DENVER — With the last campaign finance report due before the April 14 state assemblies in, Democrats continue to outpace Republicans in individual fundraising in a Gubernatorial race where many campaigns are claiming to be “grassroots.”
Fourth quarter 2017 reports were due Jan. 16. Among the top 10 candidates, Jared Polis and Michael Johnston each raised more in 2017 than the top-five Republicans combined. No third-party candidates cracked the list of top-10 fundraisers.
Where the money for the two campaigns has come from, however, is distinctly different.
Polis has pledged not to accept Political Action Committee (PAC) money or donations of more than $100 to his campaign, and as such has contributed nearly $1.4 million of his own money to the race.
During the last reporting period, Johnston’s donations come from 5,175 individuals, with $1,150 from 102 donors, 15 donations of $1,000 or above and another 116 of $500 or more. In aggregate, Johnston has 137 donors who have donated the maximum allowed by an individual of $1,150.
Polis, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in Washington, told Complete Colorado he will continue to run a grassroots campaign to grow support statewide.
“We have more than 3,000 donors, the vast majority of whom are Coloradans,” Polis said. “We’ve had over 100 events across the state, most of them free because we want to interact with voters.”
Johnston, who has spent his career in education as a teacher and principal, also spent two terms as a state senator. He said in a press release that he has been humbled by the outpouring of support, taking a shot at Polis and his ability to fund his own campaign.
“… Not just by the contributions, but by the thousands of folks from across the state who have offered to volunteer their time for us in the coming weeks,” Johnston said in his release about the humility. “It’s exciting to move forward into 2018 with so much momentum and support for our campaign. We are building the grassroots campaign that will be necessary to overcome the ability of some in this field to write personal million dollar checks.”
Polis also spent more than any of his Democrat opponents, with just $366,512 remaining as cash on hand. Johnston reported $732,399 cash on hand while current Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne had just under $452,000 in the bank.
Other Democrats among the top-five fundraisers include Noel Ginsburg, who raised nearly $225,000 in the last period, bringing his total to $686,000, enough to pay back a $100,000 loan he extended earlier in his campaign. Ginsburg has also contributed nearly $250,000 of his own money to the campaign.
In a news release, Ginsburg said his 96 percent of his contributions are fueled by a grassroots campaign from within Colorado.
“I’m happy to be the underdog in this crowded field of well-known candidates,” Ginsburg said. “When you’re the underdog, you have to wake up every day and work harder than anyone else. I’ve done that for my entire career, and I’m not stopping now. I think a lot of Coloradans can relate to that.”
Cary Kennedy rounds out the list, raising $256,695, with just slightly more than that ($285,642) in the bank.
Polis said he’s not worried about the number of Democrats and the big money pouring into those races.
“We see an even bigger spread on the other side,” Polis said.
However — less a $3 million self-infusion of loans in the Victor Mitchell camp — the top five Republicans were lagging far behind in candidate committee donations.
Walker Stapleton, Doug Robinson, Cynthia Coffman, Victor Mitchell and Tom Tancredo combined have raised $1.5 million. If their own contributions are excluded, the number is $971,000.
Stapleton widened the gap between he and his nearest competitor, raising just under $1 million during the last reporting period, including $269,000 of his own resources.
The contributions leave Stapleton with about double the cash on hand ($875,000) as his nearest competitor in Robinson ($430,000) and more than 10 times that of Coffman, who raised slightly more than $100,000, with $85,000 in the bank.
Tancredo raised $80,000 while Robinson added $77,000 during the reporting period that included donations made between Oct. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017.
Mitchell, who’s self-funding leaves him with slightly more than $2 million in the bank, finishes out the top five, having raised $5,200.
All these numbers only mean as much as the Independent Expenditure Committees and PACs that are expected to play a role in several campaigns.
Stronger Colorado Ahead, with the reported purpose of supporting Republican candidates for Governor, raised $157,000. Build Colorado’s Future, also formed to support Republicans for Governor reported $105,000, and Better Colorado Now, which says it’s purpose is to oppose Democrats for Governor, has nearly $750,000 on hand.
Six of the top 10 fundraisers — Lynne, Johnston, Polis, Stapleton, Robinson and Mitchell — have approval from the Secretary of State’s office to begin gathering signatures this week to petition their way onto the June 26 primary. Signatures are due March 20.
Stapleton spokesperson Michael Fortney said Stapleton will continue to do what is necessary to be Colorado’s next governor.
“Walker is going to continue to work hard raising the money and building the grassroots organization it’s going to take to make sure Congressman Polis is never elected Colorado Governor,” Fortney said.