Walker Stapleton set to break Colorado quarterly fundraising record for governor’s race

Author: Joey Bunch - January 8, 2018 - Updated: January 8, 2018

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton talks to constituents in a campaign ad. (Via Youtube)

Walker Stapleton is set to break a Colorado fundraising record for his first full quarter in the governor’s race, Colorado Politics has learned.

We were the first to report it when Stapleton entered the race in September.

Reports for the last quarter of 2017 are due to the Secretary of States’ office a week from Monday, on Jan. 16. Stapleton will report about $750,000 for the quarter, the most any of the 18 candidates has raised in any quarter so far.

The previous quarterly record was set in the spring by a Democrat, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who raised about $625,000.  His campaign boasted at the time that it had beat the quarterly record previously held by fellow Democrat Bill Ritter, who brought in $569,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In a Republican primary with eight other candidates — including Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, two-time gubernatorial candidate (and likely President Trump’s favorite Coloradan) Tom Tancredo and business leaders Doug Robinson and Victor Mitchell — there are lots of places for big-time donors to invest.

Stapleton’s haul in the last quarter would be more than Robinson, Mitchell and former candidate George Brauchler had raised in outside donations, combined, in previous quarters. And Coffman’s finance co-chairman during her 2014 run for attorney general, Lanny Martin, is part of Stapleton’s PAC, too.

And separate from Stapleton cache of campaign cash, Better Colorado Now is a political action committee allegedly but definitely behind his candidacy, and sources tell Colorado Politics its fourth quarter report will show its raised more than $785,000 with $732,000 cash on hand. That’s a slow burn rate other donors at this stage like to see.

Walker’s campaign roll call of donors for the quarter includes corporate titans, small business owners and household names — Phil Anschutz (disclosure: He owns Colorado Politics and lots of other stuff), real-estate mogul and philanthropist Larry Mizel, beer magnate Pete Coors, car king Greg Stevinson and Dan Ritchie, a civic mainstay in Colorado who has led the University of Denver and the Denver Center for Performing Arts, after he was CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting.

His donors also will include Bill Hybl, the former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Public Diplomacy under for President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama and former chairman of the United States Olympic Endowment. Denver Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis and former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan are supporting Stapleton’s campaign. Hall-of-Fame Denver quarterback John Elway has backed Better Colorado Now, and he’s expected to be a key endorser for Stapleton.

In addition, Stapleton put in $250,000 of his own money at the opening of his campaign, but the new $750,000 windfall is all donor money.

If Jared Polis emerges as the Democratic nominee, Stapleton will need a fat bankroll. Polis is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He and other rich Democrats in the state invested in grassroots campaigns 15 years ago that helped turn Colorado from reliably red to a swing state. Polis easily could call in support from Democratic donors and environmental interests from across the country.

“We are going to continue to work every day to put together the resources necessary to beat millionaire self-funder Congressman Polis,” Stapleton said in a statement to Colorado Politics.

“Whether it’s moving us to a Bernie Sanders style single-payer health system, or putting his radical agenda ahead of good paying jobs Coloradans depend on, Congressman Polis’ vision for Colorado is wrong. As governor of Colorado I will continue to stand up for the families of Colorado and ensure that we all have the opportunity to thrive.”

It’s not clear whether Polis will bankroll his entire run, but it’s interesting that Stapleton is already bracing for a general election run before the primary race is settled. He will need money to past June, as well.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated to add in the$250,000 Stapleton put in from his own pocket early in the campaign, which is not included in the $750,000 from donors.)

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.