DENVER – Both Democrat and Republican parties face potential primaries as a crowded field of candidates vie for state House seats that will be open because of term limits. The question is can the parties raise enough cash to fuel these races as well as state Senate and statewide contests.
Despite forecasts of scarce campaign funds in this election year, both parties are generating competitive contests – most eye popping are Republican races to replace term-limited Reps. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs and Spencer Swalm of Centennial in House Districts 20 and 37. Each has generated five GOP contenders.
Contests to fill the shoes of House Speaker Mark Ferrandino in House District 2 and Rep. Jeanne Labuda in House District 1, both of Denver, each have three Democrat candidates.
Republicans might hope to whittle down the Democrats House majority – holding 37 of 65 seats – but the GOP has a better shot at seizing control of the Senate where Democrats rein with a one-seat advantage.
The intraparty battles this year spotlight three Democrat contests followed by three GOP races.
House District 2 Dem Contest
Democrats Alec Garnett, Owen Perkins and Aaron Silverstein are embroiled in a battle to replace Ferrandino. Garnett, son of Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, seems to have the edge in party credentials and fundraising. Garnett, former executive director for the state Democratic Party and aide to Congressman Ed Perlmutter, has raised $60,397 and has $48,012 in his campaign coffer.
Owen Perkins, a party activist who managed Sen. Irene Aguilar’s campaign, has raised $27,493 and currently has $11,572 cash on hand.
Aaron Silverstein, who served as an aide to Sen. Andy Kerr of Lakewood, garnered $19,427 in campaign contributions including about $8,000 from the candidate and $100 from Colorado Pols blogger Jason Salzman. Silverstein’s campaign has $11,824 cash on hand.
So far, no Republican candidates have emerged in this Democrat stronghold where 72 percent of the voters re-elected President Barack Obama in 2012.
House District 13 Dem Contest
Democrat K.C. Becker was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) who resigned in October to become executive director of Colorado Center on Law and Policy. In a surprise move Levy backed Becker over Duane Kline, an attorney who had served as the lawmaker’s aide and campaign manager.
Ouch! Kline is back in the game, waging a primary to unseat Becker. To date, Rep. Becker raised $19,150 and has $12,281 cash on hand – yipping at her heels is Kline with $13,088 in contributions and $7,304 in the bank after expenses.
House District 1 Dem Contest
The contest to capture Labuda’s open seat will likely end up in a primary battle between Democrats Susan Lontine, a former party HD 1 chair, and Corrie Houck, a North High School communications specialist who once worked for controversial U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Lontine and Houck have run shoestring campaigns and both report roughly 1,200 each cash on hand.
Lagging behind is Democrat candidate Jeremy Vanhooser who seems to have borrowed a page from Dan Maes 2010 GOP gubernatorial campaign playbook. Vanhooser, who nearly matched his Democrat competitors in fundraising totals, now has less than two bucks in his campaign coffer.
According to Vanhooser’s campaign finance reports, he spent $10.75 at Ross for “professional attire,” $95.83 on taxi cabs and RTD buses, and nearly $600 at food and beverage haunts including Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, Mellow Mushroom, Tavern Uptown, Crimson & Gold Tavern, Illegal Pete’s and Starbucks.
House District 37 GOP Contest
Five Republicans are vying to win Swalm’s open seat, but candidate Michael Fields has the inside track. A law school grad, Fields is a 6th grade teacher at a charter school in Aurora and previously served on the Congressional and Mayoral campaigns of Ryan Frazier and as a policy analyst at the state Capitol.
Fields’ campaign coffers are as golden as the Capitol dome, having garnered nearly $24,000 in contributions with more than $15,000 cash on hand.
His Republican challengers include attorney Jay Ledbetter who raised $1,400 and spent about $200, Carrie Penaloza who raised $400, and newcomers Brian Olson and Jack Tate, a former Centennial City Council candidate, who have not filed campaign finance reports.
The winner of GOP race will likely face Democrat Marlo Alston in the general election. Alston raised $8,456 and has $3,033 cash on hand.
House District 20 GOP Contest
Tighten your seatbelts! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride for Republicans in the race to replace Gardner. GOP voters will have choice between five candidates in this highly competitive race – three are personally fueling their campaigns with thousands of dollars.
Terri Carver, an adjunct environmental law professor at University of Denver, loaned $35,000 to her campaign and raised $6,290. Miles Dewhirst, an attorney who lost his bid in 2010 for Colorado Springs City Council in part because he advocated raising taxes if necessary, loaned his campaign $5,954 and raised $19,030. Kristen Seltzer, a mushroom farmer, loaned $18,000 to her bid and raised $400.
Long shot is Mark Braunlich, a North Carolina attorney, whose inroad to Republican politics in El Paso County is Ann and Jonathan Macomber who are HD 20 GOP party chairs and with whom he lives. Braunlich entered the race in November, raised $20 and has a negative cash balance of $31.00.
Young GOP gun in the race is Dan Stanforth, who grew up in Colorado Springs and is a property manager for Griffis/Blessing, Inc. Stanforth has snared up-and-comer endorsements such as University of Colorado Regent Kyle Hybl, an attorney who is COO of the El Pomar Foundation. Stanforth raised roughly $7,500 and spent some of the funds airing radio ads last fall against Amendment 66, which would have imposed a $1 billion tax increase if voters hadn’t soundly rejected it in November.
House District 15 GOP Contest
Three Republican rivals jumped in the race to replace former House Minority Leader Mark Waller who is abandoning his seat to run for Colorado Attorney General. Waller wrestled the seat away from former state Rep. Doug Bruce, better known as the author of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The outcome of this election will likely be determined by the GOP primary winner. The Republican contenders are Michael Kuhn, a Colorado Springs native and litigation attorney; Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former U.S. Navy chaplain who hosts “Pray in Jesus Name” broadcast on YouTube; and David Williams, past vice chair of the El Paso GOP.
The candidates share most political positions, from upholding TABOR to protecting 2nd Amendment gun rights, so the outcome will hinge on their campaign ground game and fundraising.
Kuhn fueled his campaign with $3,125 in contributions and a personal $35,000 loan, and has $34,030 cash on hand. Klingenschmitt raised $13,222 including the candidate’s contribution of $3,568, and has a little over $3,000 in the bank. Williams raised $10,460, loaned $30,000 to his campaign, and has $36,510 cash on hand.