— El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who proved that two years of legwork — and visiting EVERY county in Colorado — could beat back candidates who out-raised him better than 10:1 (see: former CSU athletic director Jack Graham, who took in $464,832 in contributions and put in $1.5 million of his own money to his campaign; Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha, who also largely self-funded — and finished third in the five-man race).
— Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who went from the Senate’s most endangered member to, as the Washington Post put it Wednesday, being in “a race that Senate Republicans are writing off.” As The Post’s Amber Phillips wrote, “Republicans can’t afford any mistakes, and Tuesday’s GOP primary in Colorado looks like it qualifies.”
— Rep. Beth McCann, who won the Denver District Attorney after loaning her campaign just under $50,000.
— Candidates who self-funded their campaigns and will be sitting out the next round.
The Secretary of State’s TRACER website shows that candidates loaned their campaigns more than $1.43 million in this election cycle, mostly at the statewide race level — and that doesn’t include the millions Blaha and Graham loaned their federal senate campaigns.
Topping the list is CU Regent and Democrat Michael Carrigan, who loaned his campaign for Denver District Attorney $200,000. He finished second to McCann. Fellow candidate Kenneth Boyd, an assistant district attorney, loaned his campaign $30,000.
— Democrat Steve Sherick of Denver, who ran for the Senate District 31 seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Pat Steadman, loaned his own campaign $50,000. He finished second to Rep. Lois Court. Sherick also had an independent expenditure committee that raised $22,000 to advocate for his election. More about that later.
— Democrat Jeff Hart, who ran to succeed Court in House District 6, loaned his campaign $35,000. He lost to Chris Hansen.
— Democrat Lucky Vidmar, who tried and failed to succeed Michael Carrigan for University of Colorado regent, put in $25,000.
— Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, who lost a bitter fight to former Rep. Larry Liston for House district 16, loaned his campaign $20,000.
— “Strong-arm” attorney Frank Azar, a major backer of the committees formed to support district attorney candidates. Azar spent $100,000 to influence the races in Adams and Denver counties. One $50,000 contribution went to Citizens for a Strong and Fair People’s Advocate, an independent expenditure committee that backed Michael Carrigan. The committee’s total contributions as of June 28 are $103,000.
Note: Azar’s $50,000 sum to the Scott Gessler-led Coloradans United For Justice, which backed incumbent Democrat District Attorney Dave Young in Adams County, was more successful. The committee’s total take, as of June 28, was just $55,000. Young beat his opponent, former Assistant District Attorney Caryn Datz, by 3 percent of the vote. Datz was one of three former employees of the Young’s office who is slated to receive nearly a quarter of a million dollars from Adams County, tied to their former employment in the District Attorney’s office. Citing confidentiality agreements, none of the parties involved will discuss the reason for the settlements.
— Independent expenditure committees, which played a bigger role in the 2016 primary than in previous primaries.
— Also mixed: Former gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Congressman Bob Beauprez, who is connected to an independent expenditure committee that targeted incumbent Republicans in the state legislature. Colorado Right Now spent $589,272.17 in a five-day period in June – all on Republican primary contests. The group reported only $291,000 in contributions, all from Colorado Pioneer Action, which was founded and run by Beauprez.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is looking into the discrepancy between contributions and expenditures for Colorado Right Now, according to spokesperson Lynn Bartels. She pointed out that the committee may disclose the rest of its funding with the next campaign finance report, which is due August 1.
Colorado Right Now opposed the reelection efforts of Republican Reps. Lori Saine of Firestone and Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, as well as the Senate bid of Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, also of Colorado Springs. Saine was the only winner among the three.
Colorado Right Now advocated in favor of Republicans Ben Lyng of Parker in Senate District 4, Susan Beckman of Littleton for House District 38 and Colleen Whitlow of Mead for Saine’s seat in House District 63. The latter two candidates lost. Lyng’s race is still undecided and awaiting a final vote count that could determine whether the contest goes to a recount.
The committee backed the right horses in the battles between former Rep. Larry Liston (who beat Joshi) and former Rep. Bob Gardner (who beat Klingenschmitt).
Political pundit Eric Sondermann told The Colorado Independent that he viewed the contests in which Colorado Right Now involved itself as “more of a centrist-Republican versus fringe Republican play. It seems to be a way to elect centrist Republicans over more fringy ideologues.” Sondermann pointed out the play was successful in two of the three races that turned out to not even be close. (Liston/Joshi and Gardner/Klingenschmitt).
Is there a risk to Beauprez? Sondermann said he believes Beauprez’s political ambitions are behind him, “So my gut says Beauprez is moving away from a role of aspiring candidate and into the role of senior statesman. In so doing, he’s weighing in on these ideological wars that bedevil the Colorado GOP.”
Pioneer Action Fund is now the target of a possible campaign finance complaint from Matt Arnold of Campaign Integrity Watchdog. Writing for the Denver Examiner, Arnold said this week he intends to file a complaint against the fund for failing to register as a political committee under both state and federal law. That complaint, as of Friday, has not yet been filed, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Pioneer Action Fund is listed as a social welfare organization. Under state and federal law, a group with that designation cannot spend more than 49 percent of its funds to advocate for or against a political candidate or issue. Pioneer Action Fund is not registered as a political committee with the Secretary of State and does not disclose its funding source.
There are other independent expenditure committees with some interesting connections.
People for a Better Denver was set up by former House Minority Leader Sal Pace of Pueblo and advocated for Sherick’s election in Senate District 31. The largest contributor to the committee, at $15,000 of the $20,000 so far reported, was AMW Services of Tualatin, Oregon. Its president and apparently only employee, according to the Oregon Secretary of State, is Ashley Mannino, who has been the chief operating officer for Innova Medical Services since 2014. Sherick is Innova’s founder and CEO.
Concerned Citizens for Aurora Families was established in mid-June to oppose candidates “with criminal backgrounds.” Its only targeted candidate was Aurora Board of Education member Eric Nelson, who was accused of falsifying his background information, including his college education. Nelson lost to Dominque Jackson in House District 42 by more than 40 percent.
Concerned Citizens spent $12,900 on digital ads opposing Nelson in the 11 days before the primary. The committee’s trade name is listed with the Secretary of State as Common Sense Values, which is run by Ashley Stevens, formerly finance director for an independent expenditure committee, Mainstream Colorado, that backed Democrats for the state Senate between 2012 and 2015.
Photo credit: Allen Tian