The environmental political activist group Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which spent $1.6 million in the 4th Congressional District against Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, is celebrating the victory of Democrat Betsy Markey today.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Ed Yoon, the Colorado spokesman for DOW. “We came into this race in July when many pundits were calling it a Republican-leaning race and were saying Marilyn Musgrave could not be beat. We saw that she was vulnerable and so we came in and campaigned hard. We’re happy she got trounced.”
Musgrave lost her third re-election bid to Markey on Tuesday night by a 57-to-43 margin — a gap that was much wider than most pundits and observers expected. Although it’s impossible to know how much impact any one independent group can have on an election, Musgrave herself pointed to the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund as the reason she was polling close to Markey during a discussion with reporters after the first debate between Markey and herself.
When asked at the time why the race was so tight, Musgrave quickly answered: “Because of 527s and 501c4s that have thrown $10 million of garbage against me. I have to break through that when I run again and do the best I can to present my case to the citizens of the 4th District.”
Working to promote a socially conservative agenda after being elected to Congress in 2002, including a divisive attempt to pass a federal ban on gay marriage, Musgrave quickly became a target for many wealthy Colorado progressives in recent years including Rep.-elect Jared Polis, Fort Collins billionaire philanthropist Pat Stryker and Adobe founder Tim Gill, who founded the 527 Coloradans for Life in 2006. Coloradans for Life spent more than $1 million against Musgrave in a failed attempt to unseat her at the time.
Defenders of Wildlife, which dumped more money into the 4th CD in Colorado than almost any other independent group in the country in any race, said it targeted Musgrave for its barrage of negative attack advertising not because of her socially conservative agenda but because of her political stances that were counterintuitive to the environment and because of her committee assignments.
Musgrave sat on the Natural Resources Committee until 2006 and most recently sat on the Agricultural Committee — both of which deal with environmental legislation.
“To us, she was one of a select number of congressional members who sat on the committees that were important to us and who had one of the worst voting records of anyone for things that we care about,” Yoon said.
Although mostly targeting Musgrave, the DOWAF Colorado effort included $400,000 spent working to elect Democratic Rep. Mark Udall against Republican Bob Schaffer and to help elect Barack Obama president. In total the group spent $2 million in Colorado and sent 41 staffers to the state for the election, Yoon said.