As we approach the final days of the 2022 election cycle, a similar theme is playing out across many of Colorado’s top contests. Democratic candidates who have significantly outraised their Republican opponents are now up on television with a bevy of advertisements; underfunded GOP challengers, meanwhile, continue to twiddle their thumbs hoping that some sort of national money will be spent in Colorado on their behalf.
In the race for Attorney General, incumbent Democrat Phil Weiser started running this ad last week and will likely maintain a presence on television through Election Day.
As of the last fundraising period ending Sept. 14, Weiser had raised $4,160,692 and reported $1,130,285 in the bank. Republican John Kellner, meanwhile, has raised a total of $242,116 and reported a cash-on-hand amount of just $97,867. This is enough money to produce a TV spot but not enough to make an ad buy that will come anywhere close to reaching enough voters to give him a chance against Weiser.
As we’ve written before in this space, Kellner’s only real chance at making a dent in Weiser’s support would likely have to come via funds from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), the group that spent more than $5 million in 2018 trying to boost the chances of GOP candidate George Brauchler (whom Weiser defeated 52-45). While RAGA does have a committee open in Colorado that could receive and spend money in the race for AG, as of this writing there is no indication that any significant expenditure is forthcoming.
Yet even if RAGA were to make a last-ditch effort in Colorado, it would put Kellner in a very difficult position given an answer he gave at a candidate forum last week.
RAGA has been floundering trying to fix its reputation after it was widely reported in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection that the group had spent big money trying to help the very folks who were intent on overturning the results of the 2020 Presidential election. As a result of its zeal in pushing election fraud conspiracy theories and funding robocalls to urge “patriots” to attend the Jan. 6 insurrection, donations to RAGA fell off appreciably in the months that followed.
During a candidate forum sponsored by the Lowry United Neighborhoods on Sept. 20, both candidates for Attorney General were asked a very specific question about taking help from election deniers. Here’s that video and the transcription:
QUESTION: Would both of you pledge to commit to accepting no campaign funds and holding no fundraisers with anybody that gave to the Jan. 6 insurrection and worked with election deniers?
KELLNER: That’s a great question, and it’s absolutely appropriate to ask. I think anybody who violated the law that day on Jan. 6 should be held accountable, [and] should probably go look at jail or prison [time]. I don’t support the folks that denied the outcome of the election in any way, shape, or form. [Pols emphasis]
What I’m gravely concerned about, honestly, is the amount of money – upwards of $10 million dollars – spent by the Democrat Party to try and uplift people that they also simultaneously said are a true threat to our democracy. I think that amount of hypocrisy is probably something that we’ve never, ever seen before. I think it is fundamentally wrong.
So, to answer your question, no, I don’t support that. I support the peaceful transition of power as a Marine, as an officer. I was commissioned under George W. Bush. I went to war under President Obama. I served under President Trump in the reserves. I continue to serve under President Biden in the reserves and I’m proud to do it.
Kellner’s statement — “I don’t support the folks that denied the outcome of the election in any way, shape, or form” – would absolutely apply to RAGA, and it would put him in a very weird position if RAGA decided to start spending money in order to assist his campaign for Attorney General. Perhaps Kellner went ahead and gave the answer he did because he already knows that RAGA isn’t coming to his rescue, but this is still a problem for him.
Kellner’s statement last week also means he has some explaining to do regarding his attendance at the RAGA “Summer National Meeting” in Colorado Springs in August; on the final day of that retreat, Kellner held a RAGA-sponsored fundraiser for his campaign. This is a question he’s going to have to answer at some point in the next few weeks.
Kellner needed RAGA’s money to give him a chance in November, but after last week, any help from the national group would come with new problems for the District Attorney from the 18th Judicial District. And if RAGA needed an excuse to stay out if this race, they got it from the candidate himself.