Colorado gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler raised more money than any of his Republican primary rivals in the just-completed fundraising quarter, but every Democratic candidate pulled in at least twice as much as Brauchler — and Republican Walker Stapleton nearly equalled Brauchler’s quarterly fundraising in just a couple of weeks, according to reports filed Monday.
A year before the election to succeed term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, the early fundraising primary is taking shape, although the money raised this far out is already dwarfed by the vast sums raised by super PACs supporting some of the candidates and the money the self-funding candidates are pouring into their campaigns.
Among the Democrats, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, led the pack, reporting $437,755 in contributions — including $370,000 and some change he gave himself. After spending $424,069, he had $220,491 on hand.
Next was Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who jumped in the race in July, reported raising $374,269 and had $322,113 on hand after spending $52,155. She was followed by former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who raised $321,349 and had $724,509 left over after spending $248,431. Formers State Treasurer Cary Kennedy raised $225,759, spent $198,065 and had $253,933 in the bank. Businessman Noel Ginsburg raised $216,558 and had $172,862 left after spending $135,145 and repaying a $100,000 loan to himself.
Altogether, however, the seven Republicans in the race raised just $201,052 total for the quarter, a sum surpassed by each of the five Democrats.
Stapleton, a fundraising powerhouse, didn’t formally announce until about a week before the end of the 3rd Quarter and reported raising just $8,031 during the period, but a super PAC said to be supporting his campaign reported raising $625,000 for the quarter with $716,440 in the bank. On top of that, according to major contributor reports detailing donations topping $1,000 — required to be filed in the weeks before this year’s November election due to a quirk in state law — Stapleton has given his campaign $250,000 and raised $69,000 since the beginning of the month.
The Brauchler campaign counted $98,846 in donations for the quarter, a modest haul that nonetheless put the 18th Judicial District attorney ahead of the pack. After some sparring on Twitter between Brauchler campaign manager Ryan Lynch and Stapleton campaign manager Michael Fortney — was it a win worth celebrating or the boldest spin? — Lynch issued a statement arguing that his candidate’s message and grassroots support meant more than fundraising totals at this point in the campaign.
“In the early stages of a race, message is more important than money, and George Brauchler is the only candidate with one,” Lynch told Colorado Politics. “He’s racking up endorsements and landslide straw poll wins all around the state. It has always been a forgone conclusion that the political dynasties would have an upper hand in these early periods. So what. George Brauchler is an everyday guy with an extraordinary vision for this state, and an important part of his appeal is that he wasn’t born into political privilege.”
Brauchler, his campaign manager concluded, was “winning across the board” in the contests that matter.
Taking to Twitter just after midnight, Brauchler mocked Better Colorado Now, the well financed Stapleton-supporting super PAC. “Right to Rise 2.0,” Brauchler wrote, referring to the committee that backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a Stapleton relative — for last year’s Republican presidential nomination. The Bush PAC raised raised and spent more than $100 million before the candidate dropped from the race early in the primaries. Colorado Strong, an independent expenditure committee established in May to support Brauchler, in contrast, has yet to raise or spend a dime, according to a report filed Monday night.
Former investment banker Doug Robinson, who also happens to be Mitt Romney’s nephew, raised $75,417, spent $65,468 and had $184,253 left over. It’s a big drop to the $9,388 raised by former state lawmaker and entrepreneur Victor Mitchell, although he also loaned his campaign $55,000 on top of the $3 million he seeded his coffers with when he kicked off his run, so had $2,318,631 in the bank. The remaining candidates — Denver County Trump campaign co-chair Steve Barlock, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez — all reported raising less than $5,000 and had less than $2,500 in the bank at the end of the quarter.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with Brauchler campaign manager Ryan Lynch’s comment about fundraising for the quarter, as well as the fundraising record for Colorado Strong, an independent expenditure supporting Brauchler.