Small-dollar donations drive record-shattering fundraising in 3rd Congressional District

With national spotlight on Western Slope race, Boebert, Donovan raise a combined $1.5 million in first quarter

(Getty Images)

The battle for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat is widely expected to be one of the most closely contested races on the state’s 2022 ballot — and it’s already on pace to shatter spending records.

Incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign raised $846,156 in the first three months of 2021, according to campaign-finance disclosures filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. The Republican’s highest-profile challenger, Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail, reported raising $641,945 in the eight weeks following her Feb. 4 campaign launch.

THE MORNING NEWSLETTER
Subscribe now.

The combined $1.5 million in contributions received by the two candidates represents a blistering fundraising pace for a House of Representatives race in the 3rd District, which encompasses Pueblo, the San Luis Valley and much of the Western Slope. It’s more than five times the average quarterly total raised by the district’s previous incumbent, former Rep. Scott Tipton, and Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush in 2019.

Then-candidate, now Rep. Lauren Boebert for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, speaks to supporters and the press during a MAGA meet up with the Trump Victory Team at the Old Mesa County Courthouse in Grand Junction, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Barton Glasser for Colorado Newsline)

Tipton was defeated in the June 2020 Republican primary by Boebert, a gun-rights activist and restaurant owner from Silt, who went on to defeat Mitsch Bush in the general election while drawing controversy over her ties to militia groups and the QAnon conspiracy movement. In Congress, Boebert has continued to grab headlines as an outspoken member of the GOP’s right flank, announcing her plans to carry a gun on Capitol Hill and declaring “Today is 1776” on Jan. 6, shortly before the Capitol was stormed by a violent right-wing mob.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, many corporations and political action committees announced that they would suspend contributions to candidates who, like Boebert, had spread false claims that cast doubt on the 2020 presidential election. But Boebert’s reelection campaign is off to a record-setting fundraising pace thanks in large part to a growing reliance on small donors; more than 60% of the contributions she received in the first quarter of 2021 came from individuals giving less than $200, according to FEC reports, up from about 51% in 2020.

Similarly, more than 72% of Donovan’s first-quarter donations came from donors giving less than $200, disclosures show. Her campaign said this week that it had received a total of 21,579 separate contributions, for an average donation of $29.75.

Sen. Kerry Donovan represents the 5th District in the state Senate. (Colorado General Assembly)

Both candidates are active fundraisers on Twitter, where Boebert’s statements frequently garner national attention and controversy, and both are benefiting from plenty of out-of-state money. For contributions totaling more than $200, FEC rules require itemized disclosures of basic personal information for each donor; in the first quarter, slightly less than half of both Boebert’s and Donovan’s itemized contributions came from out-of-state donors, their reports show.

Several other 3rd District candidates lag far behind Boebert and Donovan in campaign fundraising. State Rep. Donald Valdez, a Pueblo Democrat who announced his run two weeks after Donovan, raised $66,939 through the end of March, disclosures show. Progressive organizer Sol Sandoval, who this week earned Mitsch Bush’s endorsement, reported raising $45,525.

Former Democratic candidate Gregg Smith disclosed $61,203 in contributions before terminating his campaign at the end of March. Smith, a former military contractor with ties to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, gained a large Twitter following after announcing his campaign in late January but was viewed skeptically by many Colorado Democrats. Nearly all of the money Smith’s campaign raised was paid to political consulting firms in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C. His final campaign expenditure was a $481.33 charitable donation to Custer County Search and Rescue on March 31.

HELP US GROW
Make a tax-deductible donation.