Colorado Democrats boast campaign cash advantages as general election stage begins

Republican candidates lag behind in fundraising after hard-fought primary wins

By: - July 19, 2022 5:00 am

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A lack of competitive primary races helped Democrats in several of Colorado’s key congressional contests maintain strong fundraising advantages ahead of the November general election, Federal Election Commission disclosures show.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet led all candidates with more than $3.3 million raised from April 1 to June 30 — a larger second-quarter haul than his Republican rival, Denver construction CEO Joe O’Dea, who raised about $883,000 from donors and personally contributed another $1 million to his campaign during the same period.

But Bennet’s most significant financial advantage lies in the campaign cash he has stockpiled throughout the 2022 election cycle, and during a hard-fought GOP primary contest between O’Dea and far-right state Rep. Ron Hanks. With a total of more than $13 million raised and just over $5 million spent since January 2021, Bennet’s campaign ended June with $8 million in cash on hand.

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Those aren’t unprecedented numbers — former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner reported $17.5 million raised and $10.7 million cash on hand at the same point two years ago — but Bennet’s latest cash-on-hand figure is roughly ten times the $840,000 that O’Dea reported following his bruising primary win over Hanks.

“Nothing in life has ever been given to me,” O’Dea said in a statement released by his campaign. “I prefer it that way — working hard. Taking zero for granted. This primary was no different and that’s okay.”

In the final weeks of the primary, O’Dea received more than $1 million in help from American Policy Fund, a super PAC supporting his campaign. In addition to previously disclosed six-figure donations from wealthy construction interests with ties to O’Dea, the group’s second-quarter financial disclosure reports at least $250,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry, including the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Liberty Oilfield Services and DCP Operating.

O’Dea has rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, falsely claiming that there is a “debate … still to be had” on the extent of human contributions to global warming and suggesting that fossil fuels should be burned for “the next 100 years.”

House races

Colorado’s most competitive congressional district in 2022 is expected to be the newly created 8th District, encompassing parts of north metro Denver and Weld County.

Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer emerged from a four-way GOP primary contest last month with just over $64,000 in cash on hand, after her campaign spent roughly $330,000 in her bid to secure the nomination. But Kirkmeyer benefited from more than $870,000 in independent expenditures by several Republican super PACs, including Americans for Prosperity Action, the group funded in large part by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch.

Kirkmeyer’s Democratic opponent, pediatrician and state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, reported raising $592,000 in the second quarter, and had more than $700,000 in cash on hand as of June 30.

Neither Caraveo nor state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, the Democrats’ nominee to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the 7th District, faced any opponents in Colorado’s June primary election.

Pettersen again posted the strongest fundraising numbers of any non-incumbent congressional candidate, with $749,000 in second-quarter contributions and just under $1 million in cash on hand.

“It’s an honor to have the support of thousands of people who have invested in our campaign,” Pettersen said in a statement. “Our campaign’s significant fundraising advantage is a reflection of people’s belief in our campaign’s vision of an America that protects reproductive rights, defends our democratic ideals, and prioritizes regular working families.”

Pettersen’s Republican opponent, former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland, reported a little over $48,000 in cash on hand as of June 30. He defeated two other GOP candidates with just under 48% of the vote in last month’s primary.

In the 3rd District, far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert has reported raising nearly $6 million so far this election cycle — by far the largest haul of any of Colorado’s incumbent members of the U.S. House. After soundly defeating state Sen. Don Coram in the primary, Boebert had more than $2.2 million in cash at the end of the second quarter.

Adam Frisch, a former Aspen City Council member, prevailed in a three-way Democratic primary, thanks in large part to the more than $2 million in personal loans he has made to his campaign. He reported just over $570,000 in cash on hand as of June 30.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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