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Lauren Boebert’s fundraising dropped off, but she still holds a big cash advantage in her new congressional district

None of Boebert’s opponents in the 4th Congressional District came close to matching her
Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado speaks during a debate at the Sky Ute Resort and Casino in Ignacio at May 26, 2022. (William Woody for Colorado Newsline)

Lauren Boebert started the year with a large campaign cash advantage over her Republican primary opponents in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, even as the congresswoman’s fundraising slowed in the last three months of 2023, according to federal campaign finance reports filed Wednesday.

Some of Boebert’s opponents in the 4th District, which includes the Eastern Plains and sweeps into Loveland and Douglas County, received financial help from big-name GOP donors, while others injected money into their own campaigns.

The reports, covering federal campaign fundraising and spending from Oct. 1 through the end of the year, are the first filed since U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican who represents the 4th District, announced in November that he wouldn’t seek a sixth term in Congress. That set off a scramble to represent the highly Republican district, where the GOP nominee is a virtual lock to win in November.

Boebert announced Dec. 27 that she was abandoning her bid in the 3rd Congressional District, which is mostly in western Colorado, to run in the 4th District. Her reelection chances in the 3rd District were dim after she narrowly won in 2022.

Most of the $540,000 Boebert raised in the last three months of the year came as she was still running in the 3rd District. It was also the first full quarter after she was ejected from a Denver performance of the musical “Beetlejuice” in September. Surveillance video from the theater showing the congresswoman was vaping, talking loudly and engaging in mutual groping with a male companion.

The amount represented a steep drop from the congresswoman’s past fundraising quarters. But it still vastly exceeded the fundraising by her 4th District GOP competitors. Additionally, nearly 60% of her third-quarter cash came from donors giving $200 or less, indicating her national popularity continues. And 64% of her larger donations came from outside Colorado.

The $1.3 million she had in the bank at the end of the year also gives her a considerable cash advantage over her long list of Republican primary opponents in the 4th District. Boebert’s opponents will need money to counter Boebert’s sizable name ID advantage in the district ahead of the June 25 primary.

“Getting money is going to be important, because you have to get your message out there,” said Sara Hagedorn, a political scientist at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “People have to know you’re on the ballot.” Conservative talk radio host Deborah Flora was raised the second most among Republican primary candidates running in the 4th District during the quarter, bringing in nearly $174,000 in November and December. She announced her candidacy the day after Buck’s announced his retirement.

Former University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, a longtime Republican donor, donated $6,600 – the maximum amount – to Flora, while his wife, Marcy, gave $3,300 in early December. Retired Denver businessman Ralph Nagel also gave Flora $6,600.

Former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s leadership PAC donated $10,000 to former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s campaign in the 4th District. Now a Logan County commissioner, Sonneberg raised $154,000 over two months, with Bruce Benson donating $6,600 to Sonnenberg a few days after giving to Flora.

Sonnenberg also received $6,600 each from Joe O’Dea, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Colorado in 2022, and his wife, Celeste O’Dea.

Some other quarterly fundraising numbers from Republican candidates in the 4th District:

  • Peter Yu, a Windsor businessman who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2022 and in 2018 to represent the 2nd Congressional District, lent his campaign $250,000 and raised just $4,100 after announcing his candidacy Dec. 29.
  • State Rep. Richard Holtorf lent his campaign $38,000 and raised another $74,000.
  • Former state Sen. Ted Harvey raised $41,000, which included $2,000 from the National Association for Gun Rights PAC.
  • Weld County Councilmember Trent Leisy reported lending his campaign $100,000 while spending no money during the quarter.

State Rep. Mike Lynch of Wellington didn’t enter the race until January and won’t report his fundraising and spending numbers until mid-April, after the first fundraising quarter of 2024.

Democrat Ike McCorkle raised $180,000 during the quarter, while political newcomer John Padora raised nearly $39,000. McCorkle has run in the 4th District unsuccessfully in the past two cycles.

Democrat Adam Frisch raked in $3 million in the 3rd District

Former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch, a Democrat, continued his fundraising juggernaut in the 3rd District, raking in nearly $3 million in the last three months of the year.

That was less than the $3.4 million he raised in the previous quarter. He had more than $5 million in the bank at the end of 2023.

Frisch has been among the top fundraisers nationally for U.S. House candidates, having brought in $11.6 million. About 64% of his fourth-quarter cash came from small donors giving less than $200.

But that was when he was running against Boebert, who defeated him by 546 votes in 2022. His fundraising numbers from the last three months of 2023 don’t account for her departure from the race in the Republican-leaning district.

The 3rd District contest was originally rated a tossup by national election prognosticators, but they moved it to a “leans Republican” rating when Boebert exited the race. The district sweeps across the Western Slope into Pueblo and southeast Colorado.

Still, Frisch likely has a clear path to the November ballot. His lone Democratic primary opponent, Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout, dropped out of the contest Wednesday after a weak fundraising quarter.

It’s not clear whether Frisch will be able to keep up his fundraising power with Boebert out of the race. He continues to send emails framing the race around replacing the congresswoman even though she’s no longer his opponent.

On the Republican side of the 3rd District race, Grand Junction attorney Jeff Hurd was the leading fundraiser among the GOP candidates, bringing in $263,000 in the final quarter of 2023. He ended the year with $471,000 in cash.

Former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s leadership PAC donated $6,600 to Hurd’s campaign two days after Boebert announced her decision to run in the 4th District. Boebert defeated Tipton in the 2022 GOP primary.

Carbondale investment adviser Russ Andrews raised $31,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and ended 2023 with $238,000 in the bank. But most of that money was lent to the campaign by Andrews. Delta County business owner Curtis McCrackin raised about $18,000 and ended the year with about $16,000 in cash.

Former state Rep. Ron Hanks, who lost the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2022 and recently moved to Grand Junction, and Colorado Board of Education member Stephen Varela, of Pueblo, entered the Republican primary contest in the 3rd District in January and won’t have to disclose their fundraising numbers until April.

Other fundraising numbers that stand out

The outcome of the election in Colorado’s tossup 8th Congressional District could decide which party controls Congress, and incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, of Thornton, is amassing a sizable campaign war chest for her reelection bid.

Caraveo had nearly $1.4 million in the bank at the end of 2023 after raising more than $630,000 from October through December.

On the Republican side of the race, state Rep. Gabe Evans, R-Fort Lupton, brought in $170,000 and finished the quarter with $186,000 in cash. Health care consultant Joseph Andujo lent his campaign $214,000 and raised another $6,000. And Weld County Commissioner Scott James raised about $41,000 and had only about $24,000 in the bank at the end of the year.

In the 5th Congressional District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn announced his retirement on Jan. 6, Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams, radio host Jeff Crank and state Sen. Bob Gardner are running for the GOP nomination. But since they didn’t enter the contest until after Lamborn resigned, they won’t have to report their campaign’s fundraising and spending until April.

Here’s a chart listing the big numbers for all the congressional candidates.

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