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The Colorado Capitol on May 11, 2022, the final day of the 2022 legislative session. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters raised $519,000 for her unsuccessful campaign for secretary of state between June 23 and July 27, enabling the Republican to cover travel expenses to Las Vegas and pay cost of a recount in the primary contest she lost by nearly 90,000 votes.

The vast majority of the cash, or $506,000, flowed in after the June 28 Republican primary for secretary of state, which was won by former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson. Of that, 72% came from out-of-state donors.

Candidates are allowed to continue raising money after they lose their elections, and Peters’ fundraising during the last period was her campaign’s largest since she announced her bid earlier this year.

Peters’ haul was also the largest among all statewide candidates from June 23 to July 27, based on state-level campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Peters and other unsuccessful Colorado candidates who spread unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump began pleading for cash to pay for recounts in the days after the primary. That’s despite all of them being defeated by sizable margins.

Peters paid more than $250,000 for the statewide recount, which must be completed by Thursday. A statistical audit of the 2022 primary results conducted by state elections officials found no discrepancies. Peters, however, has claimed without evidence that there was malfeasance in the vote-counting process.

Only one other state-level candidate succeeded in raising the money to pay for a recount. Republican Lynda Zamora Wilson, who lost her primary challenge in state Senate District 9 to incumbent Sen. Paul Lundeen, paid about $20,000 for the recount. 

Wilson raised $17,000 of her campaign’s total $22,000 between June 23 and July 27, after spending only about $8,000 on her run against Lundeen.

Peters’ filing didn’t include the recount expense, but it did include more than $1,200 on air fare and $225 spent at a Las Vegas hotel during July. She traveled to Las Vegas without receiving permission from a judge in violation of her bond. The judge revoked an arrest warrant, telling Peters she must get permission to leave the state..

Four Democratic statewide candidates lead GOP opponents

Three of the four Democratic statewide candidates, all of whom are incumbents, maintained their significant cash advantages over their Republican opponents after the last fundraising period.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl raised $180,000 compared with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ $62,000 raised from June 23 to July 27. Ganahl also loaned her campaign another $250,000, on top of $350,000 she previously donated outright to her campaign. 

Polis still ended the fundraising period with a significant cash advantage. He had $4.4 million in his campaign bank account compared with the $115,000 Ganahl had.

Self-funding from Polis accounts for 92% of the $6.4 million his campaign has raised so far this cycle, while Ganahl has self-funded about 44% of the nearly $1.4 million her campaign has raised to date. 

Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Treasurer Dave Young all continue to significantly outraise their Republican opponents. All three also have TV ad time booked around the state in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

Griswold raised nearly $337,000 in the most recent fundraising period while her Republican opponent, Anderson, raised just $29,000. Griswold had more than $516,000 in the bank on July 27, while Anderson had about $15,000.

Weiser raised nearly $299,000 compared with $19,000 raised by his Republican opponent, 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner. Weiser had more than $916,000 in cash on July 27 to Kellner’s $72,000.

The margins are narrower in the state treasurer’s contest, with Young raising nearly $38,000 during the last fundraising period compared with the nearly $16,000 raised by Republican Lang Sias, a former state representative. But Young had only $34,000 in cash in his campaign’s bank account after paying for TV ads, compared with nearly $71,000 for Sias, a former state representative and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee.

Top state Senate contests

With control of the state legislature on the line, Democratic candidates in competitive state Senate contests are raising considerably less money than they did four years ago, while Republican candidates are raising slightly more.

Democratic candidates lead their Republican opponents in fundraising in only three of the seven competitive Senate seats that will decide which party controls the chamber, though they were ahead in cash on hand in five of the seven seats as of July 27.

Here’s a closer look at candidate fundraising totals in the the seven contests through July 27:

  • GOP state Sen. Rob Woodward is out-raising his Democratic challenger, Janice Marchman, a former school board member, in the race to represent Senate District 15, a tossup that includes parts of Larimer and Boulder counties. Woodward has raised $219,000 so far this cycle compared with $58,000 raised by Marchman.
  • Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts, of Avon, raised $138,000 in his bid to represent Senate District 8 compared with $61,000 raised by former Eagle Town Councilman Matt Solomon. Solomon has loaned his campaign nearly $15,000. The northwest Colorado district is considered competitive.
  • Democratic state Rep. Kyle Mullica, of Thornton, has raised $120,000 in his Senate District 24 battle with Republican Courtney Potter, an Adams 12 School Board member who has raised $30,000
  • Republican state Sen. Dennis Hisey, who moved into Colorado Springs to run in Senate District 11 after last year’s redistricting process, has raised nearly $87,000 compared to his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Tony Exum, who has hauled in $46,000. Exum had only about $13,000 in the bank as of July 27 after winning a competitive primary, compared with the more than $65,000 Hisey had.
  • GOP businessman Thomas Kim has raised more than $80,000 in his bid to represent Senate District 27, an open district in Arapahoe County. That’s compared with Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan’s $70,000. But Sullivan had nearly $67,000 in cash on July 27, while Kim had less than $10,000 after facing a competitive primary contest.
  • Construction company owner Tim Walsh, a Republican, has raised more than $64,000 in his bid to represent Senate District 20 compared with Democratic state Rep. Lisa Cutter’s $46,000. The district is based in Jefferson County. Walsh has also loaned his campaign $140,000 and has spent more than $92,000 on cable TV ads for August.
  • In Senate District 3, which is based in Pueblo, Democratic state Sen. Tim Hinrichsen and his GOP opponent Stephen Varela, each have raised nearly $40,000. Varela is a combat veteran who serves on the board of a charter school.

Here’s a detailed look at fundraising in the seven contests:

Outside spending

Spending by political groups plays a significant role in the outcome of state House and Senate contests, and the main Republican committee supporting GOP Senate candidates continues to outraise its Democratic counterpart.

In the most recent fundraising period, the Senate Majority Fund, the Republican group, raised nearly $535,000 compared with $167,000 raised by All Together Colorado, its Democratic counterpart.

The national super PAC GOPAC Election Fund is the top donor to the Senate Majority Fund, at $835,000 thus far this cycle. The Pharmaceutical Research And Manufacturers Of America Colorado Action Fund has also donated $175,000 thus far to the committee supporting GOP candidates.

It also appears other state-level super PACs will be helping GOP Senate candidates this year, including Unite for Colorado Action.

Unite For Colorado received $300,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee and $250,000 from PDC Energy. The group spent $110,000 on canvassing for several state Senate and House candidates in mid-July.

Wells Ranch put $1 million into the Deep Colorado Wells super PAC, a state-level group backing GOP candidates and which spent $358,000 on billboards attacking Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. 

The PAC was created by Steven Wells, an oil and gas booster who owns the Wells Ranch in Weld County.

The next state-level campaign finance filings are due Sept. 6 for money raised and spent through Aug. 31.

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette