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Democratic statewide candidates continue to outraise and outspend their Republican rivals, but the GOP has the edge when it comes to spending by state-level super PACs, the most recent campaign finance reports show.

General election candidates for the four statewide offices and state legislative seats have spent about $19.5 million in the entire 2022 election cycle, based on campaign filings with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Outside groups spent $7.4 million on general election contests. 

The money is important because it allows candidates to get their messages out to voters via mailers, canvassing, and digital or TV ads. Outside groups often step in to offer negative messaging about candidates they oppose.

The Sun took a look at where the money was raised and spent through Sept. 14. The next campaign reports, through Sept. 28, are due Tuesday.

Democratic incumbents lead in statewide contests

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ infusion of $9.1 million into his campaign skews the fundraising numbers for Colorado’s four statewide offices.

Four years ago, the former congressman spent more than $23 million of his personal wealth to win the top statewide office.

His Republican opponent this year, University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, has put $854,000 of her own money into her campaign, but had raised only about $1.8 million through Sept. 14.

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Meanwhile, three other Democratic incumbents are also leading Republican nominees by significant margins, and two are spending considerably more than they did four years ago. 

For instance, Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser spent just under $3 million in 2018. This year, he spent more than $3 million through Sept. 14 and still had $1.1 million in cash. Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold has already spent more than three times the $1 million she spent to defeat Republican incumbent Wayne Williams four years ago. 

A federal judge in March rejected an effort by a group of Republicans to immediately overturn the state’s low contribution limits for statewide and legislative candidates. The group is appealing the decision, while the larger case trying to overturn the limits continues.

But Democrats managed to outraise their Republican opponents while abiding by the lower limits.

And all eight of the major party statewide candidates raised three-quarters or more of their campaign cash from Colorado donors.

Campaign cash in state Senate battle is relatively even among candidates

Republicans are pinning their hopes to regain a foothold in Colorado government on the state Senate, where they now face a 21-14 Democratic majority. 

Democrats are guaranteed 13 seats with 12 holdovers, including state Sen. Kevin Priola, a former Republican who became a Democrat in August, and one unopposed candidate in Denver Sen. Julie Gonzales. Republicans are guaranteed seven seats, with six holdovers and one unopposed candidate. 

Five seats are considered solid Republican, while three are considered solidly Democratic. So Republicans would need to win six of the remaining seven seats up for election to win a majority.

Here’s a look at candidate fundraising and spending in those seven contests:

But outside groups are set to spend more than the candidates.

Republicans dominating state-level outside spending

State-level super PACs spent $7.4 million through Sept. 14 to air TV and digital ads, send mailers and pay people to knock on voters’ doors.

Republican groups accounted for nearly $4.5 million of that, while Democratic groups spent about $2.9 million.

Much of that cash is going toward the governor’s contest, with Steve Wells, the wealthy Weld County rancher who made his money through oil and gas leasing, spending $1.8 million through his Deep Colorado Wells committee to oppose Polis and other Democrats while supporting Ganahl and other Republicans.

Democratic super PAC Strong Colorado For All, meanwhile, reported spending $758,000 on TV ads opposing Ganahl.

Six state Senate contests are also drawing plenty of outside cash, totaling nearly $4 million:

  • Nearly $900,000 has been spent on the Senate District 20 matchup in Jefferson County between Democratic state Rep. Lisa Cutter and Republican developer Tim Walsh. Of that, $480,000 came from Democratic groups and $388,000 from Republican groups.
  • Democratic and GOP groups have been about even in spending on the race in Senate District 8 in northwestern Colorado, at about $404,000 each. Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts, of Avon, faces Matt Solomon, a former Eagle town councilman, in the contest to represent the open seat.
  • Democrats have outspent Republicans $428,000 to $365,000 in Senate District 24 in Adams County, where state Rep. Kyle Mullica faces Adams 12 Five Star Schools board member Courtney Potter.
  • Republicans have outspent Democrats $374,000 to $132,000 in Colorado Springs’ Senate District 11. That contest pits Republican Sen. Dennis Hisey, who moved into the district last year to run for reelection after last year’s redistricting process, against Democratic state Rep. Tony Exum.
  • The GOP also has an advantage in Pueblo’s Senate District 3, spending $368,000 so far versus $137,000 of spending by Democrats. Appointed Democratic Sen. Nick Hinrichsen faces Republican Stephen Varela in the district.
  • Arapahoe County’s Senate District 27 is also drawing more Republican than Democratic cash. GOP groups have spent $338,000 while Democratic groups have spent $133,000. Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan faces GOP businessman Tom Kim in the district.

There’s plenty more money to spend in the weeks leading up to the election. Based on recent fundraising numbers, nine of the top 10 biggest spenders have $23 million left, with $9 million of that belonging to Deep Colorado Wells.

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette