democratic Party, which kicked in $8,500. Jenet also received large donations from the Colorado Education Association ($4,850), insurance company COPIC ($4,000), as well as donations from pro-choice and women’s groups ($3,375) such as the Blueflower Fund, Emily’s List and Vicki Cowart, head of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

And while the state GOP has not been shy about giving money to candidates in hotly-contested races for the state House and Senate, Windholz has taken in only one contribution of $400 from the state party. Her largest donor has been the Adams County GOP, which has kicked in $2,552.

What’s the grand total, so far? Jenet has far outraised Windholz in this election cycle, with $59,825 to Windholz’ $24,904.

What about expenses? In the past two weeks, Windholz spent $1,875, with most of that going to a Christian press for mailers. Jenet has spent $7,082, with $4,184 going to Mad Dog Mail for mailers.

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? Again, Jenet sits on a larger pile of cash: $16,607, compared to $12,296 for Windholz.





District 26, Arapahoe County covers the county’s urban communities, such as Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills, Sheridan, Littleton, Englewood and part of Aurora. This year’s contest is to find a successor to term-limited Democratic Sen. Linda Newell of Littleton.

Who’s running and how much has each raised in the last two weeks? Daniel Kagan (see above), who is ending his time in the House and is running for the Senate. He faces Republican challenger Nancy Doty, a former Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder and currently an Arapahoe County Commissioner.

Doty brought in $3,922 in the past two weeks to Kagan’s $15,438 in donations.

Who were the big contributors? Doty’s donors in the last two weeks have all been individuals, and most of them are district residents. None gave more than $400 each (the limit on individual campaign contributions). Kagan’s biggest donors for the past two weeks have been One Colorado ($2,100), Colorado WINS ($2,000), Pipefitters Local 208 ($1,000) and a sheet metal workers committee ($1,000).

What’s the grand total, so far? Kagan has a $50,000 advantage over Doty in total fundraising, with $193,667 raised to her $141,319. With the race closing in on $350,000 for the two candidates, it could easily be the most expensive state legislative race this year.

What about expenses? Doty has started to started to spend big, with $42,663 spent in the last two weeks. Her biggest expense was $35,000 for mailers, to East Meridian Strategies of Virginia. Kagan spent $34,755, with $22,806 going to Petel and Company, a Washington, D.C. fundraising organization.

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? Kagan has $68,949 available for the next round of expenditures; Doty has $53,829 in the bank.

District 25, Adams County. This seat is open because Sen. Mary Hodge hit her term limit. She’s now running for Adams County Commissioner.

Who’s running and how much has each raised in the last two weeks? The race pits Republican Rep. Kevin Priola of Henderson against former Rep. May of Aurora. May had the bigger haul in the past two weeks, with $14,380. Priola’s take was $5,125.

Who were the big contributors? Similar to the other Democrats in the hottest races, May took in $2,100 from One Colorado; $2,000 from Pipefitters Local 208 and $1,000 from Colorado WINS. May also received $1,500 from the Boulder Valley Education Association.

Priola’s biggest contributor was Hillman’s Coloradans for Common Sense, at $1,000.

What’s the grand total, so far? May has the edge, with $145,332 raised to Priola’s $120,091.

What about expenses? May spent $31,199, with the largest expense of $22,738 going to Petel and Company for a mailer. Priola spent no money on advertising in the past two weeks; his largest expenditure was to pay a credit card bill ($2,304) but the filing didn’t identify what was purchased; and for legislative dues to the House Republican Caucus ($300).

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? Priola has a sizable sum to spend in the next two weeks: $87,734 to May’s $36,399.

District 19, Jefferson County features the race that makes Republicans the most nervous: defending the seat of incumbent Sen. Laura Woods of Westminster, who is running for the second time in two years. Woods won her seat in 2014 after defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, who was appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of Sen. Evie Hudak of Arvada. Hudak resigned rather than face a recall led by Woods.

Who’s running and how much has each raised in the last two weeks? The race is a repeat of the 2014 contest, pitting Woods, now the incumbent, against Zenzinger.

In the past two weeks, Woods has brought in $5,525, which was dwarfed by Zenzinger’s $19,571 haul.

Who were the big contributors?  Zenzinger had eight contributions of $1,000 or more in the past two weeks, including from One Colorado ($2,100), Boulder Valley Education Association ($2,000), the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association ($2,000) and the pipefitters ($2,000), plus four $1,000 contributions, including from Colorado WINS.

Woods’ biggest donors in the past two weeks have given no more than $400 each. They range from a collection agencies’ committee; general contractors, mechanical contractors, to two members of the Coors family.

What’s the grand total, so far? Zenzinger leads with $196,207 to Woods’ $170,796*.

What about expenses? Woods spent $43,674 in the past two weeks, with $40,233 going to DCO Consulting of Denver for advertising. Zenzinger has spent $40,115, with $22,506 going to Petel and Company for mailers.

And after all that raising and spending, what’s the balance sheet look like? Woods is sitting on $87,069*, going into the next two weeks.  Zenzinger has $67,811 on hand.


*Correction: an earlier version listed incorrect cash on hand and total fundraising numbers  for Woods.

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About the Author

Marianne Goodland

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.

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