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Politics and Government

Jared Polis becomes first candidate to air negative TV ad in 2018 general election

The latest on TV ad spending in Colorado's election broken down in charts

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Democratic Jared Polis is fighting back against a barrage of attack ads against him with his own negative spot.

His campaign for governor began airing a TV ad Friday that blasts his Republican opponent Walker Stapleton for “false claims” and “negative ads.” It concludes by calling Stapleton “Donald Trump’s Yes Man.”

That’s the first negative ad by a candidate in the general election. And it’s misleading, too.

Stapleton has not aired any TV ads — whether true or false — nor even bought TV time. Polis suggests Stapleton ran the ads, though it was actually the Republican Governors Association. The RGA and the Stapleton campaign cannot coordinate on campaign messages.

Polis, a Boulder congressman, tops the list of Colorado political TV advertisers in the general election, based on contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission and reviewed by The Colorado Sun. He’s already spent nearly $1.3 million since the primary and has another $2.7 million worth of ads scheduled. He’s likely to spend even more.

But Polis is facing an onslaught of negative advertising from a range of Republican groups that through the weekend had aired at least $1.8 million worth of commercials. That’s likely a low number, because stations aren’t required to file contracts by outside groups at the state level with the FCC.

The total spent on political ads from the day after the June 26 primary through the general election tops $23 million, based on contracts filed with the FCC through Sept. 7.

The latest TV ad spending in Colorado

Here’s a look at the top spenders for the general election:

It isn’t just the candidates on the TV.

The oil and gas industry via Protect Colorado has spent nearly $3 million (and probably more) on TV advertising against an initiative that would require a 2,500-foot setback for new oil and gas development. That group started airing ads against the initiative in August, before it made the ballot.

Two other groups also are reserving airtime to support ballot measures.

And despite the focus on the contest for governor, the battle between incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow is drawing the most cash in the ad race, now topping $10.8 million. The two candidates account for about $2 million of that total.

Here’s a look at TV ad spending by affiliation in all contests:

Each week the Colorado Sun examines political TV advertising contracts filed by Colorado TV and cable networks with the FCC. Read more about why and how we do this analysis.