Walker Stapleton, Cary Kennedy lead crowded gubernatorial primary fields in fundraising

Author: Ernest Luning - January 17, 2018 - Updated: January 18, 2018

Colorado gubernatorial candidates State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican, left, and former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, a Democrat (Gazette, Colorado Politics file photos)

Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Cary Kennedy, the current and former state treasurers, brought in the most contributions in their respective primary fields for the final quarter of 2017, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Colorado secretary of state.

But neither had the most money in the bank among their primary cohorts at the end of the year. That distinction fell to Republican Victor Mitchell, a former state representative and entrepreneur, who seeded his campaign with a $3 million donation, and to Democrat Mike Johnston, a former state senator, who brought in a record-setting $1.5 million in donations through the year.

And if self-funding is included in the most recent quarterly haul, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who has poured close to $1.4 million into his campaign since launching it last summer, fattened his coffers by more than any other Democrat in the running.

As the campaigns gird for a sprint to November in what is already shaping up to be the most expensive gubernatorial race in modern state history — including independent expenditure committees operating on behalf of several of the candidates, it likely won’t even be close — the end-of-year campaign finance numbers portray primary fields filled with well-funded contenders on both sides.

In all, 10 Republicans and eight Democrats are running for the office held by term-limited Democrat John Hickenlooper.

Stapleton, who didn’t enter the campaign until just before the end of the previous quarter, reported raising $997,672, including $269,655 in self-funding, and spent $140,242 through Dec. 31. He had $874,650 on hand.

Colorado Politics was first to report Stapleton’s fundraising numbers, which set a record for the most raised by a gubernatorial candidate in an off-year quarter since strict campaign finance limits were imposed after the 2002 cycle.

Kennedy brought in $274,655, spent $242,686 and had $285,642 in the bank.

Neither of the two candidates who have demonstrated they’re most willing to fund their own campaigns, Mitchell the Republican and Polis the Democrat, are bringing in eye-popping donations from others — Mitchell has said he’s encouraging donations of $20.18, while Polis says he won’t take more than $100 from any contributor — but both are spending plenty of money.

Polis raised just $50,000 in addition to the $751,609 he gave his own campaign this quarter, for a total of just over $800,000. He spent about $655,000 and reported $366,512 in the bank.

Mitchell brought in $4,621, spent $147,819 and still had $2,175,432 on hand, boasting the fattest campaign bank account at the end of the year of any of the candidates.

Johnston raised $254,836, spent $246,945 and had $732,399 on hand, the most of any of the Democrats.

Among the other Democrats, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne raised just under $300,000 — including $60,000 she gave herself — spent $169,689 and had $451,925 on hand; and businessman Noel Ginsburg posted $224,798, including $190,000 of his own money, spent $173,927 and had $223,733 on hand. A handful of other Democrats who have filed to run didn’t report raising any money.

Among the remaining Republicans, two high-profile candidates who both got in the race at the beginning of November, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, each raised under $100,000 for the quarter, although Coffman came mighty close. She reported bringing in $99,968 — including $14,765 she transferred from her attorney general campaign before shutting that down — spending $14,553, and had $85,415 on hand. Tancredo raised $74,480, spent $11,484 and had $62,996 in the bank.

Doug Robinson, a former investment banker and Mitt Romney’s nephew, raised $77,814, loaned himself $242,977, and had $429,794 in the bank after spending $75,250 for the quarter.

Other Republicans in the field raised $10,000 or less — Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, one-time Trump campaign organizer Steve Barlock and activist Jim Rundberg — or didn’t report any financial activity.

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. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.