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Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks at a news conference in Denver, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Incumbent Democrats holding the offices of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer significantly outraised their Republican opponents in the final three months of 2021, according to campaign finance filings submitted Tuesday.

But super PACs supporting Republican state Senate candidates in Colorado narrowed the gap with their Democratic counterparts, getting help from a national GOP group.

Candidates and committees faced a deadline Tuesday to file reports of money raised and spent between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. They don’t have to file again until May 2, after the June 28 primary ballot is set, making the most recent fundraising quarter a crucial glimpse at candidates’ financial status.

Democratic statewide incumbents have significant cash

Gov. Jared Polis, Attorney General Phil Weiser, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Treasurer Dave Young all had significant fundraising advantages over their Republican challengers at the start of the year.

Republican candidates Heidi Ganahl, who is running for governor, and Pam Anderson, who is running for secretary of state, agreed to voluntary spending limits, allowing them to take larger contributions from individual donors. But those donations didn’t exactly flow in during the final three months of the year.

Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent, reported raising nearly $471,000 in the last three months of the year. But $200,000 of that was money Ganahl contributed to her own campaign. She also converted a $50,000 loan made in September to a direct contribution. That means her own cash accounts for 41% of the $658,000 raised thus far. 

Meanwhile, Polis put another $300,000 of his own cash into his campaign in the final three months of the year. His campaign raised about $38,000 from donors, who he self limits to $200 each. 

Ganahl had $341,000 in the bank at the end of the year, more than Polis’ $205,000. Polis has so far put $723,000 into his 2022 reelection campaign. In 2018, he spent $23 million of his own cash to win a four-way primary and the general election.

Heidi Ganahl announces her run for governor on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at Rosie’s Diner in Monument. Ganahl, an entrepreneur, author, and member of the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, is the only remaining elected Republican holding statewide office in Colorado. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Numerous others have filed to run for governor, but few are raising or spending significant amounts  of money. Republicans who reported raising or spending money include:

  • Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, who ran in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, raised nearly $18,000 in the last quarter of 2021. He had nearly $20,000 in cash to start the year.
  • Danielle Neuschwanger, a Peyton real estate broker who has spread conspiracy theories, raised $32,000 and had $4,400 in cash at the start of January. She has loaned her campaign nearly $41,000.
  • Jon Gray-Ginsberg, of Frisco, reported spending nearly $106,000 in the last three months of 2021, mostly to a Texas company for news releases. But he didn’t report any contributions or loans, meaning there was no information on where the money he spent came from.

In the secretary of state’s contest, Griswold finished 2021 with $1.4 million in the bank. That’s more than the $1 million she spent on her 2018 race when she defeated Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams. She raised more than $320,000 in the last three months of 2021 for a total of $1.6 million this cycle.

Her Republican counterparts are significantly behind:

  • Anderson raised about $40,000 after announcing her campaign in November. The former Jefferson County clerk and recorder and executive director of the Colorado Clerks Association also loaned her campaign $10,000. 
  • Yuma County resident Mike O’Donnell loaned his campaign $50,000 but didn’t report raising any money from others after announcing his bid in late December. He’s been active in economic development nonprofits.
  • David Winney, of Colorado Springs, raised $1,600 and had $1,600 in cash on hand to begin the year.

Democratic Treasurer Dave Young raised nearly $45,000 in the last quarter of 2021, and had nearly $189,000 in cash to begin the year. Republican Lang Sias, a former state lawmaker who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, raised nearly $34,000 in his first fundraising quarter. But Sias contributed $10,000 of that amount.

Attorney General Phil Weiser raised nearly $435,000 in the final three months of the year for a total thus far of $2.7 million. He had $2.3 million in cash to start the year and, thus far, no Republican opponent. 

Weiser spent nearly $2.9 million in his 2018 campaign to beat Republican George Brauchler, who spent about 26% of that amount.

Senate Republicans get national help

Colorado Republicans and their national counterparts clearly see the state Senate as an opportunity to wrest power from Democrats in Colorado. And the GOP started this year in a competitive fundraising position. 

The Senate Majority Fund raised $434,000 in the last three months of the year, bringing its 2021 total to nearly $943,000. The GOPAC Election Fund, a federal committee affiliated with the Republican National Committee, donated a total of $145,000 to the group.

Two committees, both named All Together Colorado, which support Democratic state Senate candidates raised $577,000 in the last quarter, bringing their total to $1 million in 2021. 

Lawmakers are seen at the Capitol’s Senate floor on Jan. 12, 2022 in Denver at the start of Colorado’s General Assembly’s 2022 session. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Democratic super PACs are outraising their Republican counterparts on the state House side, however. Better Colorado Alliance committees raised a total of $659,000 in 2021 to support House Democrats, compared with $388,000 raised by Restore Colorado Leadership Fund, which supports House Republicans. 

Education Reform Now Advocacy, a national progressive education group, donated $250,000 each to All Together Colorado and Better Colorado Alliance in December. That group also donated $150,000 to Strong Colorado For All, a Democratic super PAC supporting statewide and legislative candidates.

Money raised last year by these super PACs merely builds a base for outside spending in the 2022 general election, typically on TV, digital and mailed attack ads. In 2020, PACs supporting Democratic legislative candidates spent $9.7 million compared with about $4 million by Republican groups. 

Last year, business interests were among the top donors to the four legislative super PACs:

  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America Colorado Action Fund donated $35,000 to the Senate Majority Fund and $16,000 to Restore Colorado Leadership Fund, but nothing to the Democratic super PACs.
  • Amazon donated $20,000 each to the two Democratic committees and $10,000 each to the two GOP committees.
  • Comcast donated $20,000 each to the two Democratic committees, and $15,000 to the Senate Majority Fund.
  • AT&T gave $15,000 to each of the four state legislative super PACs.

State Senate contests to watch

Several state Senate candidates began the election year with significant campaign war chests as they face competitive contests or try to move up from the House to the Senate. 

Nine Republican state Senate candidates raised an average of $26,000 compared with an average of $24,000 raised by 15 Democratic candidates.

  • Sen. Rob Woodward, a Loveland Republican who is now in a toss-up district after last year’s redistricting, tops the list with $93,000 raised. Loveland Democrat Janice Marchman, who is running against Woodward, raised only about $14,000 after entering the contest in late November.
  • State Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, raised more than $80,000 to run for the open Senate District 8 seat in western Colorado. No Republicans have filed to run for the seat yet.
  • State Rep. Kyle Mullica, an Adams County Democrat, raised more than $73,000 for his run for the open Senate District 24. His primary opponent, former state Rep. Joe Salazar, raised less than $11,000.

Here’s a chart of state Senate fundraising.

In the House, 42 Democratic candidates have raised a total of $854,000, compared with $180,000 raised by 27 Republican candidates. 

To explore more data on candidate and committee fundraising and spending, check out Follow MoneyCO.

Special to The Colorado Sun
Twitter: @fishnette