Money flows in Second Congressional District race |

Money flows in Second Congressional District race

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Multimillionaire candidate Jared Polis became the first candidate in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District to hit the television airwaves with a 60-second political advertisement.

With the new ad, Polis beat both former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and Boulder conservationist Will Shafroth to the media punch in the race to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who is running for U.S. Senate.

The ad on local stations being broadcast between May 23 and June 2 is costing Polis, an Internet entrepreneur and former Colorado Board of Education chairman, at least $300,000, and has elicited scathing comments from the campaigns of both his Democratic opponents.

“Today, when people are struggling to put gas in their car and food on their table, it’s unbelievable that Jared would put a half million of his own money into television ads in an attempt to buy the 2nd Congressional District,” said Fitz-Gerald campaign manager Mary Alice Mandarich.

Polis’ deep pockets and willingness to support his bid for Congress with personal money ” to the tune of more than $1 million to date ” has been a contentious issue throughout the campaign.

As of the end of March, the race for the 2nd 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 ” ranked sixth nationwide in total campaign contributions, with Polis’ war chest amounting to nearly half that total.

While unwilling to give specifics on the extent of the current media expenditure, Polis’ campaign manager Robert Becker defended the high priced ad.

“We’re making a conscientious effort to communicate with the voters,” he said. “And television ads are pretty expensive in this market.”

Shafroth, whose campaign reported the most cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, but who has yet to launch a television campaign, criticized Polis for his free-spending habits.

“I don’t think the voters of the 2nd District can be bought,” he said.

Becker dismissed Fitz-Gerald’s and Shafroth’s assessments of his candidate’s television strategy.

“They need to get used to the fact that Jared Polis is running for Congress,” he said. “I’d be willing to bet that pretty soon they’ll be doing the same.”

Although well-heeled candidates often intensify fundraising for everyone in a campaign, personal wealth is no guarantee of electoral success, observed political media expert Bill Wachob, a principal with The Campaign Group, a nationwide media consulting firm.

“Generally, spending more (in television advertising) is a big advantage,” he said.

“Spending more elevates your name recognition. But it’s not the only factor.”

Wachob, who has no connection with the CD2 race, said his firm has represented candidates who have spent the most and lost, as well as candidates who have spent very little and won.

In terms of ad timing, while the Polis spot is first from CD2 candidates to be broadcast, Wachob emphasized the correct media strategy varies from race to race and from candidate to candidate.

“It’s probably a little early,” he said. “But not out of the question.”

According to Polis’ campaign manager, both the expense and the timing of the ad relative to the Aug. 12 primary are perfectly appropriate.

“This election starts in about six weeks, with the mailing of the absentee ballots,” Becker said. “The fact we’re on TV is not a story. It’s his hard-earned money to spend.”

While Fitz-Gerald and Polis won spots on the August primary ballot through the caucus process, finalized at the May 10 district assembly, Shafroth bypassed the caucuses and chose instead to petition his way onto the ballot.

On Wednesday ” one day before the May 29 deadline ” he submitted 178 petitions with more than 4,600 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

The state has two weeks to ensure the validity of at least 1,000 of the signatures ” the number required for ballot placement.

Immediately after delivering the petitions, Shafroth acknowledged the contribution of his campaign workers.

“It was a monumental effort of a lot of people,” he said. “We did not contract with a signature gathering firm. It was all volunteers ” more than a hundred different people ” from all ten counties.”

The fourth declared Democratic candidate for the seat ” Lafayette educator Larry Johnson ” has yet to submit any petitions.

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