Opinion

NOONAN | ‘Money, as always, is the biggest issue’ as Election Day nears

Author: Paula Noonan - November 1, 2018 - Updated: October 31, 2018

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Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

The midterm elections will answer hard questions about money, issues, candidates and voting.  When the answers come in from approximately half of 3.3 million active registered voters — the likely turnout — the political crowd should learn some important lessons.

Money, as always, is the biggest issue. According to the secretary of state, as of Oct. 29, the state campaigns collected $185,148,142 for candidates, amendments and statute initiatives.  Federal campaigns, especially for Congressional District 6, have brought in many more millions.

The most recent financial reports show that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis put $22 million into his campaign and has about $1 million more from individuals. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has $4+ million in direct contributions. The Republican Governors Association added $4.5 million and Workforce Fairness Institute added another $3 million. Then the Colorado Republican Independent Expenditure Committee has $3.35 million for Stapleton and other GOP candidates. It’s difficult to determine the precise money difference between Polis and Stapleton.

Polis has the advantage of knowing how much money he’s willing to spend and how to spend it. Stapleton’s advantage is that the independent expenditure committees don’t have to reveal who gave how much and where the money went.  The Republicans are following their usual playbook of minimal disclosure and centralized control.

Another difference between the campaigns for governor involves supporters.  Democratic women have turned out in huge numbers. Democratic men are closer to no-shows.  Republican men and women are about even. Basically, the statewide races may turn on whether Democratic women can outvote Republican men and women. It’s also unknown which way unaffiliated men, who are voting in significantly greater numbers than unaffiliated women, will turn.

Money is also a big part of the contested state Senate races.  Four Democratic candidates for SD16, SD20, SD22, and SD24 have outraised their Republican opponents about two to one.  Tammy Story running for SD16 has ginned up a record — over $510,000 to defeat incumbent Sen. Tim Neville, who has $210,000.  The other Democratic candidates have between $200,000 and $300,000 more than their opponents.

But Republican Senate candidates are supported by $4.3 million from the Senate Majority Fund.  This PAC reported $300,000 from Crestone Peak Resources, $107,000 from Chevron, $102,000 from Phrma, $47,000 from Encana Oil and Gas, and $75,000 from Give Consumers What They Want. There are many other multiple-thousand-dollar contributions.

This situation tests the logic of the two parties and how they manage their state legislature campaigns.  The Democratic Party wants its candidates to raise their own money as much as possible.  The party will pitch in to help, but the serious money comes in mainly from individual contributions and some disclosed PACS. The Republicans put less pressure on their candidates to raise their own money. As with the governor’s race, large Republican affiliated entities raise and spend the money.

The most money and most fascinating political strategy concerns Proposition 112, where $30 million-plus has been collected to beat Prop 112 and pass Amendment 74 to protect mineral property rights.  The energy industry sees a 2,500-foot drilling setback, the requirement of  Proposition 112, as a killer. The industry has put the full force of its deep pockets against the measure. The financial implications go straight to Wall Street with its big bets on oil and gas development in the state.

Both sides have popular appeal.  The energy industry cites jobs and the pro-112 supporters argue for health and safety. The election result will show whether the industry overplayed its hand or had just the right cards.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.