A newly formed Democrat-backed 527 committee, Protect Colorado Values, is hitting the airwaves with television ads promoting one Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and ripping another, former Rep. Bob Beauprez.
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said the idea is to boost the Republican candidate in the June 24 primary that Democratic insiders believe will be least difficult for Gov. John Hickenlooper to defeat in November. Fair or not, that’s Tancredo.
“Their goal is to get not only what they perceive as the weakest candidate against Hickenlooper, but also the candidate that could potentially in their view cause the most damage and be the easiest to attack,” said Ciruli.
Complete Colorado, which broke the story late Wednesday, reported that Protect Colorado Values has bought space on at least two local television stations, including an $89,000 ad buy on KUSA-TV. Videos of the ads were posted Thursday on Fox31.
Protect Colorado Values registered with the state June 1, three weeks before the GOP primary and just after the May 28 campaign-finance reporting deadline. The filing and registered agents are well-known pro-Democrat campaign operatives Julie Wells and Jim Alexee.
Ciruli noted that Democrats have played this card before. In 2010, a Democrat-backed committee invested in attack ads against former Rep. Scott McInnis, who ultimately lost the GOP primary to little-known candidate Dan Maes. Hickenlooper won the race easily against Maes and Tancredo, who ran as a third-party candidate.
“I personally believe it is totally unethical, but it’s obviously not illegal, nor is it unique,” said Ciruli.
Colorado Republican Party chair Ryan Call blasted the ads and urged Republican voters to “make their own decision.” He said the effort appears to be funded by the mega-rich Colorado Democracy Alliance, whose members include billionaire Pat Stryker and multi-millionaire Tim Gill.
Another two liberal billionaires—former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and San Francisco’s Tom Steyer—have also been involved recently in Colorado politics.
“While the Colorado Republican Party will not endorse or oppose a candidate in a contested primary, the fact that Colorado Democrats and East Coast liberals have decided to influence our primary is unacceptable,” said Call in a statement.
Kelly Maher, executive director of conservative Compass Colorado, said the tactic shows that “the left is deeply concerned about the ability of battered and bruised candidate John Hickenlooper to win in a general election.”
“[T]he fact that the left appears to be spending approximately twice as much this year as in 2010 shows just how worried they are,” said Maher in a statement.
The Beauprez campaign released Tuesday a poll conducted by Magellan Strategies showing Tancredo leading the four-candidate field with 27 percent of the vote, followed closely by Beauprez with 25 percent.
Also in the hunt are Secretary of State Scott Gessler with 13 percent and former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp with 10 percent. Fully 25 percent of voters were undecided.
A newly formed independent-expenditure committee, Republicans Who Want to Win, is also backing Beauprez.
Swaying a few hundred votes could mean the difference between victory and defeat in a primary contest that’s only expected to draw about 400,000 voters, said Ciruli.
“If that’s the situation, then that kind of confirms what the Democrats are thinking, too: That with a relatively modest investment, well placed, they can influence this race and get what they would like out of it,” said Ciruli.