How much money are the candidates to lead the Colorado GOP and Colorado Democratic Party raising and spending? We don’t know and we won’t find out.
That’s because there’s no state law or party bylaw that requires candidates for state party chair to report their fundraising and spending, though there are campaign finance disclosure rules for people who run for city council, legislature and Congress.
The candidates are spending money, however, and some are asking others to donate. Several of the contenders have websites, are traveling across the state to visit with local party leaders and activists, and are trying to persuade party central committee members to support their campaigns through texts, robocalls and emails.
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Democratic Chairwoman Morgan Carroll and Republican Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown are both stepping aside in the coming weeks, and there are multiple candidates to replace both of them. Whoever wins the contests — Democrats will select their new state chair April 1 while the GOP will select its new leader March 11 — will have a big influence over the future direction of their respective parties. They may also be paid tens of thousands a year for their work.
Carroll estimated she spent $5,000 on a website and travel costs in her first campaign to be party chair in 2015. She was paid about $73,000 in 2022. Burton Brown said she spent about $2,000 of her own money when she ran for the job two years ago, while her opponent, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, told The Sun he spent less than $25,000 with “a substantial number of supporters who contributed.” Burton Brown was paid about $72,000 in 2022.
This year, Tim Kubik, a party volunteer and education consultant who lives in Larimer County, aims to raise $25,000 to fund his campaign for Democratic Party chair, according to an email obtained by The Sun. A robocall delivered a similar message to prospective donors.
Kubik said he’s spending on campaign consultants and media, raising donations that are averaging $100. “Since all of my donors are family, friends, or volunteer supporters, I’d prefer not to disclose their names, as many have donated expecting anonymity under current state law,” he said in an email.
Current First Vice Chairman Howard Chou is also raising money on his website, but said “It’s not a lot.” He hopes to print flyers and send mailers to central committee members.
Casper Stockham, one of the GOP chair candidates, tweeted Monday that the contest “is between We The People and big money.” He’s seeking donations on his website. So is Erik Aadland, who is running for state party chair after losing his 7th Congressional District bid in November. Aaron Wood, a Highland Ranch activist, isn’t asking for donations on his website as part of his chair bid. Steven Varela, of Pueblo, doesn’t have a website for his GOP chair campaign.
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One state party chair candidate who said he isn’t raising money is Shad Murib, a Democrat who has worked for U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and Gov. Jared Polis. He said he wasn’t comfortable asking people for money that would go into his bank account with no disclosure of how it’s used. He is, however, allowing a friend to create bandanas for his effort.
“We’re definitely putting miles on the truck like never before,” said Murib, whose wife is former state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat.
Murib said he’d support an effort to change state law to require reporting of donations and expenditures of candidates for state party chair.
Kubik said he wouldn’t oppose requiring such disclosure, while Chou said he didn’t think campaign finance reporting is needed for state party chair contests.
“It’s a private election,” Chou said. “It’s like running for union president or Elks Lodge president.”
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Gessler and Burton Brown also said they wouldn’t support requiring candidates for state party chair to report how much money they raise and spend.
“It’s not an election you can buy,” Burton Brown said in a text message. “It’s a very relationship- and issue-based race.”
Both parties are slated to finish electing county-level officers on Wednesday, with congressional and multicounty legislative district officers elected in coming weeks.