With a difference of less than $160, the race for the 59th District seat in the state House of Representatives – one of the most competitive – is financially neck and neck.
According to the latest financial reports, as of June 4, incumbent Republican J. Paul Brown had a balance of $23,366.90. His challenger, Democrat Mike McLachlan, a lawyer based in Durango, had a balance of $23,211.80.
But through the last five months, McLachlan claimed all the fundraising momentum. Filings show that on Feb. 1, Brown had $18,309, whereas McLachlan’s campaign – which had not been announced yet – had $0.
Yet in this quarter alone, McLachlan raised more than $10,000 from 63 individual donations – compared to Brown’s $2,315 from seven donors.
In a phone interview, McLachlan attributed his fundraising success to discontent with Brown and sheer effort. “This is my first time running for office, and I’m putting in as much energy as I can,” he said.
McLachlan owes much of his loot to fellow lawyers, who contributed more than $4,000 in 19 individual donations this quarter – and nearly $10,000 in 49 individual donations since McLachlan announced.
Local stalwarts of Democratic fundraising have smiled on McLachlan as well.
McLachlan got $200 from Bayfield’s D. E. McGill – who has given more than $31,000 to progressive causes since 2005, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The maximum individual contribution is $400.
Brown’s biggest contributors this filing were the La Plata County Republican Central Committee ($1,500), Keith and Sharon Swerdfeger, who each gave $200, and the Doctors Company Colorado’s political action committee, which donated $200.
In a phone interview, Brown said he had two fundraisers scheduled for next week but conceded money had “been coming in little by little. It stalled while we were in session. And it’s personally hard for me to ask people for money – but I know it’s a necessary evil,” he said.
Brown’s lackluster fundraising did not hurt him in 2010 when he defeated Democrat Brian O’Donnell, who spent $120,607 to Brown’s $56,560. But the 59th House District was redrawn last year, making it more competitive for Democrats.
Demographically, Brown has done well with ranchers, who have given more than $15,000 since 2010 (including $200 from local GOP benefactor Fred Kroeger, who’s given more than $10,200 to conservative causes since 2005, according to the FEC.)
Energy interests have also been generous, giving Brown $6,450 since 2010. Recently, Brown also has enjoyed the patronage of lobbyists – who tend to look kindly on incumbents – to the cumulative tune of about $2,500.
Historically, Brown’s most benevolent donors have been PACs, which have contributed more than $19,000 during the last two years.
Here, Brown has an edge over McLachlan, who has gotten money from only one PAC – Colorado Democratic Party, which gave McLachlan $1,466.37 in the spring.