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Democrat Mike Johnston reports record fundraising in gubernatorial campaign’s first quarter

Author: Ernest Luning - April 3, 2017 - Updated: April 4, 2017

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, a former state senator from Denver, takes questions from voters at a campaign event on March 4, 2017, at the Belmar Libary in Lakewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, a former state senator from Denver, takes questions from voters at a campaign event on March 4, 2017, at the Belmar Libary in Lakewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston plans to report that his first-quarter fundraising topped $625,000, a sum his campaign says sets a modern record.

The former state senator from Denver said Monday he raised more campaign cash in a quarter than any other state candidate has in a non-election year since the advent of strict campaign finance limits in 2005 — and he did it without accepting contributions from political action committees.

Johnston plans to report contributions from more than 2,500 donors, his campaign said. The campaign didn’t announce its expenditures or cash-on-hand for the quarter, which ended March 31. Detailed reports are due to the Colorado secretary of state by April 17.

“I’m truly honored by this support, but this campaign is about a lot more than quarterly numbers and fundraising reports,” Johnston said in a statement announcing his fundraising haul. “I know that sometimes it can feel like our politics are pulling us apart, but these last three months have reaffirmed the frontier truth that working together we can build things no one of us could dream alone. That is the spirit that built Colorado, and is the force that is building this campaign.”

Johnston launched his bid on Jan. 17 in what’s expected to be a crowded race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The highest previous quarterly haul since 2005 for a state candidate in an off year — not exactly the widest of fields — was the $569,684 then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a Denver Democrat, reported raising in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to reports filed with the secretary of state. (Ritter decided against seeking a second term a couple months after filing that report .)

Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Grand Junction Republican, reported the next-highest quarterly fundraising total using Johnston’s criteria, with $479,575 raised in the fourth quarter of 2009. Hickenlooper reported raising $427,673 in the fourth quarter of 2013 for his successful 2014 reelection campaign.

Johnston’s record could already be eclipsed, however. Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell, a former state lawmaker from Castle Rock, pledged when he announced his campaign in February that he would deposit $3 million of his own funds into his campaign account. Mitchell’s campaign hasn’t announced its quarterly contributions yet.

Businessman Noel Ginsburg is the only other Democrat in the race so far. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — the Democrat is also a former U.S. senator and former Colorado attorney general — announced just over a week ago that he wouldn’t be running for governor. Prominent Democrats U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy have both said they are strongly considering getting in the race.

Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III announced last month that he was joining Mitchell in the GOP primary. Republicans State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and District Attorney George Brauchler are said to be considering runs. Former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham and Davita Healthcare Partners Chairman and CEO Kent Thiry are also weighing bids.

— ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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