The gov primary tally: $25M spent by candidates, $10M by PACs and more $$ to come

We’ve written quite a bit about how much Colorado’s eight candidates in the June 26 gubernatorial primary raised.

When loans are included, those candidates took in close to $26 million. That’s more than all gubernatorial candidates raised in 2010 and 2014 combined. In 2014, all the candidates in primary and general election spent $10.9 million (including folks who didn’t get on the ballot). In 2010, all the candidates spent $10.5 million in primary and general election combined. (Caveat: In 2010 and 2014, there was no Democratic primary.)

That $26 million doesn’t include more than $1.4 million raised by six Republican and two Democratic candidates who dropped out or didn’t make the ballot.

Today, let’s focus on what they spent, which is, again, a record for spending on a governor’s race in Colorado, with the general election still four months away. The total is nearly $25 million. All eight candidates had money left in their campaign coffers.

We’ve broken down the spending by candidates and spending by their respective super PACs here:

Clearly, Democratic nominee Congressman Jared Polis led the way, in large part because of the $11.3 million he spent on his campaign.  Also spending nearly one million dollars on his behalf was The Sierra Club, which doesn’t disclose where the money comes from, and Bold Colorado, which was funded in large part by the nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

But Alex Cranberg, a Republican oil and gas investor with offices in Denver and Austin, put $50,000 into Bold Colorado in the last days of the primary. Cranberg is a supporter of school choice and vouchers, and served on the University of Texas Board of Regents.

The voucher issue – and whether Polis supports them – became a touchstone issue in the Democratic governor’s primary. Polis has voted against vouchers in Congress, but once supported a statewide voucher pilot program. He’s helped found two charter schools.

Coming in second was third-place Democratic finisher Mike Johnston, largely boosted by super PAC Frontier Fairness, which spent $5.2 million. That group was fueled by $2 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $1 million from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

Republican businessman Victor Mitchell finished second in his four-way contest and third overall in spending, putting in nearly $5 million of his own cash.

Former Democratic Treasurer Cary Kennedy got more than $2 million in help from Teachers for Kennedy, which attacked Polis on vouchers and other education issues. But she still finished a relatively distant second to Polis.

GOP nominee Treasurer Walker Stapleton spent $1.9 million, including $1 million of his own cash. And another $1.7 million was spent on his behalf by a web of super PACs funded by a combination of nonprofits, whose funds can’t be traced, and business interests.

About 800 of Stapleton’s 2,200 individual contributors already gave the maximum $1,150, so the Republican will need to tap a new group of donors for the general election.

Polis, meanwhile, is accepting individual donations at a maximum of $100.

The next filing deadline is Aug. 1, when we’ll get a better look at what’s ahead for the Nov. 6 general election.

Image by 401(k)2012 via Flickr:Creative Commons


  1. $27 million getting out 1,127,478 votes. Assuming a few rounding errors and votes yet to be recorded, that’s just short of $24 per vote. It is a boon to the TV and radio stations, internet ad companies, and some professional politicians.

    I am certain there is some lesson that the last time I saw the figure $27 million, it was referring to the costs of the 416 forest fire.

  2. And THIS is the problem in our political system, now days. Unless you’ve got access to money and LOTS of it, you won’t be going anywhere in government. With rulings like the DISASTROUS Citizens United which gave money free reign to corrupt our politicians to unheard of levels, those who don’t have millions to throw at a race have essentially NO say in anything. Our votes don’t even count for much of anything.

    We need to change to a fully public financed system where NO private money is allowed. This system has to have real teeth in terms of actual enforceable jail time for offenders, candidate included. The whole idea that anyone running for a position can be trusted to do the right thing is a ludicrous concept at best.

    The idea that money is the same as speech is SO laughable, I’m amazed that this nonsense has stayed around as long as it has. Speech is speech. It involves words, and generally doens’t pay the rent unless one is a REALLY good speaker. I can’t go to my landlord and say “I can’t pay the rent this month, but here’s a really good speech for you”. Not going to fly. And I can’t very well corrupt anyone with a speech, no matter how lewd or graphic. Just not going to happen.

    Money, on the other hand, can and does corrupt people daily. You can get people to do a LOT more things that they don’t want to if you throw money at them. Money has made government employees sell out their country. Money has made men and women leave their spouses and families. Money DOES corrupt, and it is NOT the same as speech.

    In fact, if money WERE the same as speech, then using it that way STILL violates our fundamental idea of one man one vote. If everyone is given a dollar as their speech, then it’s like the rich have unlimited speech on their side when the rest of us have a dollar. NOT quite fair, is it? How does THAT equal one man one vote? It cannot be defended.

    A system MUST be devised that removes ALL private money from elections. Until we remove the legalized BRIBERY, we will always be beholden to those with more money than brains, ethics or morals. And that’s EXACTLY where we find ourselves today. We can either keep this charade going, or we can and MUST change it. Doing nothing is a sign of our collapse as a country.

Comments are closed.