Democratic state Senate candidate Linda Newell has surpassed Republican opponent Lauri Clapp in fundraising dollars, recent state campaign finance reports show. The news is just one indication that the traditionally Republican suburban district south of Denver could be one of the top competitive races to watch on Election Day.
The Newell campaign raised more than $33,000 altogether, with $5,125 of that contributed in the last two weeks, according to reports from the secretary of state’s office.
Clapp’s campaign has raised approximately $30,000, with more than $2,000 in new contributions.
The financial numbers are welcome news to Newell, who said that varying factors have made Senate District 26 very competitive this year.
“I think people are again for the bipartisanship,” Newell said, responding to the figures. “Rather than going by party lines they’re looking for somebody more moderate.”
Being a moderate has been one of the key talking points of Newell’s campaign, which pits the political newcomer against Clapp, a Republican former state House member and former Littleton City Council member who has longstanding ties to the district.
While name recognition may appear to favor Clapp, there are signs that the district may be about to elect a Democrat for the first time in at least eight years.
Arapahoe County, where the district is located, reported earlier in the month that for the first time ever, registered Democratic voters had surpassed Republican registrants.
Then there’s the fact that Colorado is currently polling in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
In 2004, Republican Jim Dyer was elected to the Senate seat by a close 51 percent over Democratic challenger Jared Ingwalson.
All of these factors—along with a lot of arduous field work—are why the Democrats could have a real chance to take control of a seat that was most recently held by Republican Steve Ward, who ran unsuccessfully in a four-way primary to replace Rep. Tom Tancredo.
“It’s a very competitive race, that district,” said Jennie Peek with the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, a political organization that financially supports Democrats running for state senate. “It’s certainly a district that looks at the person and not the party.”
According to Peek, the race has been classified by her organization as a top “tier 1” race, which means that “we certainly think there’s a good chance of picking it up.”
Newell, meanwhile, said she had been conducting field work nearly everyday.
“I am out there working, working, working. I have been out pounding the pavement. I’ve been out making calls,” remarked Newell. “I’m not sure the district is turning blue. I wouldn’t go that far. But I would absolutely say it’s turning purple and that I am that kind of candidate.
Clapp’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on her fundraising efforts.
As was reported by The Colorado Independent last week, Clapp has been notably absent from the campaign trail. She skipped a number of public forums attended by both Republicans and Democrats, including a panel hosted by the South Metro Chamber of Commerce earlier in the month.