The Democratic race to replace Rep. Mark Udall in the 2nd Congressional District could shape up to be an expensive one. State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald was the only candidate willing to put a price tag on the primary, saying she expected that it might cost $2.2 million per candidate for the primary, and an additional $1 million for the general election.
So far, no Republican opposition has arisen.In the 1998 election cycle, when Udall was first elected, he raised $1.4 million and spent $1.3 million. He edged out Republican Robert Greenlee in the general election, even though Greenlee spent $1.9 million, about 50 percent more than Udall. Udall continued to raise well over a million dollars in each subsequent election cycle, although he faced underfunded competition from Republican challengers. In 2006, for instance, Udall raised $1.5 million and spent $932,000, while opponent Rick Mancuso raised $14,900 and spent $14,500.
Colorado’s most expensive congressional race to date appears to have been the 2006 7th District race between Ed Perlmutter and Rick O’Donnell. The two candidates raised $5.8 million.
Two of the current Democratic hopefuls — Fitz-Gerald and entrepreneur Jared Polis — are recognizable, tested candidates with considerable access to funds, either their own or from supporters. The third candidate, Will Shafroth, is not as well-known, but is acquainted with the moneyed classes from his work in the conservation movement.
Shafroth probably has the most work to do to catch up with the other two on name recognition. He wouldn’t say how much money he planned to raise.
“The fundraising piece is important,” he said. “Both of my opponents will have access to money that I won’t have access to. But I’m a fourth generation Coloradan. I have a lot of friends and family. There is also an opportunity for my candidacy to become of interest to national sources of funds.”
Nevertheless, he admitted, “I have a pretty realistic assessment of the task. It will be a lot of hard work. I’ll need to raise enough to run a winning campaign. I’m confident that’s something I can do.
Jared Polis, a millionaire hundreds of time over, has shown a willingness to spend his own money on campaigns. He ran for the Colorado Board of Education in 2000, spending $1.2 million to win the seat by just over 90 votes out of 1.6 million cast. Udall spent $1.3 million that year to hold on to his seat in Congress.
Polis says that he plans to have a “broad-based network of contributors” in the campaign, and that he will accept contributions only from individuals. He says he’s “looking forward to running a strong, grassroots campaign on the ground.” But it seems clear from history that money won’t be a problem for Polis’s effort.
Fitz-Gerald says, “I may be wrong, but I suspect that the primary is about $2.2 million per person. I guess I’m talking about what I need — and I don’t know what everybody else will spend — but what I need to inform the voters and get my message out about who I am and all the things that a candidate wants people to know about them.”
And then another million for the general election “unless there’s a big self-funder who has wide appeal on the Republican side,” she said. “I don’t think any of us has an idea about who that might be.”