Trail Marker: Ad wars commence

This week saw the campaigns for governor put their chips on the table with some record-breaking fundraising totals, new ads on the airwaves, and dueling big-league endorsements.

First, some numbers:

Democrat Mike Johnston, the former state senator and national figure in the education reform movement, boasted of a money-raking haul his campaign says “broke the record for the most money ever raised in a contested primary campaign — Democrat or Republican — since the advent of campaign finance reform.” In the latest reporting period, they said he brought in $605,000 for a total of $1.2 million so far. Johnston is also benefiting from a Super PAC tied to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that has $1 million to spend and is already buying TV time.

The context here is it can be really hard to raise a lot of money in Colorado because of the state’s relatively low campaign finance limits. Individuals can only give $1,150. (The national median limit for campaign contributions is $3,800.)

But Democrat Cary Kennedy swung back, with her campaign telling us she was able to raise more than $800,000 in the latest reporting period. Her campaign later said in a news release that Kennedy raised $818,531 in contributions during her first financial reporting period of 2018, what it called, “more than any other gubernatorial candidate, Democratic or Republican, has raised in a reporting period this cycle.”

The totals for everyone should officially be posted May 7. A Super PAC-style group called Teachers for Kennedy also popped up this week. 

Related: Colorado’s TV political ad spending nears $6M. It will only grow until the June 26 election.

On the endorsement front, Kennedy attracted the public support of Obama-era Interior Secretary and ex-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, aka Mr. Colorado, who could be the most well-known Democrat in the state. He has known Kennedy since she worked for former Gov. Roy Romer and said she has the heart of a public servant and will improve Colorado’s education system. “It’s time for a woman leader for Colorado,” he said. Salazar considered running for governor himself this year, but decided against it. That led Congressman Ed Perlmutter to get in the race, but he dropped out in July after his fellow congressman, Jared Polis, got in. Dominoes fall, rise, and fall again.

The same day Salazar tipped his cowboy hat to Kennedy, Polis’s campaign put out the news that Pat Schroeder is supporting Polis’s bid. “Forty-six years after Schroeder became the first woman in Colorado elected to Congress, Polis became the first openly gay man elected to Congress,” the campaign said in a statement.

Reminder: Read our ongoing coverage at our page dedicated to the 2018 ColoradoGovernor’s Race

Also this week, Kennedy released her first TV ad, which mentions Donald Trump twice in the first 11 seconds. The message is about protecting the environment, expanding renewable energy, planning for growth and not selling public lands to developers. Johnston released a 30-second ad entirely in Spanish, and held an immigration-rights workshop at a town hall this week.

For her part, Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne is out with an ad showing her getting a tattoo of Colorado’s “C” logo along with the words “Fight for Colorado,” a move showcasing her more funky side that brings to mind her boss, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s attention-getting commercials like when he took a shower with his clothes on or jumped out of an airplane. (A fact-check by KDVR found a claim in the ad, “We’ve cut the number of uninsured in half” misleading since that happened before she became lieutenant governor. The campaign told the station she meant “we” as in “Colorado.”)

As data journalist Sandra Fish notes at #COpolitics, Polis was advertising on TV last week. The message is a bio piece outlining his success in internet companies and launching schools for immigrant kids and features a photo of him with Barack Obama. “I’m running for governor to turn bold ideas into results,” he says, facing the camera. Fish reports he has already set aside $1 million worth of ads for TV. That matches what Republican entrepreneur and onetime lawmaker Victor Mitchell has ponied up. Think of that ad with the dogs. Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is benefiting from TV ads by a Super PAC-style group called Better Colorado Now. The ads say Stapleton supports “strengthening our border security” (Colorado is not a border state), and add that he’ll “crack down on sanctuary cities.” Doug Robinson’s campaign says he’s been on TV in non-metro areas for a while.

Speaking of Robinson, the retired investment banker and first-time candidate running as a businessman outsider appeared on an online TV show for the liberal blog ColoradoPols, joining the ranks of his GOP rival Victor Mitchell. Recently, Robinson told us, “I need to talk about [Stapleton] more.” And he did in the interview, mentioning Stapleton’s 1999 DUI, saying it’s relevant for the general election. “The Democrats are going to have that [out there] morning, breakfast, lunch, dinner. It’s going to be all of the time,” he said. He’s probably right. The state’s largest progressive group is already fundraising over the issue. Robinson also said in a radio interview this week that the biggest issue facing Colorado is “roads,” that rolling back Medicaid would be hard, and that he supports the rights of teachers to walk out of the classroom and protest. (Republicans in the legislature proposed a law that could potentially send striking teachers to jail.)

Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker who stunned observers when he nabbed about 33 percent of the vote at the GOP state assembly to get on the June 26 primary ballot, spent about 45 minutes with the Colorado Business Roundtable. In the interview, he says he lives off a dirt road with a septic tank and a well. “I’m not the smartest man in the room and I will never be the smartest man in the room,” he said. He says he’s asking for $64 dollars from people in contributions— a dollar for each county as a pitch to his belief in “all” of Colorado. His remarks also included this data point about an eight-candidate race: “I’m the only veteran running for governor on both sides of the aisle.”

Oh yeah, and those unaffiliated voters we told you about last week? They’re still choosing more Democratic ballots than Republican. Read our full story on that phenomenon.

Photo by espensorvik for Creative Commons on Flickr.