Outside groups pouring $1.4 million into Routt County’s races for state Senate, House

Independent expenditure committees have spent $1.28 million in Senate District 8 race alone

Independent expenditure committees have spent more than $1.4 million to support or oppose candidates in races for House District 26 and Senate District 8. More than $200,000 has been spent on mailers like these.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Six soft money groups have poured more than $1.4 million into Routt County’s state House and Senate races, according to a Steamboat Pilot & Today analysis of disclosures filed with the Colorado Secretary of State.

More than 90% of that spending  — about $1.28 million — is in the Senate District 8 race between Democrat Dylan Roberts and Republican Matt Solomon, the analysis showed. Groups supporting Solomon or opposing Roberts have the edge in spending by a 60% to 40% margin.

The amount spent by these groups in the Senate contest is roughly nine times more than the candidates have collectively spent on their own campaigns since the June primary.

“That is the largest amount of (soft) money that I’ve seen in Senate District 8 or House District 26,” said Catherine Carson, chair of the Routt County Democrats. “Senate District 8 is one of the Senate seats that will determine the majority, so it’s a very important seat.”

Routt County Republicans Chair Pete Wood agreed, adding that the race between Roberts and Solomon is likely garnering so much money because nearly half the voters in the district are unaffiliated.

“I think it’s attracting a lot of people on both sides of the aisle to throw in as much money as they can toward their candidate,” Wood said. “I think it will be interesting to see how that soft money translates to results.”

This soft money spending comes from independent expenditure committees that are not allowed to coordinate with any candidate or political party.

The analysis looked at the last three campaign finance reports filed by groups that had been observed sending mailers or running advertisements in Routt County in recent weeks. The six groups include three that spent money supporting Democrats, and three supporting Republicans.

These groups spent this money on a variety of messaging tactics, including television ads, digital marketing and more than $200,000 in mailers that have been flooding mailboxes throughout Northwest Colorado for weeks. While candidate campaigns often like to keep messaging positive, these unaffiliated soft groups have spent almost $1.2 million to directly oppose candidates.

In all, spending to support Solomon was nearly $764,000 and spending to support Roberts totaled about $519,000.

The House District 26 race between Republican Savannah Wolfson and Democrat Meghan Lukens has seen more modest spending.

When looking at itemized reports, these groups have spent nearly $109,000 to support Lukens or oppose Wolfson, compared to about $11,000 to support Wolfson. Pilot & Today’s analysis did not find any spending directly opposing Lukens.

The largest spending came from the Senate Majority Fund, a group that has a purpose of supporting Republican Senate candidates. This group spent about $688,000 supporting Solomon or opposing Roberts, including one digital ad buy on Sept. 15 for more than $460,000.

All Together Colorado, a group that supports Democrats and opposes Republicans running for state Senate, had the second-most spending, with just over $513,000. Nearly $300,000 of this spending was on television commercials and another $130,000 was spent on digital ads to support Roberts or oppose Solomon.

The third-most spending came from Better Colorado Alliance, which supports Democrats running for the Colorado House. The group has spent about $55,000 on mailers and $50,000 on digital ads that support Lukens.

A Republican supporting group called the Convention of States Political Fund Colorado spent about $76,000 to support Solomon, the fourth most. The Restore Colorado Leadership Fund spent almost $11,000 supporting Wolfson, all on mailers.

Spending the least of the groups identified was Coloradans Creating Opportunity, which spent just under $10,000 on campaign literature and candidate information cards handed out door to door in support of Democratic candidates.

Additionally, a seventh soft money group, Unite for Colorado Action, spent $151,000 to support 19 Republican candidates including Wolfson and Solomon for what is listed as “door hanger and canvassing” expenses. That same group also spent $1.34 million on “digital advertising and direct mailers” to oppose six Democratic candidates, including Roberts.

Because an amount for either of these couldn’t be itemized toward a specific candidate, Unite for Colorado Action’s spending was not included in the $1.4 million Pilot & Today analysis.

Pilot & Today reviewed the spending of more than 30 independent expenditure committees between July 28 and Sept. 28 for this story. Still, there may be other groups spending in these races that are not included.  

One campaign mailer supporting Solomon found as part of this analysis didn’t include any disclosure, despite Colorado Law requiring mailers and other political advertisements to include who paid for it.

Democrats currently have a 21-14 majority is the 35-member Senate. Democrats are guaranteed 13 seats and three more are considered solidly blue, while Republicans are guaranteed seven seats and five more are considered solidly red, according to the Colorado Sun. Of the seven remaining seats, Republicans would need to win six to have a majority.

Two more campaign finance filings are due before Election Day on Nov. 8, and several of the groups reviewed have money left to spend. Voters should start seeing ballots arrive in mailboxes next week. 

“Ballots go out a week from Monday (Oct. 10), so I imagine we will be inundated still,” Carson said.  

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