Dem primary attracts big money | SummitDaily.com

Dem primary attracts big money

HARRIET HAMILTON
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Democratic candidates in the race to succeed Mark Udall as Summit County’s congressional representative are having no problems raising money.

With three candidates generating more than $700,000 in contributions each, the contest for Colorado’s 2nd congressional District seat is among the most expensive primaries in the nation for an open seat in the 2008 election, according to the “Congressional Quarterly.” Year-end campaign contribution reports were filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Thursday.

Democrats have represented the district, which includes Summit, Eagle, Grand, and Clear Creek counties, along with most of the city of Boulder and parts of several other Front Range counties, since 1975. Rep. Udall, the district’s congressman for the past nine years, is now seeking the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.

The three leading candidates for Udall’s seat ” former Colorado state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former Great Outdoors Colorado executive director Will Shafroth, and former Colorado Board of Education member Jared Polis ” all consider themselves liberal Democrats, and finance filings suggest the three possess comparable fundraising skills.

Boulder businessman Polis leads the pack with contributions totaling more than $1 million. According to a press release from his office, Polis is the first congressional candidate in the nation to surpass the $1 million contribution mark for an “open” seat.

In an apparent attempt to differentiate his campaign from that of Fitz-Gerald, he’s made an issue of funding sources. “Jared Polis has vowed to not accept campaign contributions from special interest groups (or PACs),” the press release added.

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In addition to posting the greatest total dollar amounts, the Polis campaign is also notable for having the largest candidate contribution, with the multimillionaire putting more than $200,000 of his personal funds into the contest.

Although his overall contributions added up to the smallest total, Boulder conservationist Shafroth accumulated the highest percentage of individual contributors ” as opposed to either PACS or personal money ” among the three candidates. More than 99 per cent of Shafroth’s nearly $750,000 contributions to date have been made by individuals.

According to FEC data, Fitz-Gerald was the only one of the three to collect contributions from Summit County individuals. A closer look at the former senate president’s PAC contributions show the majority came from unions, with a handful made by the oil and gas industries.

Fitz-Gerald finished the year with the highest overall number (671) of individual contributors, as well as the highest percentage (70 percent) of individual contributors from within Colorado. More than half of Polis’s 541 individual contributions (286, or 53 percent) originated outside the state. Coloradoans accounted for 65 percent of Shafroth’s 458 individual donors.

A look at each campaign’s self-reported “cash on hand” numbers show Polis has greatly outspent his opponents to date. With around $350,000 on hand, his campaign has already spent more than $700,000. In contrast, both Fitz-Gerald and Shafroth report more than $500,000 remaining in their respective coffers.

All three candidates hope to be on the Aug. 12 primary ballot for the Democratic nomination. To that end, Polis and Fitz-Gerald are participating in the upcoming state caucus process, in which candidates must get at least 30 percent of the delegate votes in the district assembly to be included on the primary ballot, and Shafroth has expressed his intention to get his name on the ballot by petition. So far, no Republican has declared candidacy for the seat.