Opinion

NOONAN | Dem fund-raising leaves GOP in the dust in key state Senate races

Author: Paula Noonan - September 10, 2018 - Updated: September 10, 2018

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Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Out of eighteen state Senate seats up for election, only four are “competitive.”  These Senate districts have less than five percentage points separating Democratic and Republican registration.  They also have Unaffiliated registration up to 39% of voters.

The fight for these seats puts four Democratic women, or the Four Musketeers, against two men and two women on the GOP side. As of the latest donor reports, the musketeers, Faith Winter in SD-24, Jesse Danielson in SD-20, Brittany Pettersen in SD-22, and Tammy Story in SD-16, are pummeling their opponents in their checking accounts.

Incumbent GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, SD-16, father of House minority leader Rep. Patrick Neville, is short almost $140,000 to Story’s $300,000. She has outraised her three incumbent musketeers sisters in a sign of her prowess. Story lost the House district 25 race in 2016 to Rep. Tim Leonard in a district that leaned Republican. SD-16 also leaned Republican in 2016, but it’s gained Democratic momentum in its north end that includes parts of Boulder and Denver.

Winter, Democrat from HD-35, wants to unseat Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik, who grabbed the district from Democrats in an upset in 2014. Martinez-Humenik is the most moderate Republican in the Senate.  Of the 422 bills in the 2018 session signed by the Governor, Martinez-Humenik voted NO nine times and Winter voted NO twice.  In comparison, Sen. Neville voted NO 77 times.

As an indication of how much this seat means to Democrats, Winter has outraised her opponent by about $210,000.  The Democratic party pitched in $10,000 as recorded in the September filing.

Danielson, D-HD24, is running against Christine Jensen, a mortgage banker from Jefferson County.  Jensen is putting up a fight.  She’s garnered $101,191 to Danielson’s $220,193.  In 2014, state Sen. Cheri Jahn eked out a win by about 600 votes.  The district leans ever-so-slightly Democratic, by 1.5% with 38.6% undecided.  The Democratic party has sent $25,000 to Danielson in the most recent reporting period.

Pettersen, D-HD28, meets Tony Sanchez in the contest for SD-22.  Sanchez took on state Sen. Andy Kerr in 2014 and lost by a small margin.  In 2018, Pettersen has a more comfortable Democratic registration advantage at 2.9%, and she’s outraised Sanchez by $116,000. The Democratic party gave Pettersen $15,000 according to September filings.  Sanchez’s biggest donor in the period is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners at $7200.

The Four Musketeers have turned to the same marketing mail firm:  Mad Dog Mail. This outfit out of Florida has run and won lots of Colorado state Senate campaigns over the last decade.  It knows Colorado like the back of its paw.

The four GOP candidates are more under the radar about their spending.  Christine Jensen pitched $3,500 to Rearden Strategic, the Republican agency that attacked Cynthia Coffman in her unsuccessful race for governor and ridiculed state Sen. Kevin Priola over his support for electric vehicles. Rearden Strategic also runs Advancing Colorado.  Rearden’s president is Joe Neville.

Rearden Strategic does not appear in Sen. Tim Neville’s expense account. Neville’s biggest expenditure in the September filing is to the U.S. Post Office at $141.  His largest expense in August was $314 to Vista Print.

Republicans are apparently planning an October surprise as it’s been reported that there’s $14 million in dark money ready to pound the four Musketeers. The Democrats’ Mad Dog Mail has faced such attacks before. All those unaffiliated voters better get prepared for the onslaught.  It’s enough to make a voter want to register for a party and cut the mail by half.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.