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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, left, and his Republican challenger, Joe O'Dea. (Colorado Sun photos)

Colorado congressional candidates who won their primaries last month finished June low on money, giving their general election opponents — many of whom are incumbents — significant cash cushions heading into the Nov. 8 contest.

Some successful primary candidates also still owe vendors hefty sums, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission, meaning they have even less money to work with than it appears. Cash is important for candidates as they staff up for the general election. It’s what helps candidates get their message out to voters through TV, radio and digital ads, as well as through mailers and canvassing.

Friday’s filings, which cover fundraising and spending from April 1 to June 30, also revealed the identities of some of the Colorado donors who powered outside spending in the Republican U.S. Senate and 7th Congressional District primaries.

Two big takeaways from the report:

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s campaign reported having more than $8 million in cash at the end of June. His Republican opponent, Denver construction company owner and first-time candidate Joe O’Dea, had a fraction of that at only $841,000. And O’Dea’s campaign reported owing five vendors nearly $205,000, meaning the campaign actually has only $636,000 to work with.
  • In the highly competitive new 8th Congressional District, which stretches from the northeast Denver suburbs up into Greeley, Republican primary winner state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer had about $65,000 left in her campaign account at the end of June after defeating three opponents. That pales in comparison to the $708,000 in cash her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, had in the bank.

Bennet has huge cash advantage over O’Dea in U.S. Senate contest

Bennet, competing in his third election to a six-year Senate term, raised nearly $3.4 million from April 1 through June 30. He’s raised nearly $14.6 million since his last reelection campaign in 2016.

That compares with about $2 million raised by O’Dea during the same time frame, bringing his fundraising total to about $3.5 million since he entered the contest in October. But close to $1.7 million of that cash came directly from O’Dea, who has millions of dollars in assets.

Bennet has yet to air any TV ads, the latest of any Colorado incumbent senator to start broadcasting in recent campaign cycles. In 2010 and 2016, Bennet’s campaigns went on the air in the spring.

O’Dea, meanwhile, spent nearly $600,000 on TV and radio advertising to defeat state Rep. Ron Hanks, who raised only about $137,000 for his campaign, in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The super PAC Democratic Colorado spent more than $4 million on TV and digital ads in a failed attempt to promote Hanks in the contest. Democrats felt Hanks would be easier for Bennet to beat in November given his hard-line position on abortion and unfounded belief than the 2020 presidential election was stolent from Donald Trump.

O’Dea also got plenty of primary help from American Policy Fund, a federal super PAC that spent more than $1 million on TV and digital advertising supporting O’Dea and opposing Hanks.

Contractors and business interests funded that super PAC. Brighton’s Transwest Automotive Group, Adams City’s Hutchison Inc. and Bruce Wagner, owner of Aurora’s Wagner Equipment Co., each donated $200,000. Golden’s Jeffrey Keller, CEO of APC Construction, gave $150,000, while his company donated $100,000, and APC President John Keller gave $50,000.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association also gave $100,000 to American Policy Fund four days before the June 28 primary.

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Bennet’s Senate seat is rated as likely to remain in Democratic hands, however CNN last week added it to the bottom of a list of 10th seats most likely to change hands in November. 

Outside groups will play a big role in new 8th District

Outside groups spent nearly $1.2 million to influence the four-way Republican primary in the new 8th District. Nearly two-thirds of that spending went to support Kirkmeyer, a former Weld County commissioner who lives in Brighton.

Kirkmeyer’s campaign spent $333,000 to win the primary, considerably less than the second-place finisher, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who spent $490,000. Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, who came in third, spent $311,000, while former Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn, who came in a distant fourth, spent $244,000.

Caraveo, who faced no primary opposition, had her best fundraising quarter yet, bringing in nearly $594,000. That’s more than half the $1.2 million the campaign has raised thus far.

Party-affiliated super PACs are likely to spend big in the general election. The district is considered a toss-up.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $4.4 million of TV ad time for the fall in Colorado, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has resserved $4.1 million. Most of that is expected to be aimed at the 8th District.

Pettersen holds hefty cash advantage in 7th District

In the 7th Congressional District, state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, the Democratic nominee, also holds a sizable cash advantage over her Republican opponent, Army veteran and first-time candidate Erik Aadland. 

