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October 19, 2021 07:43 AM MDT

Democratic Candidates in CO-03 are Burning Money

  • by: Colorado Pols
Drunken Sailor

There is a clear winner in the fundraising battle in Congressional District 3, where multiple candidates are hoping to win the Democratic nomination for the right to face incumbent Republican Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert in November 2022. You probably won’t recognize any of their names, unfortunately. 

The consultants are cleaning up in CO-03.

According to the latest campaign finance reports via the FEC, a handful of consulting firms and individuals are taking home the bulk of the money that is being raised by Democratic candidates in CO-03. Eight candidates (Kerry Donovan, Sol Sandoval, Don Valdez, Debora Burnett, Colin Wilhelm, Gregg Smith, Colin Buerger, and Kellie Rhodes) have combined to raise $2.8 million in the 2022 cycle, which is more than the total amount raised by Boebert thus far ($2.73 million).  

The problem here is that these eight Democrats have already combined to SPEND more than $2 million. That’s a cumulative burn rate of 72%. You don’t need to be a math whiz to understand that these numbers are not sustainable. 

Two of these Democratic candidates are no longer running; Donovan suspended her campaign after redistricting produced an unfavorable map, and Smith disappeared almost as quickly as he materialized in the first place (check out this Washington Post story from Dave Weigel for more on Smith). But the top two remaining Democrats in the field (Sandoval and Valdez) are burning through nearly 9 out of every 10 dollars they raise. 

That’s a lot of cash that is vanishing into the pockets of consultants. 

Sandoval has about $49k in the bank after paying more than $41,000 to “Middle Seat Consulting” for “fundraising consulting” and $13,000 to “The Strategy Division” for “fundraising consulting” and “management services.”

Valdez has just $29,182 in the bank as of September 30, 2021, because he’s written checks for more than $63,000 to a digital consulting firm called “Break Something” and and more than $12,000 to “Sterling Strategies” for “communications consulting services.” 

Sandoval and Valdez are both spending thousands of dollars on merchant fees for “Act Blue,” which is a necessary expense. Neither are spending unusual amounts on staffing, though at their current fundraising rates, salaries are quickly becoming a luxury item. 

The biggest overall winner is a Colorado firm called “Ascent Digital Strategies,” which collected more than $550,000 for digital fundraising services. Only Boebert spent this kind of money with a single consulting firm, shelling out more than $350,000 to “Rock Chalk Media” for direct mail and advertising expenses. 

How does this happen? If you are running against someone as well-known and as disliked (around the country) as Boebert, you’ll get a fair amount of money just from emails and social media posts that target donors who are simply irritated with the incumbent Republican. When the early money comes easily, it’s tempting to think it will always flow that fast.

It’s also true that you have to spend money to make money with online fundraising, but some of these exorbitant expenditures are difficult to rationalize. If the majority of your contributions are being used to raise more money, you’re basically just running in circles. Most of the money raised by a given campaign SHOULD be stuffed inside a mattress in order to pay for television and digital advertising closer to the election date (Primary or General Election).  

Obviously, this can’t continue if Democrats are to have any hope of defeating Boebert in 2022. In fact, it might be time to resurrect our “Drunken Sailor Awards,” a feature we ran on Colorado Pols in 2017-18 to look at how much money the top candidates for public office were spending in a given fundraising period.


9 thoughts on “Democratic Candidates in CO-03 are Burning Money

  1. The landscape in the 3rd CD is littered with consultants and campaign managers (mostly dispatched by the DNCC) who have no earthly idea what influences voters in the sprawling district and not a clue how to buy media here. Unfortunately for Democrats, Rock Chalk is not among that number.


    1. All's I know is that the last campaign against Boebert left a lot to be desired.

      I remember seeing some Facebook ads that I couldn't tell for sure if they were pro or against Boebert.  Meanwhile, "Candidate Guns" was showing off her new silicone job and winking at the wankers.   Game over.

      Case in point: I cannot even remember the candidate's name now.

  2. Pols is right to bring up the drunken sailor, but do most of these candidates really have a choice but to drink and sail? So many of them have next to zero name recognition outside of their spheres of interest, and the primary's only about 9 months away. The 3rd district from the latest map still looks like about half the state's land mass, and that means you more or less have to spend money because you can't get much accomplished going door-to-door.

  3. The proposed District 3 has a Republican advantage over Democrats in active voter registrations — but both are substantially behind the Unaffiliated.  The staff analysis showed:

          District 3 .. Rep.  159,453 .. Dem. 130,824  .. Unaffiliated 202,544

    In the races analyzed, the Republican vote advantage averaged out to 9.3%, with the closest race being the 2018 Governor's election, at a Republican edge of 6.1%.

    If the Republicans continue to be Revolting, arguing among themselves about Trump and the "Big Lie" about election integrity, if Trump continues to tell Republicans it isn't worth voting if there is no action to correct the 2020 election flaws, and if Boebert continues to be as inept a Representative and incapable of filing an acceptable campaign finance report, there's a chance to upset her.  If Democrats in statewide races are facing Republicans with marginal background and a late start in organizing campaigns, the statewide campaigns ought to be able to invest in coordinated activities that would impact the CO-03 race. 


  4. Of course incumbents have an advantage, but this picture shows that the R incumbent out raised all the D challengers combined.

    Outsiders and a fair amount of Colorado voters do not understand CD3. U registrations are not nonpartisan voters. They tend to align with one major party, but register U.


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