Campaigns and outside groups are pouring millions into Colorado’s congressional races ahead of the primary election

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The 2024 Republican state assembly was held April 6, 2024, at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

The political ad wars are heating up heading into Colorado’s June 25th primary election.

In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Adam Frisch — who is running unopposed in the primary — has come out with an ad against Republican Jeff Hurd, one of six GOP candidates seeking the nomination.

It has Republicans crying foul.

“Adam and Democrats are attacking Jeff because they know he is the only Republican who can beat Frisch and keep the seat red. Voters in western and southern Colorado won’t be duped by slick ads full of slick lies funded from out-of-state liberals,” said a Hurd campaign spokesman.

The House Republican campaign arm claims the ad is “meddling” in the Republican primary.

“Adam Frisch’s gutter politics play reveals one thing: he can’t win unless he plays dirty,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Delanie Bomar. “Republicans should pick our party’s nominee, not Democrats.”

The Frisch campaign, however, defended the ad, which criticized Hurd for “hiding” from debates and not clearly stating his stand on issues like abortion, the Second Amendment, or the presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. The campaign is spending $100,000 to run the ads in Grand Junction and the Colorado Springs markets.

“There are two Republican candidates who can win the Republican Primary. Ron Hanks is endorsed by the Republican party and too extreme. Jeff Hurd is funded by corporate out-of-state interests, yet he continues to hide what he believes,” said Camilo Vilaseca, Adam Frisch's campaign manager. “I'm tired of watching Adam take shots from both of them. As far as I’m concerned, the general election has started.”

Need more information on the upcoming primary? Check out CPR’s Voter Guide.

The latest campaign finance filing shows Frisch is reserving ad time now for the fall. He’s spent more than $2 million so far in TV ad buys. The money is coming from an impressive war chest Frisch has amassed since announcing last year that he would try again for the seat.

Outside groups have also poured more than $1.4 million into the GOP primary in the form of ads, mailers and texts, including a Democratic group.

Rocky Mountain Values PAC has put in close to $400,000 in the primary, in theory opposing Hanks as “too conservative,” linking him to former President Donald Trump, and noting that Hurd has not said if he voted for Trump. That messaging could actually boost Hanks in the eyes of Republican primary voters.

Democratic groups tried this same strategy with Hanks in the Republican primary for Senate in 2022, thinking he’d be an easier Republican candidate for Democrat Michael Bennet to defeat. The strategy failed and Joe O’Dea won the GOP Senate primary. O’Dea was then defeated by Bennet.

Several Republican groups are also playing in this primary, on behalf of one candidate or another.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Mike Johnson has invested more than $410,000 opposing Hanks, the state GOP-endorsed candidate, including spending more than $300,000 in TV and radio ads.

The CLF ad says Hanks ran for Congress in California in 2010 on what it calls an anti-gun agenda and “abandoned” Trump. It also claims that, if he becomes the nominee, Hanks would be a “bullseye for Liberals.”

On social media, Hanks took aim at Johnson, saying the Speaker “smears my record. Lies that I am a liberal, anti-(Second Amendment), quit on Trump.”

Americans for Prosperity Action has also invested more than $365,000 in the primary in support of Hurd, through mailers, door hangers and canvassing, while A Strong Innovation Economy Requires Strong IP Protection, another super PAC, has spent $50,000 in digital advertising to support Hurd.

Meanwhile, the conservative super PAC Our American Century has spent a total of $185,000 supporting Lew Webb in the primary and opposing Hurd. In 2022, that super PAC spent more than $270,000 opposing Bennet’s bid for Senate.

Spending heating up in other congressional primaries, too

Outside groups are also doing a lot of spending in the 5th Congressional District GOP primary race, with at least $1.5 million going to oppose Dave Williams, the current chair of the state GOP who’s once again seeking the nomination.

The money is paying for radio and TV ads, text messages and mailers from a number of super PACs, including America Leads Action, Colorado Dawn, Conservatives for American Excellence and Restoring Standards PAC.

Williams’ opponent in the race, Jeff Crank, is also getting positive assistance from outside groups. Americans for Prosperity Action and America Leads Action have spent more than $110,000 in texts, mailers, and digital ads. Crank used to work for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit group affiliated with AFP Action. 

One group, Gun Rights America, has spent over $6,000 to oppose Crank.

AFP Action is also supporting Republican Gabe Evans as he seeks the party’s nomination for the 8th Congressional District. The group has spent more than $160,000 on canvassing, mailers and door hangers for Evans.

Outside groups haven’t gotten as involved in the crowded race for the Republican nomination to represent the 4th Congressional District.

Instead, the campaigns themselves have been spending money on advertising.

Frontrunner Rep. Lauren Boebert brought with her a large campaign war chest with more than $1 million in it when she moved from the 3rd District to the 4th District. And she has been spending it as she seeks to win in a new district.

The Boebert campaign has spent more than $270,000 in TV, radio and digital ads over the last couple of months.

None of her challengers come close to spending that much. The nearest is Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg. Earlier this month, he launched a 3-week ad buy touting his roots in the district and saying “We can do better than Lauren Boebert.” According to campaign filings, he’s spent $58,600 on TV ads and $4,200 on radio ads.

Two other candidates in the race have also made targeted ad buys. 

State Rep. Mike Lynch is also on TV. His campaign has placed more than $40,000 in TV ads on Fox News, while campaign filings show that state Rep. Richard Holtorf also spent money on a small media buy: $2,800 on Breitbart News Network.