The NRCC placed Aadland on its “on the radar” list last week for the open seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada. Pettersen is listed on a similar tier of DCCC contests.

Pettersen had her best fundraising period, raising nearly $747,000 from April through June, and had nearly $964,000 in cash at the end of June. The campaign owed vendors about $12,000. Pettersen, of Lakewood, had no primary opponent.

Aadland raised $141,000 over the three months, but had only $49,000 in the bank at the end of June after beating two primary challengers.

Super PAC For Colorado’s Future spent nearly $338,000 supporting Aadland or opposing one of his opponents, Golden economist Tim Reichert. All that money went to Telephone Town Hall Meeting, a Golden company whose owner, Curt Cerveny, donated $1,785 to Aadland’s campaign. The PAC’s spending went toward TV ads and mailers as well as phone calls and text messages to voters.

The super PAC brought in only $80,000 from three donors between April and the end of June. It owed Telephone Town Hall Meeting nearly $258,000 to begin July, according to a report filed Wednesday.

Separately, Aadland’s campaign paid Telephone Town Hall Meeting more than $37,000 for mailers and text messages to voters.

Jonathan Sawyer, the Littleton CEO of wireless company XetaWave, gave $50,000 to For Colorado’s Future. He also wrote an opinion piece for The Colorado Sun criticizing Reichert’s economic policies. Pericle Communications Co., a Colorado Springs wireless company, donated $25,000 to the super PAC, while Edward Hunt, owner of, gave $5,000.

Another federal super PAC, Conservative Leadership for Colorado, spent more than $117,000 supporting Reichert. That PAC received $30,000 from Denver aviation pioneer Harry Combs, $25,000 each from Pete Coors, Bow River Capital CEO Blair Richardson and former Re/Max CEO Margaret Kelly.

Boebert has $2.3 million in cash, Frisch has $570K

In the 3rd Congressional District, former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch eked out a Democratic primary victory over Pueblo activist Sol Sandoval and will face a well-funded GOP U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Garfield County, in November.

Frisch spent more than $2 million to Sandoval’s $921,000 in the three-way Democratic primary contest. He still had $570,000 in the bank after loaning his campaign $715,000. Sandoval ended June with about $28,000 in cash and $47,000 owed to campaign vendors.

Boebert brought in more than $940,000 during the quarter, as she handily defeated state Sen. Don Coram, of Montrose, in the GOP primary. She still has $2.3 million in cash heading toward the general election. 

Coram spent only $210,000 on the primary race, while Boebert has spent nearly $3.6 million since beginning her reelection effort in January 2021. Boebert paid Christian musician Sean Fuchs $7,500 to appear at her Grand Junction victory party June 28, with another $3,800 spent on catering the event.

Several unsuccessful candidates spent a lot of their own money

Several unsuccessful Colorado congressional candidates, some who didn’t even make the ballot, put plenty of their own cash into their campaigns. 

Here’s a look:

  • Reichert put $1 million into his campaign and raised another $623,000, ending June with $789,000 in the bank. But the 7th District campaign owed nearly $180,000 to vendors.
  • Gino Campana, the Fort Collins businessman who failed to make the U.S. Senate primary ballot at April’s Republican state assembly, repaid $300,000 of the $500,000 he loaned his campaign. And he returned more than $58,000 in contributions, finishing June with $29,000 in cash.
  • Alex Walker, the 3rd Congressional District Democrat known for his campaign video featuring feces falling from the sky, still owes nearly $188,000 to campaign vendors after finishing third in the June 28 primary. Of that, $154,000 is money owed to Walker and spent mostly on production of said video, which Walker used to launch his candidacy. His campaign had about $25,000 in the bank at the end of June.
  • Allcorn’s 8th District campaign still owes him about $162,000 in unpaid personal loans, though the campaign still had $113,000 at the end of June. 
  • State Rep. Dave Williams put $100,000 of his own cash into challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado Springs’ 5th Congressional District. Williams finished June with less than $1,900 in the bank after losing to Lamborn.

All Colorado congressional campaigns

Here’s a look at money raised, spent and cash on hand as of June 30 for all Republican and Democratic Colorado general election congressional candidates.

Sandra Fish is a Colorado Sun contractor who specializes in data journalism and political coverage.