Eight weeks ago, the race for the 59th District seat in the Colorado House of Representatives one of the most competitive in the state was financially neck and neck, with a difference of less than $160.
But according to their Wednesday filings, when it comes to fundraising, Democratic challenger Mike McLachlan has been trouncing incumbent Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, for the last two months.
Since announcing his campaign in February, McLachlan, a Durango-based lawyer, has raised $65,790 in 445 individual donations $42,578 of it since June 4 and spent $16,435. He has $50,355 cash on hand.
By comparison, since June 4, Brown has raised $16,365 in 255 individual donations, leaving him with $39,731 cash on hand.
Its hard to ask people for money, just because Im so conservative. But I know it has to be done, so were working on it, Brown said.
In a news release, McLachlan said, We have been able to raise this amount of money because the people of the 59th district want someone who will concentrate on fixing the economy. Not someone who is a voice in the legislature for special interests.
Local Republicans said the McLachlan campaigns lucre by no means augured victory, citing 2010, when Brown defeated Democrat Brian ODonnell, who spent $120,607 to Browns $56,560.
But according to filings with the Colorado secretary of state, it appears that in 2010, three groups spent an additional $56,572.49 on that election, meaning Browns victory likely cost closer to $115,000.
Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Colorados secretary of state, warned that its difficult to say where the money is coming from. He pointed to documents that show that Our Colorado Values, a mysterious, now-defunct, Washington, D.C.-based independent expenditure committee i.e. superPAC spent almost $11,000 on the 2010 race.
Its not clear which candidate the money went to support.
The Colorado Leadership Fund LLC a multimillion dollar Republican 527 based in Virginia spent $37,866 on Browns behalf. Its listed agent, Timothy Gilmore, did not respond to requests for comment.
Care Membership Organization LLC, a Denver-based 527 that promotes the interests of the Cooperative Electric Association, spent $7,798 on ads for Brown. Its treasurer, Kent Singer, also executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said the 527 planned to finance ads on Browns behalf again in 2012, though when and how much are decisions well make closer to the election.
In a phone interview, Brown said hed been wholly unaware of third parties previous expenditures on his behalf, and sounded flabbergasted that it seems to have surpassed $50,000.
In Colorado, third parties independent expenditures are difficult to track but are an area the GOP has claimed a decisive local edge. In 2010, the only independent expenditure made on ODonnells behalf was a miscellaneous payment of $7,210 to Overnight Prints by Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, a California-based super PAC. So far, no independent political entities have spent money on McLachlans behalf. The Doctors Company Colorado PAC has spent $200 on Browns.
In terms of direct donations, the Aug. 1 filings show that Brown also beats McLachlan with mining and energy interests, which gave Brown $1,300 (bringing the total to $7,750 since 2010) in six individual donations since June, and with ranchers, who gave $2,196 in 18 individual donations ($17,000 since 2010).
McLachlans most benevolent patrons continue to be lawyers ($4,300 in 30 individual donations this quarter) and retirees ($7,945, in 95 individual donations).
Local bigwigs are picking sides. This quarter, Chris Isensee who has lavished at least $13,000 on Democrats since 2005 gave McLachlan $400, the maximum contribution. And McLachlan got $250 from Don Mapel, the local Coca-Cola magnate who has given more than $11,000 to political causes since 2005. The chief beneficiary of Mapels political largesse has so far been GOP congressman Scott Tipton.
When it comes to Brown, a self-styled pro-business candidate, the blue-chip GOP donors have not yet materialized. This includes Bayfields Susan and Robert Dulin, who between them have given more than $44,000 to conservative candidates and causes since 2005.
One exception is Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, who has spent more than $8,000 on political causes since 2005.
In July, he gave Brown $400.
But I almost gave the same amount of money to Mike McLachlan, he said.