Following The Early Money In The Colorado Governor’s Race

Mar 27, 2018

Only one candidate for governor is officially on the June 26 primary ballot, but at least five are in campaign commercials -- or planning to be soon.

Through March 23, the candidates booked or aired more than $570,000 in radio and television ads to boost their campaigns to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

KUNC reviewed ad contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission. Here’s a look at Colorado ad buys thus far:

Such early spending isn’t necessarily effective at reaching voters, said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and political scientist at Washington State University.

“Advertising this far out probably doesn’t have as much of a direct impact,” Ridout said. But it “can matter in showing supporters or potential supporters that you’re a viable candidate.”

Republican businessman Victor Mitchell is the biggest spender thus far, with more than $430,000 on TV and radio ads. He’s advertising on both cable and traditional TV.

In contrast, GOP candidate Doug Robinson, a former investment banker, is running a rotation of ads on cable in Denver and Grand Junction. In one Grand Junction ad, he says he’ll move the state’s Parks and Wildlife department to Grand Junction. In another, he decries sanctuary cities. He’s spent more than $27,000 thus far.

Better Colorado Now, an independent spending committee, is airing nearly $30,000 worth of radio ads in support of Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign. The ads say Stapleton will be tough on “criminal illegal immigrants,” though they also inaccurately refer to Aurora as a sanctuary city.

Meanwhile, Stapleton is also appearing in his capacity as treasurer in ads for the Great Colorado Payback, which aims to return unclaimed property to Coloradans. According to information from the treasurer’s office, more than 1,000 of the ads are running on cable and traditional TV at a cost of nearly $192,000.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrat Michael Johnston, the only candidate on the ballot thus far, ran four ads in February touting his work on gun control as a state senator.

And Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is scheduling air time for June in the weeks before the primary.

Not all stations file contracts in a timely fashion. For instance, KUSA filed requests for airtime but no actual contracts for Johnston and Mitchell.

UPDATED MARCH 28, 2018: KUSA filed Mitchell’s contracts late Monday. Their ads for the candidate total $67,660 for late March and April and Polis has reserved $358,575 in ads on the station for June. The House Majority PAC has also reserved time with KUSA for the last two weeks before Nov. 6.