Western Skies wins one, loses one in state Senate races

There were mixed results Tuesday in pair of key state Senate races targeted by the shadowy, pro-energy nonprofit group Western Skies Coalition (WSC), which is being investigated by the IRS to determine if it’s actually engaged in social welfare activities or hard-core politicking.

Allegedly funded by big oil and gas money, WSC pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into television ad buys portraying state Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and Republican businesswoman Libby Szabo as alternative-energy backers despite records to the contrary.

WSC, with ties to former oil and gas lobbyist and Republican Gov. Bill Owens, was reportedly founded with the mission of reclaiming key Senate seats in a bid to reclaim a Republican majority in 2010.

Mitchell fairly easily defeated Democrat Joe Whitcomb by 41,569 votes to 35,474 votes, or 54 percent to 46 percent, in Senate District 23. But Szabo narrowly lost to Democrat Evie Hudak, 29,942 to 31,145, or 51 percent to 49 percent, in Senate District 19.

“This Western Skies ad makes Shawn Mitchell look great, and he has the most God-awful voting record [on alternative energy],” Whitcomb said in an earlier interview. “He was one of only seven or eight senators who voted against doubling Colorado’s alternative-energy portfolio.”

An investigative series by the Colorado Independent led to the IRS probe of WSC and three other 501(c)4 nonprofits after a request by Colorado Ethics Watch.

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