Big money continues to flood Colorado’s much-watched U.S. Senate race, as Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner amasses a huge war chest that his Democratic challengers are scrambling to match.
Democratic rival John Hickenlooper, the former two-term Colorado governor, bested Gardner’s fundraising in the final three months of 2019, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday. But his bank account is half the size of the GOP incumbent in less than six months, and he must first compete in a party primary.
Andrew Romanoff, a top Democratic primary competitor, saw his fundraising decline from October through December, but says he’s confident he will raise enough to buy television ads to reach voters closer to the June primary.
The year-end campaign reports show how much money the candidates have to start the 2020 election year and offer insights into what to expect for the big races in months ahead.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers that stand out from a Colorado Sun analysis of the reports:
That’s how much Gardner had in the bank to start 2020. The Yuma lawmaker began fundraising shortly after taking office in January 2015 and has raised more than $11 million total ahead of his reelection bid.
In the final three months of 2019, Gardner raised $2 million. It came with a boost from President Donald Trump, who reportedly raised $100,000 for the senator with one fundraising email blasting the impeachment process.
Gardner spent about $185,000 each on digital advertising and fundraising consulting in the last three months of the year, the reports show.
Gardner took in more than one third of his campaign cash through WinRed, an online fundraising platform. That made small-dollar donors about 18% of his total for the quarter.
But records show Gardner refunded nearly $60,000 in contributions in the last three months of the year, bringing the total refunds for 2019 to nearly $137,000. Some of the refunds came after excess contributions were discovered by the Federal Election Commission.
His campaign manager, Casey Contres, issued a statement saying the fundraising put the campaign “in an incredible position at the beginning of 2020” and will allow them “to get our message out about all Cory has done for this state, while also warning Coloradans about how his opponents’ policies will hurt hardworking families.”
More help for Gardner is coming from his Republican colleagues in the Senate. He raised 17% of his money from joint fundraising committees, which allow elected officials to team up to collect campaign cash.
Gardner belongs to 13 joint fundraising committees. A new one that benefits Gardner is Friends of Mitt. The committee raises money for RepublicanU.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Gardner, two other senators and two committees. The Gardner campaign received more than $96,000 of the $484,000 that committee raised, FEC reports show.
The total reflects how much Hickenlooper had in the bank to start 2020, which is less than half of Gardner’s cash on hand.
The Democrat entered the race in late August and has raised $4.9 million so far. The $2.8 million he raised from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 is the largest single quarter from any candidate still in the race, reports show. Hickenlooper also is getting help from national Democrats and belongs to four joint fundraising committees.
About 42% of his itemized contributions came from Coloradans, with 16% from New Yorkers. Hickenlooper’s campaign spent nearly $273,000 on digital ads and nearly $237,000 on salaries.
Hickenlooper’s campaign has so far refunded $16,000, with several of the dozen refunds appearing to be for excess contributions.
In a statement, Hickenlooper said the money he raised this quarter will allow the campaign to “get out our message of bringing change to Washington and bringing people together to actually get things done on the issues that Coloradans care about.”
Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Hickenlooper’s main rival in the Democratic primary, raised $313,000 in the final 2019 fundraising quarter and spent more than he took in. The total for the quarter represented a downturn after he raised at least $500,000 in each of the previous three fundraising periods.
Romanoff starts the election year with $686,000 in his account. Since July 1, his campaign began to spend down his campaign cash as it hired more paid staffers to help organize support ahead of the state Democratic convention, where he hopes to qualify for the ballot. He spent $351,000 in the final three months of 2019.
In an interview, Romanoff said he is pleased with this progress and pointed to his advantage among small donors from Colorado. “Obviously we aren’t going to have the most money in the race, that’s no surprise.”
As for Hickenlooper’s much bigger haul, Romanoff said his rival needs money to defend his record on the environment. “If I was in his camp, I would need all the money in the world to erase my record. … It’s going to take a lot of money to forget what he said and did,” Romanoff said of Hickenlooper.
The biggest single expense for Romanoff in the final quarter totaled $50,000 for media production services to a New York company. The money covered the cost to produce a 4-minute apocalyptic web video on climate change that debuted in December. It featured actors and a montage of footage from natural disasters across the globe.
Romanoff said the money raised from the video covered the cost and helped draw attention to the issue. “I think we broke even on it,” he said.
The other six Democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate primary who filed reports raised just $115,000 combined in the last three months of 2019. The candidates — Stephany Rose Spaulding, Trish Zornio, Diana Bray, Lorena Garcia, Michelle Ferrigno Warren and Christopher Hawkins “Critter” Milton — are running low-budget campaigns but hope to qualify for the June 30 primary ballot.
Spaulding raised nearly $30,000 of the total, followed by $28,000 for Garcia and nearly $24,000 for Ferrigno Warren.
The top fundraiser at the congressional level entering 2020 is Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, who is part of the House impeachment management team and represents the 6th District, one of the state’s most competitive.
The first-term Aurora lawmaker raised the most among Colorado’s seven incumbent representatives with a haul of more than $429,000. He had nearly $1.4 million in the bank at the end of 2019.
The two Republicans vying to challenge Crow are former state GOP chairman Steve House, who raised $298,000 in the fourth quarter, and Casper Stockham, who brought in nearly $14,000.
House’s total includes an $85,000 loan to himself. He finished with $437,000 in the bank. Stockholm ended the year with $800 in cash.
The modest total in the last quarter from U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — who is also Colorado Republican Party chairman — is the least of any incumbent congressional member in Colorado. He’s also last in fundraising for 2019 at about $161,000.
Still, Buck is sitting on nearly $361,000 for his reelection campaign. His one Democratic opponent so far, Ian McCorkle, finished the quarter owing more than $3,600, apparently having made payments for a campaign staffer and voter lists. But the campaign doesn’t list any loans or donations from the candidate or other debt.
That’s how much Democrat James Iacino, executive chairman of Seattle Fish Co., raised in his inaugural quarter as a challenger to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton. He spent $19,000 of his own cash.
Tipton, who is seeking reelection to a sixth term in November, raised about $182,000 for the quarter. His 3rd District seat in western and southern Colorado leans Republican, but Democrats are making noise about mounting a solid challenge.
But first the two parties need to compete in primary races. Tipton’s Republican challenger, Lauren Boebert, raised $19,000 after entering the race in early December.
On the Democratic side, Iacino is competing against Diane Mitsch Bush, a former Democratic state lawmaker who lost to Tipton in 2018. She raised nearly $140,000 in the final quarter.
To start 2020, Tipton had nearly $530,000 in cash, compared with $258,000 for Mitsch Bush and $166,000 for Iacino.