Pile of money with Colorado flag (copy)

The state flag of Colorado sticking in a pile of U.S. dollars.

It isn’t always who spends the most that determines who prevailed in Colorado's 2022 primary election, though most of those in the winning column also spent the most.

There were, however, some outliers that showed money doesn’t always make the difference.

Pam Anderson, the GOP candidate for Colorado Secretary of State in November, spent $134,712 to win her race, based on the most recent campaign finance reports filed with TRACER, the state’s campaign finance database.

But she was outspent by one of her two primary rivals: Tina Peters, the embattled Mesa County clerk, shelled out $182,957 for her losing effort. Mike O’Donnell of Yuma also spent $55,453 in that race, but most of that came from a $51,000 personal loan to his campaign.

The GOP contest for governor was the most lopsided, in terms of spending. GOP winner and CU Regent Heidi Ganahl’s 7-percentage point win cost $1.13 million, nearly ten times the $134,540 her opponent, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, spent.

That trend continued in primaries for seats in the state legislature as well.

In four of the 20 contested primaries for the state House, the losing candidate outspent the winner. That includes the hottest race on primary night in the Democratic race for Denver’s House District 6, where Katie March spent $161,041 to Elisabeth Epps’ $126,788. Spending by independent expenditure committees was also lopsided in favor of March, with $326,000 spent to bolster her campaign compared to $144,000 for Epps. The winning margin for Epps as of July 6 is just over 6 percentage points.

In the contest in the Colorado Springs-based House District 17 to succeed current state Senate candidate and former state Rep. Tony Exum, Sr., Mischa Smith spent nearly twice as much as opponent Regina English. But it’s English, who won the contest by nearly 8 percentage points, who heads to November and the general election.

In the rematch in Aurora’s House District 42 between Rep. Mandy Lindsay and Gail Pough, it was Pough who spent the most, at $10,371 to Lindsay’s $6,502. But IEC spending strongly favored Lindsay, at $189,000 to $26,000 from IECs backing Pough.

GOP candidate Trish Weber loaned her campaign $20,000 in hopes of winning the Grand Junction House District 55 seat. But it was Rich Taggart who won the seat by more than 5 percentage points, spending $38,358 to Weber’s $50,513.

Exum in his bid for the Democratic nod for Senate District 11 also was outspent by his primary opponent, Yolanda Avila, by more than $12,000. IECs may have made up some of the difference: Raising Colorado spent $27,000 to back Exum, who won by more than 8 percentage points. He will face Republican Sen. Dennis Hisey in November

IEC spending also was a factor in House District 57, currently represented by Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle. Progressive IECs spent $170,000 to back winner Elizabeth Velasco over her primary opponent Cole Buerger, who was also backed by about $68,000 in spending from IECs.

Velasco spent $51,944 on her primary campaign; Buerger spent $43,930, with help from a $27,000 loan. Velasco won the race by 28 percentage points.

The Will-Velasco showdown will be one of the races to watch in November. Redistricting commission data shows a 15.7% Democratic lean in this district, which was a Republican stronghold when it was made up of Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The newly-drawn district kept Garfield but moved Rio Blanco and Moffat into House District 26, and added in Democratic-stronghold Pitkin County.

The biggest primary campaign spending on the GOP side was for three seats in Douglas County, with the winners all likely to signal an ideological shift from their predecessors.

Rep. Kurt Huffman was appointed by a vacancy committee to succeed now-Sen. Kevin Van Winkle, who was appointed to fulfill the term of Sen. Chris Holbert. Huffman spent $69,670 on his primary night win, which included a $100,000 loan.

In House District 44, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Kim Ransom, Anthony Hartsook spent $64,368, backed by a $50,000 loan; his primary opponent, Terry Dodd, spent $13,967, also taking in a personal loan of $11,263.

In House District 45, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Patrick Neville, Lisa Frizell spent $82,986, backed by a $65,000 loan; her opponent Terry jack spent $42,295, and loaned his campaign $1,000.

IEC spending also was a factor in all three DougCo races, with spending heavily favoring the winners.

The last race where spending favored the candidate who came in second was in the Centennial-based Senate District 27, where winner Tom Kim spent $38,093, compared to $45,203 spent by his primary opponent, JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin. Kim won the contest by better than 40 percentage points.

Kim will face Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan in the November general election. The seat is one of five major targets for the GOP that hopes to flip control for the state Senate. The redistricting map shows a 4.7% Democratic lean, but the results were based on election results between 2016 and 2020 in which former President Donald Trump was considered a driver for Democratic turnout. 

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