Candidates, donors and outside groups have dropped more than $60 million on Colorado’s key state races

Jared Polis has accounted for $23 million of that money. But other statewide races have attracted serious cash, too.

Candidate Forum at Temple Emanual Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018.
Candidate Forum at Temple Emanual Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018. Photos by Evan Semón Photography

Colorado’s four major statewide races — governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer — attracted more than $60 million in spending this election, according to the final pre-election campaign finance reports, filed this week.

It’s a significant chunk of the more than $200 million poured into the 2018 Colorado election overall. All that spending has largely been fueled by deep-pocketed donors and outside spending groups.

This mid-term election cycle has been the most expensive in the state’s history, with spending up about $50 million over the 2014 midterms, according to filings posted by the secretary of state’s office. Final, post-election reports will come out by Dec. 6, one month after the election’s over.

We wrote earlier about the big money pouring into contests at the state legislature, which may or may not swing blue this year. Independent expenditure committees have spent more than $12 million alone on just seven state Senate races. Read all about it here.

Tomorrow, we’ll report more on the massive outside spending on Colorado’s 13 ballot measures. The vast majority of that cash is coming from the oil and gas industry, which is the subject of two of the state’s most controversial measures this year, Proposition 112 and Amendment 74.

As for the statewide candidates, we’re guessing you’ve heard about Jared Polis’s spending or seen his countless TV ads and inferred from that he’s spent big. But that’s not the only storyline of interest in candidates’ final pre-election reports.


Democrat Jared Polis, a dot-com multimillionaire and five-term congressman from Boulder, has obliterated state campaign-finance records in his pursuit of the governorship in Colorado.

As of the latest report, he’s put about $23 million of personal cash into the race. Because he has so much money, he hasn’t needed to rely on donations from individuals or outside groups. In fact, he’s refused any individual donation above $100 and has brought in only about $500,000 through that avenue.

The Colorado Sun put together a handy list of the 10 biggest individual donors in Colorado’s election. Polis tops the list and has spent more than the rest of the list combined.

Republican Walker Stapleton, the two-term state treasurer and Polis’s opponent, might have made headlines in other years for his self-funding. He dropped $1 million into his campaign back during the primary, which put him among only a half-dozen candidates in Colorado history who’ve spent more than $1 million on their own races.

In total, Stapleton’s campaign has spent about $4 million, as of the latest report.

Polis’s edge looks less significant when it comes to outside money. Close to three dozen outside groups have combined to drop $22 million on the governor’s race so far, and a slight majority of it has come from Republican groups backing Stapleton.

Attorney General

Over the past decade, state attorneys general have taken on higher-profile roles, in large part because of the dramatic rise in multistate litigation attorneys general filed to fight then-President Obama and now, President Trump.

Big money has poured into the A.G. race in Colorado, which pits law school dean Phil Weiser, a Democrat with deep party roots, against Republican George Brauchler, the district attorney in Colorado’s largest judicial district and a one-time gubernatorial hopeful.

More than $10 million has been spent in total on this race, and most of it has benefited Brauchler. His campaign has brought in about $750,000, according to the latest filings, but outside groups have spent nearly $6 million on his behalf.

Weiser’s campaign has raised much more — close to $3 million, so far — but outside groups have spent only about $1.5 million on his behalf.

The outside cash that’s benefited Weiser might look paltry next to Brauchler’s total, but $1.5 million is almost as much as was spent for both sides, combined, the last time the seat was up for grabs.


It’s either going to be businessman Brian Watson, a Republican, or Dave Young, the Democratic state representative. As we detailed in a piece this week, it’s a big job and whoever wins it will be tasked with overseeing billions in investments.

Watson’s campaign has spent about $1.5 million, according to the latest filings, and roughly two-thirds of it comes from Watson’s own pockets. Young has contributed generously to his own race — $100,000, so far — though the figure doesn’t look so big when compared to the self-funding by his opponent and other statewide candidates.

In total, Young’s campaign has spent about $500,000, per the secretary of state.

Secretary of State

In the race for secretary of state, Jena Griswold, a 32-year-old lawyer and a Democrat, is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Wayne Williams. Griswold is the only woman running for major statewide office this year.

Unlike candidates in other statewide races, neither Griswold nor Williams has put big personal cash into this race. In fact, the latest filings show neither has done any self-funding this cycle.

But in terms of money raised, Griswold’s far outpaced Williams. Her campaign has taken in about $1 million, while Williams has raised about $300,000.

Williams has gotten a little more than that from outside groups, which have dropped about $400,000 on his behalf, but Griswold’s got him beat there, too, with $600,000 in outside cash.