Financially, the 59th District Colorado House of Representatives race – one of the state’s most competitive – is heating up, with the Democratic Party doubling-down on Democratic challenger Mike McLachlan and the candidates turning their attention away from raising money to spending it.
According to Oct. 1 filings with the Colorado secretary of state, incumbent Republican J. Paul Brown retains a narrow fundraising lead over McLachlan going into the campaign’s final weeks. As of Monday, Brown’s campaign had a balance of $59,353. In the last six weeks, it had raised $30,583 and spent $34,849. McLachlan’s had $48,856. During the same period, it raised $26,450 spent $49,598.
But as we approach election day, the financial dynamics of the race are changing: “independent expenditure,” or money spent by third party groups such as 527s, political action committees, and super PACs, is already starting to eclipse the candidates’ directs spending.
In a sign of how badly the Colorado Democratic Party wants to win this seat – which was redrawn last year in a bitterly contested redistricting process that left the seat more competitive for Democrats – in just September, the Democratic Super PAC Colorado Accountable Government Alliance spent $102,660 on cable advertising to defeat Brown, demoting Brown’s $10,000 advantage over McLachlan from a headline to a footnote.
Independent expenditure is a murky realm, and people following the race expect Republican groups to quickly reciprocate – citing 2010, when GOP groups spent as much as $56,572 on Brown’s behalf.
In the more straightforward horse race of the campaigns’ direct spending, in September, Brown spent just shy of $35,000 on radio advertising. McLachlan spent $35,482 on direct mail.
This period, political action committees were Brown’s most generous donors, giving him more than $17,800, including $4,000 from COPIC, Colorado’s largest medical malpractice insurance provider, and $2,000 from The People’s House Colorado. Brown returned $12,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee because it exceeded contribution limits. Its aggregate contributions to Brown total $14,805.
Brown again did well with his choice demographics: Ranchers gave Brown $5,100 in 19 individual contributions, bringing ranchers’ total donations to Brown to about $22,000 since 2010, and retirees gave him $1,160 in 12 individual contributions.
Brown’s filing contains more good news.
For months, the biggest local GOP benefactors evaded him. But according to his most recent filing, in late September, he received $500 from Susan and Robert Dulin – who, according to Federal Election Commission filings, have given more than $53,000 to Republican causes since 2005.
McLachlan also did well with PACs, which gave him $16,400 this quarter, including $8,000 from the Colorado Democratic Party, $2,525 from “SEIU Local 105 Small Donor Committee for Working Families” – a PAC related to the powerful Service Employees International Union, and $2,000 from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ PAC.
Lawyers, McLachlan’s most ardent patrons, gave McLachlan $1,235 in 11 individual contributions, bringing the total to about $21,500 in 118 individual donations since he announced his candidacy in February. Retirees, his other financial wellspring, gave him $3,560 in 43 individual contributions.