Editor’s note: “Bringing It Home” runs weekly in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.
The names of such Republicans as Greg Brannon or Tom Cotton might not light up dinner-table conversations in Aspen. The same goes for such Democrats as Christopher Coons or Gregory Brannon.
What these out-of-state politicians do have in common, however, is that their campaigns for the U.S. Senate have attracted donations from Pitkin County residents, illustrating the high stakes of the upcoming midterm elections.
Political pundits say the midterm elections could result in a shift of power in the Senate, in which the Democrats currently hold a 55-45 advantage. Thirty-three of those Senate seats are up for grabs in the November elections.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen (the GOP taking control of the Senate),” said Blanca O’Leary, chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party. “But I think it will be close.”
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for re-election, but the Republicans are expected to maintain control.
An Aspen Times review of Federal Election Commission records show that from Jan. 1 through Thursday, residents of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Woody Creek combined to donate $106,584 to candidates for federal office.
Incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, raised $29,050 of those funds, including $2,300 from Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan, and $2,600 from Woody Creek philanthropist Robert Pew.
Udall’s Republican challenger, Congressman Cory Gardner, has not raised any funds locally since Jan. 1, according to election commission records.
Udall’s warchest is expected to get a big lift from billionaire Tom Steyer, the founder of NextGen Climate Action who opposes the Keystone XL pipeline.
Gardner is against it. Polls have Gardner and Udall in a dead heat.
Frieda Wallison, chair of the Pitkin County Republican Party, said both Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, of Cortez, will be in Aspen on Aug. 9 for the Lincoln Day dinner. Both will be keynote speakers.
“There are 14 Senate seats in play that are Democrat seats,” she said. “At the moment, it’s a pretty important election.”
The incumbent Tipton, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Pitkin County, has raised $19,300 so far this year in Pitkin County. Among his local contributors are retired New York litigator Melvin Knyper ($250), retired eye doctor Robert Magoon ($1,000), who once donated a $2.5 million endowment to the Aspen Art Museum; and Elizabeth Milias ($500), whose Red Ant blog is often critical of dealings at Aspen City Hall.
Like candidate Gardner in the Senate race, Abel Tapia, a Democrat from Pueblo, has not raised any Pitkin County funds in his race against Tipton, based on Federal Election Commission records.
Tapia, who was in Aspen earlier this month, has the backing of O’Leary, who said she’s making a local push to gain support for him. She said that while out-of-state candidates are drawing donations from Pitkin County residents, the emphasis is on the Colorado candidates.
“We’re very political people in this county, so there are other interests besides the Colorado candidates,” she said. “But we are keeping our eye on the ball with Sen. Udall.”
Federal Election Commission records show that Pitkin County’s biggest overall contributor to the midterm elections is retiree Tatnall Hillman, of Aspen, who has donated not only more than $40,000 so far this year to Republican candidates throughout the country, but also $2,000 to the National Association for Gun Rights Inc., $1,000 to the Tea Party Leadership Fund, and other political action committees.