Political spending in Colorado races already has hit a record this cycle with more than two weeks still remaining before all ballots are cast.
Statewide, candidates, political action committees and groups pushing ballot measures have pulled in $186 million since December, according to a Denver Post analysis of campaign finance reports. The previous record was the nearly $154 million collected in the 2014 election cycle.
At the federal level, the 6th Congressional District race is one of the most expensive races in the nation, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
A key reason behind the new state-level record is the oil and gas money that’s pouring into efforts to defeat a ballot measure that would impose much bigger setbacks for new wells. The industry’s political action committee, Protect Colorado, has spent $29.5 million so far this cycle.
Another factor is Colorado’s open race for governor. Democratic candidate Jared Polis has raised $22.2 million so far — most of it his own money — in his campaign against Republican Walker Stapleton. That amount alone eclipses what both major-party gubernatorial candidates have spent in past cycles.
In 2014, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign spent $5.4 million on his successful re-election effort and his Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, spent $2.9 million. In the 2010 open race, Hickenlooper’s campaign spent $3.9 million.
Colorado, like other states, also gets a dose of out-of-state donations that drive up spending, said J.T. Stepleton, a researcher with the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association, which get donors nationwide, have put millions into the Colorado governor’s race.
“It’s part of the political culture in this country,” Stepleton said. “It’s become more nationalized. It’s not just the candidate-centered elections anymore.”
Likewise, the race in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District is part of a broader push by Democrats to make U.S. House races a referendum on President Donald Trump’s administration. The district has the second-highest level of outside spending among all 435 congressional races this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Outside groups have already spent $13.8 million in the race between between Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow. Crow is benefiting more from the outside spending, with about 59 percent of the money going to oppose Coffman and support Crow.
Money going directly into the campaigns is also favoring the Democrat. Crow has outraised Coffman with nearly $4.5 million collected as of Sept. 30. In comparison, Coffman’s haul is just $3.2 million.
That reflects a broader trend across the United States for embattled Republican incumbents.
“The Democrats are outraising Republicans by a lot, and that is not what you expect because incumbents usually raise more,” said Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics.
The center is projecting that spending on congressional races will be a record-setting $5 billion-plus this election cycle.
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