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Race To Replace Hickenlooper May Be Colorado’s Most Expensive Election In History

Sandra Fish
Data on fundraising so far for the 2018 gubernatorial race. Data courtesy of the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates demonstrated their early fundraising prowess in reports filed with the Secretary of State Monday, July 17. Nearly $6 million has been raised or loaned in the wide-open race to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

More than $3 million of that comes from the pockets of Republican businessman Victor Mitchell, who loaned the money to his campaign earlier this year.

Millionaire Democratic Congressman Jared Polis put more than $250,000 of his own money into his campaign during its first few weeks. If the past is any indication, he’s likely to ante up plenty more of his own cash. Over the last 17 years, he’s spent $10 million successfully running for various offices.

Here’s a look at total fundraising through June 30, including contributions, non-monetary contributions and candidate loans:

Former state Sen. Michael Johnston leads the way among Democrats with $943,366 raised since the beginning of the year.

But in the most recent quarter, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy actually out-raised Johnston by more than $30,000.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter raised nearly $340,000 before dropping out of the race earlier this work to focus on his final year in Congress.

Entrepreneur Noel Ginsburg raised $102,000, plus an additional $100,000 he loaned his campaign. As the first candidate to enter the Democratic race, he’s raised a total of $355,755.

On the Republican side, Doug Robinson, a first-time candidate who is also the nephew of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, raised more than $207,000 from April through June. That’s a comparatively large haul. He also loaned his campaign $57,000. Donations include money from Romney, Romney’s wife, Ann, and members of the Marriott family.

District Attorney George Brauchler raised only about $190,000 in the past three months. That includes nearly $13,000 leftover from his last DA’s race. And he’s got less money in the bank than all but one of the nine candidates who have raised over $10,000.

Here’s a look at what candidates raised from April 1 through June 30, including in-kind contributions but excluding loans:

And here’s a look at the cash the candidates had in the bank as of June 30:

2018 will be the most wide-open governor’s race Colorado has seen in decades. In 1998, when Roy Romer was leaving office, two Democrats and two Republicans competed in the primary elections. In 1974, five Democrats and three Republicans faced off in the primary election. Democrat Dick Lamm ultimately won office that year.

With a year to go before the late June 2018 primary, more than 20 candidates have filed their intent to run with the Secretary of State’s office. Some of them are from minor parties or are unaffiliated.

It’s possible other wealthy candidates could enter the race.

Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a cousin of the Bush family, is said to be interested, as may be Jack Graham, the former Colorado State University athletic director, who finished second in last year’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Wealthy DaVita executive Kent Thiry is also mentioned as a potential GOP candidate.

And Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the Denver Post last week that she is considering the governor’s race.

Any of these candidates could potentially spend considerable amounts of their own money on a campaign, as Mitchell and Polis are doing.

Sandra Fish is a Colorado data journalist specializing in politics and government. She’s worked for newspapers in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. And she’s written about politics for Politics Daily, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera America and Roll Call.
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