Continuing a trend that started earlier this summer, Republican incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave failed to outraise her Democratic challenger during the third quarter of this year, in the highly-watched race in the 4th Congressional District that has whipped up national interest from both parties.
Between July 20 and Sept. 30 Musgrave raised a total of $599,618 — or $119,286 less than her Democratic opponent Betsy Markey, who collected $718,904 during the same period, according to FEC filings both campaigns made Wednesday. The filings don’t include the money raised during the pre-primary period in the beginning of July.
Musgrave, the incumbent from the district that covers most of the Eastern Plains and the I-25 corridor north of Denver, still has more than double the cash on hand as Markey, though, with $798,310 in her campaign war chest compared to Markey’s $381,894 bankroll.
“It indicates that Markey has an ability to activate Democratic supporters in the district that other challengers have not had, at least not to this extent,” said Colorado State University political science professor Kyle Saunders. “Which I would posit not only has to do with Markey’s quality as a candidate, but also with the changing demographics of the district and with Musgrave’s high negatives that we have seen in polling.”
Markey recently banked on House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi to help her fund raise. Markey attended an event in Denver earlier this month with Pelosi, who also sent a letter to supporters saying the cash-strapped Markey is struggling to keep up with the negative advertising Musgrave has employed. Markey’s campaign has said Pelosi’s help is being recognized with campaign donations — most of which likely will be used to attack Musgrave.
The Q3 totals don’t include independent expenditures from outside groups, which historically have been a factor in 4th Congressional District elections. In fact, outside groups have kicked in more than $1.5 million this year, primarily for negative campaign ads against Musgrave. The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife has already spent more than $1 million for a negative advertising blitz against Musgrave and smaller buys were made by VoteVets.org and the 527 group Majority Action. In addition, both the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee entered the race this week, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each for attack ads against their candidate’s opponent.
Markey has done a better job fundraising at this point in the race than Fort Collins Democrat Angie Paccione did in 2006 when she ran against Musgrave and lost by less than 3 percentage points. At the same point in that race in 2006, Paccione, a former state lawmaker, raised $567,323 during the third quarter and finished the period with $308,483 in the bank. Musgrave, who has struggled to fundraise during this election cycle at the same rate she has in previous elections, raised slightly more this year than in 2006 when her third quarter pull was $573,057.
Despite raising more during the quarter in 2006, Musgrave enters the final month of her campaign with less cash on hand than she had in at this point in 2006. At the time, Musgrave had $930,074 in the bank coming into October, while this year she had $798,310.
The race between Markey and Musgrave has turned extraordinarily negative in recent days, especially after Musgrave’s campaign released a new ad that implies Markey could face jail time for contracts her family business, Syscom Systems, received after Markey became employed with Sen. Ken Salazar’s office. Using harsh language for Musgrave on Wednesday, Salazar said the new ad should make the people in the 4th want to “throw up” and called Musgrave an “agent of hate.”
Markey has asked Musgrave to apologize for the deliberately false advertising, adding she is worried the people of the 4th might not be able to see through it and it could impact their vote.
“I’m very, very worried about it,” Markey said Wednesday.
With so much riding on the last 18 days in a race that has polled close for months, both campaigns, with help from the RNCC and DCCC, are working hard to maximize exposure while beating the other into the ground. As Musgrave and Markey prepare for their third and final debate in Windsor next week it will be interesting to watch how different the tone will be from their rather subdued first exchange in Fort Collins.