Biggest campaign fundraisers claimed wins in local election races
November 9, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Campaign finance records show that the biggest local fundraisers were the victors in the 2018 election.
In the Routt County commissioners race, Democrat challenger Beth Melton won with 54 percent of the vote. During her campaign, she raised $33,593 in cash and $8,585 in in-kind donations. She had a total of 426 separate cash contributions.
Republican incumbent Cari Hermacinski had $24,106 in cash contributions and $350 in in-kind donations. There were 120 contributions made to Hermacinski's campaign.
The difference was in in-kind donations where Melton led Hermacinski $8,585.58 to $350. Melton’s in-kind donations came in the form of photography for ads and materials, food for events and other campaign-related expenses.
Melton said the amount she raised allowed her to place advertisements and send out a mailer to help her earn name recognition in the community.
"Running against an incumbent, that's big," Melton said.
Melton does not attribute her fundraising directly to the win.
"I think the way we won this race was by knocking on people's doors, and that doesn't cost money," Melton said. "It costs a lot of volunteer hours."
Hermacinski did not respond to a request for comment.
In the Routt County sheriff's race, Republican incumbent Garrett Wiggins raised and spent more than three times the amount Democrat challenger Kristin Bantle did.
Wiggins, who won with 51.85 percent of the vote, had $14,288 in contributions compared to Bantle's $4,247.
Wiggins said he was not sure whether that led to his election win.
"I don't know if it really did play a role or not," Wiggins said. "I don't have anything to base a comment on."
His expenses were mostly related to print and radio advertising, yard signs, printed materials and paying campaign manager Ashley McMurray.
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"I raised about $10,000 less than I did in previous contested races," said Wiggins, who noted this contested campaign did not require spending money before a primary election because there was not one held.
Wiggins had a total of 58 donations, and his top donors each gave $1,000. They were from John Soileau, Joe Bishop, Ronald Barry and Nancy Scholten.
Bantle had 17 contributions to her campaign, and she said a majority of her campaign money came from family members, a few close friends and her own pocket. She contributed $1,028.75 to her own campaign. Her next biggest donation was for $1,000 from Illinois resident Neal Siebrandt.
"My expenses consisted of yard signs, door hangers, radio ads and apparel swag," Bantle wrote in an email. "I chose to limit my expenditures in my campaign, because I have a deep concern for the amount of money that is now driving politics on all levels."
Another local campaign that raised significant amounts of money did not fare as well at the election.
Referendum 2A, which would have increased the Steamboat Springs sales tax by 0.2 percent to raise money for the air program failed, receiving 47.64 percent of the vote.
Ulrich Salzgeber, who was co-chairman of the Yes2Air committee advocating for 2A, said that between $75,000 and $80,000 was raised for the campaign.
The air program would have generated $1.3 million annually for the air program over the next 10 years.