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Legislative Year: 2019 Change

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Colorado’s political world reported $30 million in expenditures in the first two weeks in October. Independent Expenditure Committees took in $23,286,581 in the same period.

Oil and gas industry funds up in opposition to proposition 112 and for property rights

Protect Colorado, the oil and gas industry main campaign funding arm, took in $6,322,503 from its industry supporters fighting proposition 112 on the 2500 foot drilling setback. Protect Colorado turned over $7,941,811 to the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage in support of amendment 74 that pits property rights owners, especially mineral rights owners, against local governments.

(Photo from Colorado Politics)

Protect Colorado also sent $7,550,000 to PACWEST over the two week reporting period to cover its extensive anti-112 campaign.

Protect Colorado argues that the oil and gas industry supports thousands of jobs, millions in tax dollars, and is performed safely.

Colorado Rising pitches $45,000 to 2500 foot setback in October

Colorado Rising that managed to get Men's Watches enough signatures to put proposition 112 on the ballot showed no IEC contributions and $45,000 in expenditures. Individuals contributed to Colorado Rising, with Jay Hormel, philanthropist donating a total of $95,000 and John Powers $25,000.

The Sisters of St. Francis added $9000. Including non-monetary contributions, Colorado Rising has collected $920,000.

(Photo from Boulder Camera)

Colorado Rising argues that drilling closer than 2500 feet to homes, schools, hospitals and other facilities is dangerous.  It cites fires and explosions that have happened within the last couple of years and health reports that show various toxic agents that occur with hydraulic fracturing are dangerous and cause harm. 

Stapleton has lots, Polis has more

US Rep Jared Polis and the Republican Governors Association continue duking it out over the governor’s race. Polis put another $2 million into his pot. Republican Governors put $1 million into state Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s pot. The Democratic Governors Association offset the Republican Governors with a $1 million contribution to Good Jobs for Colorado, an IEC supporting Polis.

DC entrepreneurs in Sixteen Thirty Fund send out $2 million+

That entrepreneur group out of Washington DC, Sixteen Thirty Fund, has inserted itself in a way on the progressive side that matches Americans for Prosperity on the conservative side. In the most recent two weeks, it pitched $2,105,000 into state campaigns, with $1.4 million to the Democrats’ state Senate races and $500,000 to Save our Neighborhoods opposing the property rights amendment 74 that the oil and gas industry is fighting for.

Voter registrations up for UAFs and Dems and women

All these dollars are trying to persuade registered voters. The latest voter registration numbers show 1,007,948 active Democrats and 979,204 active Republican voters. Unaffiliateds continue to form the largest cohort at 1,236,592. September’s registration numbers show 22,113 new Democrats, 9788 new Republicans, and 56,536 new UAFs.

The gender spread has grown substantially, with 1,670,012 women voters to 1,566,603 men voters. The 100,000 registration difference may indicate why economic arguments have less resonance this year and education and health care have more influence.

The Democratic women to men ratio in three metro area counties, Adams, Arapahoe, and Jefferson, is likely to determine who runs the state Senate for two years. If Democratic women turn out in numbers that match the women’s march in Denver after President Trump’s inauguration, the Democratic party can thank them for their activism. It was Republican men turning out in large numbers in 2014 that turned the Senate that year.

Colorado’s midterm elections have reached $100,000,000 in total contributions from January to present and expenditures are $110,000,000. These numbers indicate how valuable the election results are and what’s at risk for the losers.

Polis accounts for 20% of midterm money

No individual has exceeded US Rep. Jared Polis’s contributions of $20,515,000 to his own campaign. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has collected $3,216,975 for his campaign committee, Stapleton for Colorado. Other groups are pitching in side money, also known as dark money, to give Stapleton a shot.

The Republican Governors Association has invested ;$3,475,000 in Stapleton and Better Colorado Now has pitched in $2,251,000. The Colorado Campaign for Jobs and Opportunity, a pro business, anti-union organization sponsored by the DC-based Workforce Fairness Institute, has $1,350,000 to help the State Treasurer.

Not to be outdone, however, Polis gets a boost from Good Jobs Colorado at $3,825,5005. That committee recently collected $920,000 from the Sixteen Thirty Fund in DC that helps entrepreneurs advocate for change.

2500 feet drilling setback opposition collects 30% of midterm money

Each campaign for governor is smaller potatoes than what’s going into Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, aka, Protect Colorado. So far, the energy industry has ginned up $30,339,548.05 against the statutory initiative Proposition 112 to defeat the 2500 feet drilling setback.

