Aspen-area money to tune of $8.6M part of record-setting campaign year | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen-area money to tune of $8.6M part of record-setting campaign year

Voter booths at the Aspen Jewish Community Center for in-person voting on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Where the campaign money flows like wine

The outpouring of cash to campaigns for the 2020 elections is expected to exceed $14 billion. The Aspen area has contributed to the political generosity, with its 81611 ZIP code surpassing the average donations by 34 times.

ZIP Code Amount raised

81611 $5,775,881

81612 $2,085,977

81615 $273,153

81623 $1,744,692

81654 $272,996

81656 $298,055

Average ZIP $167,501

Source: OpenSecret.org, Center for Responsive Politics

The 2020 election year has been rife with debate about what’s best for America, but there’s no disputing that it is the country’s most expensive one.

The Center for Responsive Politics reported last week that total campaign spending is on track to surpass $14 billion between the presidential and congressional races that finish with Tuesday’s vote. That’s more than double the record-breaking amount of $6.5 billion spent in 2016.

Aspen and surrounding towns and communities in Pitkin County, such as Snowmass Village and Woody Creek, have contributed to those totals with a collective $8.6 million in donations through Oct. 22, according to a review of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The amount covers contributions made during the 2019-20 federal election cycle, with Aspen’s 81611 ZIP code responsible for $5.8 million of the contributions. In Colorado, only Denver’s 80202 ZIP code ($6.2 million) and Fort Collins’ 80524 ($6.1 million) were higher.

The race for the 3rd Congressional District — which covers the Western Slope and includes Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs — features two candidates whose political differences are many.

It’s a district Democrats see as a chance to flip in their favor, though President Donald Trump carried 52% of its vote in 2016. With Grand Junction as its GOP stronghold and Pueblo as the Democrats’ anchor, the district will be either represented by Republican Lauren Boebert or Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush. A FiveThirtyEight poll released Tuesday gave Mitsch Bush a one-point advantage.

Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker and Routt County commissioner, also holds a fundraising edge over Boebert, who upset five-term incumbent Scott Tipton in the June primaries.

Mitsch Bush’s campaign had raised $4,195,894 through Oct. 14, while Boebert’s brought in $2,215,789, according to a report filed Oct. 22 with the Federal Elections Commission.

The Boebert campaign has found 81611 — Aspen — to be its most lucrative ZIP code, thanks to $46,950 in donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Even so, Mitsch Bush generated $77,905 from 81611 during the same reporting period, putting Aspen behind her hometown Steamboat Springs’ two ZIP codes, which combined for nearly $300,000 in donations.

Another race watched closely is for U.S. Senate, pitting incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper against the incumbent Republican, Cory Gardner.

Hickenlooper this year has raised $244,699 in 81611, making it the sixth most-giving ZIP code to the former Colorado governor, trailing only ZIPs in Boulder and Denver. Gardner’s campaign did not place any Roaring Fork Valley locales in its top 10 ZIPs. Gardner took 27.2% of the Pitkin County vote in the 2014 election, but his 48.2% showing statewide was enough to unseat Mark Udall, the incumbent Democrat.

An Oct. 22 poll from FiveThirtyEight gave Hickenlooper an 8-point advantage over Gardner.

“In debates and advertisements, Gardner has repeatedly tried to distance himself from the president, emphasizing his bipartisan credentials and work on behalf of all Coloradans,” wrote Anand Sokhey, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in a summary of the race published Friday by the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C. “For his part, Hickenlooper has tried to tie Gardner to Trump, and has stressed Gardner’s past statements against the Affordable Care Act.”

In the presidential race, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has raised $2.4 million in the Aspen area through the latest reporting dates available for the 2020 cycle, compared to Trump’s $1.6 million.

Biden also has dwarfed Trump in local individual contributions in the Aspen area, counting 831 to Trump’s 250 since Aug. 1, based on a review of Federal Election Commission records.

“During the current two-year election cycle the limit for contributions by individuals to federal candidates for President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives has increased to $2,800 per election,” according to the FEC’s website.

Since Aug. 1 in the Aspen area, 14 individuals made the maximum $2,800 to the Biden campaign. Contributors included Zoe Bairdm, Denali Barron, Bruce Berger, Mary Conover, Jody Guralnick, Katherine Kitchen, Michael Lipkin, Damian O’Doherty, David Parker, Robert Pew, Mary Scanlan, Sue Smedstad, Douglas Walker and Ross Walker, records show.

Trump’s local supporters giving the maximum amount since Aug. 1 are Heidi Houston, Lloyd Schermer, Colin Trueman and Warren Hoeffner, according to FEC data.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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