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Campaign cash surges this election cycle

Arn Menconi
Special to The Aspen Times

Americans might be feeling the effects of a tougher economy, but candidates’ campaign-finance coffers are making them richer than ever. 

It’s the final lap of the 2022 horse race to Nov. 8, and bets are made on the candidates in the way of campaign contributions. By following the money, you can bet the betters are throwing in some crazy money — not to mention dark money, which is difficult to impossible to track.

All in the effort to sway those all-important voters.



“Fundamentally, money is disenfranchising voters. No more one person, one vote,” said Buie Seawell, professor emeritus and chair at the University of Denver’s Daniels School of Business and former chair of the state Democratic Party. “The only thing that matters is money. Making us a plutocracy. I’m teaching seniors who are asking ‘Why should I vote?’ There’s no participation or agency.”

Show me the money

In Colorado, on the U.S. Senate side, Democrat U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has raised $21,097,000 to Republican Joe O’Dea’s $7,323,000. Recent polling is showing Bennet is up by double digits. Democrat Gov. Jared Polis brought in $12,738,000 to Republican Hiedi Ganahl’s $3,629,000. Polis has self-funded his campaign five-to-one, or $11,000,000 to Ganahl’s $1,850,000




Voters have seen a lot of the dollars coming in on national and state races, but there’s one local State House race, District 57, that has yet to be covered. Rep. Perry Will, a Republican, is running against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Velasco.

In 2020, House District 57 had different boundaries; Will won by nearly 10,000 votes over Democrat Colin Wilhelm with about 40,000 votes cast. HD 57 then consisted of Garfield, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties. Now, it’s Pitkin, Garfield, the Roaring Fork portion of Eagle County.

As of their most recent filings from the Secretary of State’s Office, Perry has raised nearly $100,000 and spent $91,500, with $8,000 on hand. He raised $7,000 and spent $40,000 in the last report from Oct. 13 to 26.

Perry said he’s spending his campaign funds on “social media, some TV, a lot of radio, and some newspaper. I don’t have any paid staff. People are volunteering for me because they want to see someone like me in office. A lot of lobbying groups are giving to both of us, and I’ve gotten a lot of local donations. The state Republican Party has not targeted our seat.”

During that same period, newcomer Velasco raised $137,000 and spent $110,000, with $27,000 on hand. She raised nearly $10,000 ($1,000 from the state Democratic Party) and spent $19,000 between Oct. 13 and 26.

“I’m getting a lot of grassroots supporters,” she said. “I haven’t seen much soft money in the general election. The state Democratic Party has us targeted as a Tier 2 seat, since HD57 has an advantage. We did two mailings and expect about 32,000 voters to turn out. Eagle and Garfield are showing a lower turnout than previous elections that we looked at.”

Big jump since last time

Looking back to the last mid-term in 2018, the winner of House District 57, Republican Bob Rankin, spent a total of $16,982 and raised $25,515. After all the money reports filed in late November, there looks like an 80% increase in fundraising for this seat. State representatives’ salaries are $40,242. 

Mick Ireland, former mayor of Aspen and a former Pitkin County commissioner, has run at least six elections and managed a few.

State House District Boundaries
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“House District 57 and Senate District 8 are newly redistricted and very competitive,” he said. “That means more money is coming in. State legislators are on the forefront of abortion and elections, so there’s a lot more attention given to these races.”

In 2018, both candidates raised nearly $30,000, and, this year, it’ll be nearly $300,000 between Perry and Velasco. If about 40,000 votes come, in that about $7.50 spent per vote.

In a neighboring heated state Senate race north of the Roaring Fork in 2020 for Senate District 8, incumbent Republican Bob Rankin raised $141,275 to losing candidate Karl Hanlon’s $107,000 in a tight race. This year, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat, has raised $320,000 to $150,000 by Eagle Town Trustee Matt Solomon, a Republican, who loaned his campaign $25,000.

State Senate District Boundaries
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It’s expected that Senate District 8 will top $500,000 between the candidates. The state Democratic Party has targeted Dylan Roberts as a Tier 1 seat. Both HD 57 and Senate District redistricting favors the Democrats for the first time and may explain some of the changes in Democratic candidates having more money this go around.

Ballot dollars

The top five statewide ballot initiatives to raise the most funds::

  • $13.5 million Prop 125 any grocery or convenience store with an existing beer license could sell wine.
  • $13.3 million raised for Prop 126, would extend the existing right of liquor-licensed vendors to deliver alcohol to third parties such as Uber and Lyft, GrubHub.  
  • $5.6 million Prop 123, supports affordable housing by dedicating income tax to the housing fund.
  • $4.5 million Prop 122, decriminalize, license, register, regulate, and supervise “natural medicine”/ plant-based psychedelic substances.
  • $1.6 million Prop FF, pays for free lunches for all public school students by limiting income tax deductions for households over $300,000.

State House and state ballot races have no more campaign-finance reports to file before the election and file next on Dec. 8; federal races filed Oct. 27.

More information on campaign financing can be found at fec.gov, sos.state.co.us, and county clerks’ offices.

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