Campaign finance reports for the month of June are now available, and there’s a strange trend brewing: Democrats, by and large, are outraising Republicans. I won’t say that this never happens, but I can’t remember the last time Democrats were outraising Republicans almost across the board with four months to go until the election.
Some of the reports are almost staggering in their lopsidedness (if that isn’t a real word, it is now). Democratic Rep. Jim Riesberg (Greeley) has more than $25,000 in the bank, compared to $11,000 for Republican challenger Dave Owen. Democratic Rep. Bernie Buescher (Grand Junction) has $45,000 in cash on hand, compared to just $2,600 for Republican challenger Bob Caskey. Buescher is an incumbent and has a natural advantage, but Riesberg and Owen are both sitting legislators (Riesberg is running for re-election, while Owen is a term-limited state Senator).
In Jefferson County, Democratic Sen. Betty Boyd ($35,000 cash on hand) is outraising Republican Rep. Mark Knoedler ($22,000), and Democratic Sen. Moe Keller ($54,000) is way ahead of Republican challenger Dick Sargent ($12,000). The most lopsided figures are in senate district 5 (which runs roughly along the Continental Divide), where Democratic challenger Gail Schwartz has $90,000 in the bank compared to incumbent Republican Lew Entz, who is sitting on a paltry $13,000.
Why are Democrats outraising Republicans? I can offer a few guesses:
1. The Republican Party in Colorado has been fractured for more than a year, with moderates and ultra-conservatives fighting it out for ultimate control. That internal feud may trickle down to fundraising, with moderates unwilling to donate to ultra-conservative candidates, and vice-versa.
2. Democrats are appealing more to the business community, particularly after their support of Referendum C last fall.
3. Republicans are running weaker candidates for the state legislature than Democrats. For example, Republicans really wanted to target Democratic Rep. Morgan Carroll (Aurora) this year, but they couldn’t find a good candidate to run against her.
4. Democrats seem more likely to keep control of the legislature than Republicans. This would piggy-back off of reason #3, because one of the realities of politics is that people donate to candidates who they think are more likely to win, not necessarily to candidates who they like better. Big donors (people who can write $400 checks to numerous different candidates) want to give money to winners, and there may be a general feeling that Democrats have a better shot to win in November.
5. Republicans are counting on “education committees” to spend big money on their campaigns in the fall, so they aren’t as worried about raising the money themselves.
The truth is probably a combination of the factors listed above, but whatever the reason, things aren’t looking good for Republican chances at winning back control of the state legislature.