Republican candidates that thus far have shown an inability to fundraise are getting support from the most unlikely of sources: Democrat Super PACs.
Ad spending on Colorado Republican Party primary candidates by Democrat Super PACs is in excess of $1.5 million, according to a Colorado Sun report, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee places spending on the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Colorado at $1 million, more than the $850,000 reported by the Washington Times.
“This is an insult to the voters of Colorado who won’t fall for this deceptive, dark money interference in our elections,” said Colorado Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown.
The ad buys purportedly “oppose” one candidate in a contested primary in two races: U.S. Senate and Colorado governor. The ads define U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks and gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez as “too conservative for Colorado,” after pointing out their stances that could draw favor in some Republican circles.
In theory, electing a more far-right candidate in the Republican primary could make it easier on Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet and Democrat Gov. Jared Polis in the statewide general election.
Bennet and Polis aren’t helped by polling that finds Americans displeased with the country’s leadership, a position that isn’t likely to change anytime soon with high gas prices, higher inflation-related food and goods prices, supply chain shortages, soft border security and at every turn a crisis for President Joe Biden. Real Clear Politics has the Colorado governor and U.S. Senate races leaning Democratic, but the average of all polls on the direction of the country under Democratic leadership is 71.3 percent on the wrong track. The Real Clear Politics average approval rating of Biden shows 55 percent disapprove and 39.7 percent approve.
The best chance for Bennet and Polis could be a far to the right opponent that might allow them to campaign as moderates, leading to the Super PAC ad funding.
“This dark money attempt simply highlights how vulnerable Democrats know Bennet and Polis are this year,” Burton Brown said. “Together, we will replace these failed career politicians with leaders who will actually deliver.”
Hanks reported having $16,164 in cash-on-hand at the FEC’s March 31 filing deadline, the final federal candidate report prior to the primary election. Lopez reported $16,997 in cash-on-hand at the state’s May 31 filing deadline, $2,737 less than funding which he reported entering the month.
In both cases, their opponents are better funded. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea reported cash-on-hand of $609,138 as of March 31, while Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl reported cash-on-hand of $198,606 as of May 31. Additionally, Ganahl easily defeated Lopez, 138-85, in the Republican Rumble straw poll held in mid-May, while Hanks narrowly defeated O’Dea, 119-102.
Hanks attended the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., and has routinely repeated his belief the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a position of the far-right. O’Dea has called him a one-issue candidate and also criticized his attendance while serving in the Colorado House, saying at the Republican Rumble: “If you worked for me, I’d fire you.” The Liberty Scorecard, which Hanks touted in the Republican Rumble for his score being among the highest, shows his 2022 legislative attendance at 84 percent on votes of importance to the scorecard. By comparison, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg held an attendance of 97 percent and Rep. Rod Pelton had a 95 percent attendance. O’Dea has also been critical of Hanks’ previous run for Congress in California, in which his positions on important conservative issues were quite different a decade ago, as reported on by Colorado Politics.
Lopez has similarly expressed his belief the 2020 election was stolen. He has pledged to roll back the state’s abortion law, saying he would have no exceptions in an abortion ban, a similar stance Hanks holds. Lopez has also faced criticism related to a 2020 lawsuit he settled alleging that after he left the Small Business Administration he attempted to improperly influence the agency in favor of a client. Ganahl has contended Lopez pled guilty, saying she had read the settlement; Lopez contends the settlement was not an admission of guilt.
The ads in the races are scheduled to run through June 28, Election Day in the Republican primary. Super PAC Democratic Colorado is believed to be dumping almost $800,000 into the Senate race, while another Super PAC, Colorado Information Network, is contributing almost $700,000 in the governor’s race.
“The money tells the story. Republican primaries haven’t even concluded in so-called blue states like Colorado, Washington, and New Hampshire, yet Democrats are throwing millions upon millions of dollars early to stop the bleeding of incumbent Senators,” said NRSC Spokesman T.W. Arrighi.
Meanwhile in Western Colorado, Colorado Public Radio has reported 2.7 percent decline of voters on Democratic rolls, presumedly to oppose U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Rifle, in her first re-election bid. Colorado allows unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in either primary election, popularly known as an open primary, but a registered Democrat voter would not be allowed to cast a Republican ballot.
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