The Proposition 112 supporters, Colorado Rising, has collected $706,912.84, with about $600,000 going to gathering petition signatures. It currently has $73,051.62. Protect Colorado still has $10,276,501.

The principal contributors to Protect Colorado are Anadarko at $5 million, Noble Energy at $5 million, PDC Energy at $4 million, Extraction Oil and Gas at $2.15 million, the Colorado Petroleum Council at $1.3 millon, SRC Energy at $1.1 million and DCP Midstream at $1 million. Protect Colorado has sent $2.7 million to the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage, which supports mineral property rights.

Other Amendments and Propositions

The Conservation Colorado Victory Fund with $2,406,000.00 is taking a pass on the 112 proposition to support governor, state House, and state Senate candidates with strong environmental platforms, mostly Democrats.

Two amendments, Y and Z, are getting their share of dollars. Kent Thiry of DaVita has thrown $600,000 into Fair Maps Colorado along with Pat Stryker, who tossed in another $600,000. This is their effort to reduce gerrymandering in redistricting US Congressional seats and the Colorado legislature. Fair Maps has collected $3,930,822.90 and has $1.5 million on hand.

Coloradans for Coloradans is supporting the transportation tax initiative, Proposition 110, with $5,115,526 mostly from business interests that seek an investment in Colorado’s roads, bridges, bike trails, etc. It has $468,680 still in its coffers. It’s competing against Proposition 109 sponsored by the Independence Institute. The Institute’s Fix our Damn Roads committee collected $305,422 and has $1,744 left, but this initiative will fund transportation needs without raising taxes, which the Institute hopes will be more attractive to voters.

The education funding Amendment 73 is getting hit by Blank Check Blatant Deception, a committee sponsored primarily by the conservative business group Ready Colorado run by two Republican politicos, Luke Ragland and Craig Hulse. They’re taking on the education lobby including Great Ed Colorado and the Colorado Education Association. The Amendment affects primarily high income Coloradans and would backfill inadequate education funding over the last decade.

Tammy Story tops all legislative candidates for money

The state Senate races see the same top five fundraisers, all Democrats: Tammy Story at $389,000, Faith Winter at $356,000, Jessie Danielson at $313,000, Brittany Pettersen at $265,000, and Robert Rodriguez at $195,000. The Democrats have raised roughly twice as much as their Republican opponents who have other groups pitching several million their way.

Democratic House candidates are the lead fundraisers in all but one race: Emily Sirota at $145,000, Kerry Tipper at $149,000, Matt Gray at $141,000, Jeff Bridges at $121,000, and Republican Terri Carver at $102,000.

The Colorado House is expected to retain its Democratic majority. The Colorado Senate is up for grabs. Democrats have to grab one seat to regain the majority.

Out of eighteen state Senate seats up for election, only four are “competitive.” These Senate districts have less than five percentage points separating Democratic and Republican registration. They also have Unaffiliated registration up to 39% of voters.

The fight for these seats puts four Democratic women, or the Four Musketierres, against two men and two women on the GOP side. As of the latest donor reports, the musketierres, Faith Winter in SD-24, Jesse Danielson in SD-20, Brittany Pettersen in SD-22, and Tammy Story in SD-16, are pummeling their opponents in their checking accounts.  However, recent news reports say the Koch brothers will spend a few million to control these seats.

Incumbent GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, SD-16, father of House minority leader Rep. Patrick Neville, is short almost $140,000 to Tammy Story’s $300,000. She has outraised her three incumbent musketierre sisters in a sign of her prowess. Story lost the House district 25 race in 2016 to Rep. Tim Leonard in a district that leaned Republican. SD-16 also leaned Republican in 2016, but it’s gained Democratic momentum in its north end that includes parts of Boulder and Denver.  Neville is targeted by the Kochs to receive their help.

Rep. Faith Winter, Democrat from HD-35, wants to unseat Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik, who grabbed the district from Democrats in an upset in 2014. Martinez-Humenik is the most moderate Republican in the Senate. Of the 422 bills in the 2018 session signed by the Governor, Martinez-Humenik voted NO nine times and Winter voted NO twice. In comparison, Sen. Neville voted NO 77 times.

As an indication of how much this seat means to Democrats, Winter has outraised her opponent by about $210,000. The Democratic party pitched in $10,000 as recorded in the September filing.

