Huge Money Rolls In To Colorado’s Governor’s Race

Chart: Governor's Race Money May 2018

Rich people are spending big in Colorado’s governor campaigns, with money coming from the candidates and out-of-state benefactors: about $22 million in contributions and loans this election cycle.

The biggest of the contributions came from Democrat Jared Polis himself, he’s written a series of checks totaling $5 million to his campaign this year, putting him well ahead of challengers from either party.

Polis has raised about five times as much in direct contributions as fellow Democratic governor candidates Mike Johnston and Cary Kennedy, and more than eight times as much as current Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne.

Kennedy had the strongest surge in campaign contributions, not from her own pocket. She raised $804,549 to start 2018. About $50,000 came from union-backed groups, but most of the money came from more than 6,000 small contributions. (Teachers for Kennedy, a PAC, reported raising just $1.)

Mike Johnston trailed Kennedy in the first quarter, raising $605,249. Johnston is getting substantial sums from out-of-state billionaires. In fact, if you count money raised by Johnston’s PAC Frontier Fairness, he has raised nearly $6 million total, which puts him just behind Polis.

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, gave $1 million to Johnston’s PAC. Associates of Bloomberg have connected the contribution to Johnston’s advocacy for gun control. Johnston’s PAC also received $1 million from Stephen and Susan Mandel, a couple in Connecticut known for supporting charter schools. Not all contributors are outside of state lines, Frontier Fairness received $100,000 from Kent Thiry, CEO of Davita.

Counting PAC money, Johnston has received 76 percent of his cash from outside of Colorado.

Donna Lynne’s “Fight for Colorado” tattoo hasn’t sparked many contributors yet. She raised $337,722 to start the election year, less than any other Democrat.

On the Republican side, Victor Mitchell has collected little in contributions, but continues to lead other candidates, having personally loaned his campaign $3 million in 2017. Walker Stapleton has raised about half that, and had a slow start to 2018, only collecting $399,832.

When you factor in Stapleton’s PAC Better Colorado Now, he’s much closer to Mitchell, with $2,329,773 raised. Still, Better Colorado Now pulled in just $97,700 to start 2018.

Republican Doug Robinson won a court challenge to get onto the ballot, but it didn’t appear to help his fundraising. Robinson pulled in only $90,827 to start the year, for a total of $451,590 so far. His PAC, Build Colorado’s Future, has raised an additional $227,000.

Bringing up the rear for Republicans, Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker, made the ballot at the GOP assembly in a surprise showing, but he has only $153 cash on hand. (That’s not a typo.) He has reporting raising a total of $22,748, mostly in loans.