Outside Spending Rushes Into Colorado Race Between Lauren Boebert And Diane Mitsch Bush In Final Weeks

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican Lauren Boebert, left, and Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush

Watch them back-to-back and it would take nearly 56 days to view all the TV ads aired in Colorado’s highly contested U.S. Senate race.

More than $64 million worth of TV ads targeted Coloradans in the race between incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, according to an analysis of contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission. That’s more than two-thirds of the $94 million in political TV ads aired in the state in 2020.

Meanwhile, TV spending topped $8 million in the competitive 3rd Congressional District contest between GOP Rifle restaurant owner Lauren Boebert and Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state House member from Steamboat Springs. Most of that spending came in the final weeks before Election Day.

Hickenlooper spent more than $16 million on TV, while Gardner spent $12 million. Outside groups account for nearly 56% of the TV ad spending on the Senate contest in 2020.

Spending could have been even higher. The Democratic Senate Majority PAC canceled contracts attacking Gardner for the final two weeks, with polls showing Hickenlooper ahead. Republican groups including Senate Leadership Fund have continued to attack Hickenlooper on TV with ads scheduled through Election Day. 

The volume of ads means Colorado ranks 12th in spending nationally and 13th in total ads airing since Oct. 12, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Senate contests in Iowa, South Carolina and other states top the list.

The congressional race between Boebert and Mitsch Bush ranks eighth in the nation for the number of ads airing since Oct. 12. Mitsch Bush has spent nearly double what Boebert has on TV advertising, while Democratic and Republican outside groups have each spent about $2.5 million attacking the other candidate.

Boebert surprised five-term Rep. Scott Tipton in the June 30 GOP primary. That upset meant Democrats saw an opportunity to win the seat, while Republican outside groups are trying to defend it.

The district stretches from northwest Colorado and Steamboat Springs through Grand Junction to Durango and east to Pueblo.
Outside spending in the district is breaking the record of $5.6 million set in 2004 when Democrat John Salazar won the open seat, which he held until Tipton defeated him in 2010.

This story is a part of #FollowtheMoneyCO, a project of the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) with support from the Colorado Media Project.