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Politics and Government

The 6th Congressional District TV ad battle is one of the nation’s most expensive; spending in Colorado attorney general’s race ramps up

Meanwhile, the race to become Colorado's next governor, Republican Walker Stapleton is getting a helping hand from outside groups

Democrat Jason Crow, left, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, in this photo illustration. (Left photo by Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun. Right photo provided.)
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Television-advertising spending in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race continues to set records, with about $16 million booked and totals rising, even as pollsters begin to make their predictions in the fierce battle between incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Jason Crow.

The Cook Political Report moved the 6th Congressional District into its “likely Democratic” category, but Advertising Analytics says TV-ad spending in the district is among the top five in congressional races across the country this year, indicating the race is still highly competitive.

The high-stakes battle now surpasses the $12.4 million spent in 2014 and the $9.7 million spent in 2016 on TV ads in the 6th Congressional District.

Coffman survived well-known Democratic challengers both those years.

MORE: In his toughest political battle yet, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is trying to navigate his way to another re-election against growing headwinds

Most of the TV-ad spending is from outside groups, and Democrats hold an advantage in the district, spending $8.9 million compared with $6.9 million for Republicans. The two candidates together have spent $4 million on television spots.

This week, nonprofit VoteVets Action Fund entered the fray on behalf of Crow and the Democrats. Only one Denver station reported that contract last week, so it’s likely that VoteVets’ totals will increase.

Meanwhile, Coffman and Crow both dropped new ads Monday trying to sway voters in the 6th District.

Crow’s 30-second spot features him and others reading the Army Ranger creed, which builds on messaging that the campaign has been trying to spread about Crow’s military service.

Coffman, meanwhile, came out with a spot featuring the family of Angela Becerra, an Aurora toddler who was set to be deported because of complications with her adoption from Peru. The five-term congressman intervened.

“Mike kept our family together,” said Angela’s mom, Amy. “We’ve seen the attacks on Mike — and that’s not who he is. Mike fights for all of us.”

The ad, set to run for a little more than two weeks heading into the election’s final stretch, is part of a $500,000 buy from Coffman’s campaign. It brings the campaign to about $1.6 million in spending on television ads this cycle.

Here’s a look at TV-ad spending on the 6th Congressional District, based on Federal Communications Commission contracts, through Friday:

The race for governor

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, left, speaks with CBS4’s Shaun Boyd, center, and Walker Stapleton before the television news station’s debate, in partnership with The Colorado Sun, on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, continues to top the political ad spending list, with more than $7 million being spent during the general election. Virtually all that comes from Polis’ own deep pockets.

Meanwhile, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Polis’ Republican opponent, has booked only $530,000 worth of ads.

Instead, the GOP candidate appears content with allowing outside groups to carry the TV-advertising load. The Republican Governors Association in late July went on the air to bash Polis and hail Stapleton — and the group hasn’t let up. Through Sept. 26, RGA reports spending $3.3 million, according to disclosures filed with the Colorado secretary of state office. Only about $1.1 million of that shows up on the FCC site.

Good Jobs Colorado, a Democratic super PAC airing ads attacking Stapleton, reported to the secretary of state office $2.3 million spent on ads, but only $1.2 million of that shows up in FCC contracts.

That’s because the law doesn’t require contracts with state-level issue committees to be filed with the FCC. And most of the larger Denver stations don’t file these contracts, so it’s difficult to gauge outside spending in this race and others.

MORE: What we learned from the first televised Colorado governor’s race debate between Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton

Still, you can get a sense of what groups are airing ads in the governor’s race. Last week, the GOP’s super PAC Better Jobs Coalition booked more than $192,000 worth of cable ads in the contest.

The 60-second spots are slated to air in Jefferson County and mountain communities, including Vail and Aspen.

Here’s a look at the spending reported to the FCC in the governor’s contest:

Attorney general’s race ads this week

Republican George Brauchler, left, and Democrat Phil Weiser in a photo illustration. (Illustration by Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun. Left photo provided by Brauchler campaign. Right photo by Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun.)

The Republican Attorneys General Association, on behalf of candidate George Brauchler, launched an ad attacking his Democrat opponent, Phil Weiser, over experience.

The ad features Jefferson County District Attorney Peter Weir, a Republican, who calls Weiser inexperienced.

This has been the prominent attack line for Brauchler and RAGA against Weiser, but expect to see them pivot to try to paint Weiser as an “activist” over the weeks heading into Nov. 6, when Colorado’s mail-in ballots will be counted.

The ad brings RAGA’s spending in the race to nearly $3 million, which is notable for a down-ballot contest. RAGA has, thus far, created three ads in Brauchler’s favor and bought time for them.

Weiser kicks off his statewide ad buy Monday with a new spot trying to combat that Republican attack line over experience, talking about his time working in the Justice Department under Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. It also points out that he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The entire $41 million

Here’s the tally of general-election TV ads Coloradans face with four weeks until Election Day: nearly $41 million and almost 76 days straight of round-the-clock viewing.

The oil and gas industry is funding more than $3 million worth of ads (only $2.2 million reported to the FCC) to support Amendment 74, which would require governments to compensate property owners if regulations devalue their land.

Soon, Save our Neighborhoods, backed by the League of Conservation Voters, will be on the air to fight Amendment 74, with at least $340,000 in ads — and more is likely to come.

MORE: Amendment 74: Everything you need to know about the Colorado ballot question

In the contest for state treasurer, state Rep. Dave Young, a Democrat, has scheduled about $92,000 in TV ads as he battles Republican Brian Watson.

MORE: Brian Watson’s financial history resurfaces as he runs for Colorado treasurer. The Republican says “I’m thankful for those lessons.”

And in the fight against the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Civil Liberties Union last week aired nearly $600,000 worth of ads in Colorado, while nonprofit Demand Justice spent about $73,000 on mostly cable ads opposing the nomination.

(Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in to the Supreme Court over the weekend.)

Here’s a look at all the TV political ad contracts totaling $25,000 or more filed through Friday:

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.

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