Lauren Boebert, then a Republican candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, speaks during a get-out-the-vote-rally at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (Barton Glasser, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The 2022 battle for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat is off to a hot fundraising start with incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert raising about 28% of her entire 2020 take in a mere three months.

The Garfield County Republican raised more than $846,000 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and had more than $842,000 in the bank at the end of the fundraising quarter.

But state Sen. Kerry Donovan, an Eagle County Democrat hoping to win a crowded primary and then unseat Boebert, brought in nearly $644,000 in the two months after declaring her candidacy in early February. 

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet raised $1.2 million from January through March, replenishing an account depleted by a brief 2020 presidential contest. That gives him a solid financial base from which to launch a 2022 reelection campaign that could decide whether Democrats keep control of Congress.

Thursday’s fundraising deadline at the federal and state levels provides a first glimpse at how 2022 contests are shaping up in Colorado. Bennet and the top four statewide elected officials have yet to draw prominent GOP opponents, nor well-funded Republican opposition, giving them a chance to amass campaign cash.

CD3 contest is fueled by small-dollar donors

Boebert, the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle and who typically sports a pistol on her hip, spent only about $142,000 to defeat Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 2020 June Republican primary election. She quickly became a conservative media favorite, eventually raising nearly $3 million over the course of the 2020 election cycle to defeat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker, in November. 

About 60% of the money Boebert raised in the first three months of this year came from small donors giving $200 or less, and 51% of her itemized donations came from Coloradans.

Boebert spent nearly $379,000 over the three months, including a $35,000 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Large donations to the committee helping elect GOP House members are seen as a way to curry favor with party leaders.

Neither Boebert nor Donovan received money from corporate political action committees. That’s common among Democrats in Colorado and nationwide, but not so much among Republican candidates. 

Colorado State Senator Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, speaks during a CORE Act One Year Anniversary event on January 30, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency in Denver. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Some corporate PACs are withholding cash from Republicans who supported overturning the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, particularly those, including Boebert, who voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win on Jan. 6.

Donovan also capitalized on small-dollar donors, with nearly 73% of her money from that stream. Of her itemized contributions, 54% came from Colorado donors. Donovan’s campaign spent more than $281,000, including nearly $142,000 on digital advertising. She had about $363,000 in the bank heading into April.

Several other Democrats and one Republican have filed to run in the massive 3rd District, which stretches from Steamboat Springs through Grand Junction south to Durango and across the San Luis Valley to Pueblo. But none who filed reports Thursday raised more than $70,000.

State Rep. Don Valdez, a La Jara Democrat, raised $67,000, the closest to Donovan and Boebert.

Colorado state Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, is pictured in the House during the first day of Colorado’s 73rd legislative session at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Sol Sandoval, a Pueblo community activist who won an endorsement from Mitsch Bush on Thursday, raised $45,500 and had $20,000 of cash on hand heading into April..

Bennet rakes in $1.2 million; Cory Gardner still has $1 million in the bank

Bennet, who is seeking his third full term in the Senate, raised $1.2 million and has about as much in the bank. 

Bennet transferred $700,000 from his Senate coffers to a brief presidential bid in 2019, spending all that cash. But he had a strong first fundraising quarter, depending mostly on big-money donors. 

The Democrat received only 13% of his cash from small donors. Of the $1.1 million in itemized contributions, Coloradans contributed 34%, followed by 21% from New Yorkers and 17% from Californians.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet at a “car rally” at Denver’s East High School on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The campaign spent $539,000, mostly on buying contact lists and fundraising. Bennet is still owed about $375,000 of his own money that he loaned to his 2010 Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, former Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who lost his 2020 reelection bid, still has more than $1 million in cash in his campaign account. One of Bennet’s early fundraising emails speculated that Gardner could challenge the two-term Democrat, but the Republican has given no indication he plans to seek another term. 

Gardner’s expenses in the first three months of the year included $6,700 for moving in January and $2,500 in catering at a Washington, D.C., Republican club in February.

Thus far, Bennet hasn’t drawn significant Republican opposition.

In other congressional first-quarter fundraising:

  • First-year Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper raised $177,000 in the first three months of the year and has $1.4 million in the bank, even though he won’t be up for reelection until 2026.
  • Three Democratic House members are sitting on cash balances exceeding $1 million despite virtually no Republican opposition thus far. U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora has nearly $1.5 million in the bank, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette has $1.2 million and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada has $1 million.
  • U.S. Rep. Ken Buck disavowed money from big tech companies Google, Apple and Amazon, though he’d only received $7,500 from the companies’ PACs in 2020. But the National Association of Broadcasters PAC donated $5,000 to the Windsor Republican, Fox Corp. PAC II gave him $3,500 and News Corp. PAC gave him $2,500.
  • Perlmutter and Denver Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver each received $1,000 from Google’s PAC during the first quarter.

Here are details of congressional fundraising in the first quarter of the year.

Phil Weiser, Jena Griswold sit on hefty cash balances at the state level 

Four Democrats holding statewide elected offices will face reelection bids in 2022, and they’re raising cash while awaiting Republican opposition.

Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser raised more than $531,000 in the first three months of the year as he prepares for a 2022 reelection bid. His campaign is sitting on more than $1 million in cash, which is about one-third of what he spent in the 2018 election cycle to get elected to his first term.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold raised $284,000 in the first quarter, and has nearly $530,000 in the bank. Treasurer Dave Young raised nearly $79,000, and has $86,000 in cash.

Jena Griswold at an event with U.S Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, in northeast Denver on Dec. 6, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis, meanwhile, raised about $25,000 in the first three months of 2021. His campaign has spent about $377,000 since 2019, but $188,000 of that came from Polis, who made millions as a tech entrepreneur. The Boulder Democrat spent more than $23 million of his own money in his 2018 campaign after serving a decade in Congress.

Republican candidates have yet to file to challenge Weiser, Griswold or Young.

Polis has yet to file with the state for his reelection candidacy though he’s raising money for a bid. The campaign isn’t accepting donations more than $100 per person, however. 

Several others have filed to run for governor next year, including Republican former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, though none have posted significant fundraising numbers to match Polis’ deep warchest.

Special to The Colorado Sun
Twitter: @fishnette