Rep. Jesse Danielson, D-HD24, is running against Christine Jensen, a mortgage banker from Jefferson County. Jensen is putting up a fight. She’s garnered $101,191 to Danielson’s $220,193. In 2014, state Sen. Cheri Jahn eked out a win by about 600 votes. The district leans ever-so-slightly Democratic, by 1.5% with 38.6% undecided. The Democratic party has sent $25,000 to Danielson in the most recent reporting period.  The Kochs see an opportunity here to pound Danielson.  She's already on the butt end of ads that accuse her of being insufficiently supportive of public education funding.  Her votes in this area match other Democrats.

Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-HD28, meets Tony Sanchez in the contest for SD-22. Sanchez took on state Sen. Andy Kerr in 2014 and lost by a small margin. In 2018, Pettersen has a more comfortable Democratic registration advantage at 2.9%, and she’s outraised Sanchez by $116,000. The Democratic party gave Pettersen $15,000 according to September filings. Sanchez’s biggest donor in the period is Rocky Mountain Gun Owners at $7200.

The Four Musketierres have turned to the same marketing mail firm: Mad Dog Mail. This outfit out of Florida has run and won lots of Colorado state Senate campaigns over the last decade. It knows Colorado like the back of its paw.

The four GOP candidates are under the radar about their spending. Christine Jensen pitched $3500 to Rearden Strategic, the Republican agency that attacked Cynthia Coffman in her unsuccessful race for governor and ridiculed state Sen. Kevin Priola over his support for electric vehicles. Rearden Strategy also runs Advancing Colorado. Rearden’s president is Joe Neville.

Rearden Strategic does not appear in Sen. Tim Neville’s expense account. Neville’s biggest expenditure in the September filing is to the US Post Office at $141. His largest expense in August was $314 to Vista Print.

Republicans are relying on dark money to get them across the finish line. The Democrats’ Mad Dog Mail has faced such attacks before. All those unaffiliated voters better get prepared for the onslaught. It’s enough to make a voter want to register in a party and cut the mail by half.

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To see what may happen in the 2018 elections, check out these trends in voter registration over the last decade.

Since 2008, the state has added 550,000 residents, a “pseudo city” with a population size between Denver and Colorado Springs. The state had 2.44 million voters in 2008 at 35% GOP, 35% Dems, 30% Unaffiliateds (UAFs) with active voters at 76% of the total.

In 2010, with the Tea Party movement, voter registration dropped by 600,000 and active participation sagged to 56%. Republicans took the lead of active voters at 39%, with Dems at 34% and UAFs at 27%. The impact of the Great Recession hit hard on voter activity. Dems and UAFs dropped out.

By 2014, the numbers began to change. Active voter registrations rebounded at 81% of total voters and UAFs beat out both parties for registration at 35% with 33% for the GOP and 31% for Dems. In 2016, active voter registrations surged to 87%.

Today, there are 3.2 million active voters, 82% of the total. Democrats have taken a slight lead of 16,500 over the GOP in active voter registrations, with the two parties splitting the percentage at 31% to 31%. UAFs have almost reached the 2010 Republican peak of active voters at 38%.

Voter registration increases will affect the top of metro Denver most, with Broomfield County up 16.6% since 2014, Adams County up 7%, and Arapahoe County up 12%. Looking south, Douglas County registrations increased 14.8% and El Paso County bumped up 11.8%.

Boulder and Denver Counties declined in registration and Jeffco was stable at a 2.3% increase.

Digging deeper, problems for Republicans show up in how active voter registrations currently look. Broomfield County Democrats show a 20% increase in active voter registrations since 2014, Republicans gained 1%. Arapahoe County Dems saw an 11.8% increase since 2014, Republicans got .05%. Jeffco Dems gained 3%, the GOP dropped -7%. Even El Paso County and Douglas County have flu symptoms for Republicans, with Dems increasing their active voters by over 10% to the GOP’s 4.8% in El Paso and 13% to 5.5% in Douglas.

The red wave in 2010 surged on low voter turnout and unrest over the economy. Both the economy and voter turnout have since strengthened. It’s an 11% active voter turnaround for UAFs, from their low of 27% in 2010 to their high today at 38%. The state’s recent primaries confirm the trend.

Both parties have experienced losses to the UAF category in active voter percentages, but the GOP, according to the numbers, is on a black diamond slope with lots of bumps.

What’s different between 2010 and 2018 is that the UAF category has increased so substantially. Old political theory assumed that UAF voters were uninterested and detached. That clearly is not the case now. The 1.2 million active unaffiliated voters in Colorado hold the cards.

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