Campaign donations pour in for Douglas County commissioner candidates

Election season has seen more than 10 times the contributions as in 2016

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Campaign contributions to candidates vying for two seats on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners already total more than 10 times the amount contributed in 2016, with tens of thousands of dollars coming from out-of-state sources, according to a Colorado Community Media analysis of campaign finance reports.

By the end of the 2016 election cycle, $52,234 had been contributed to the four candidates on the general election ballot in the races for the District 2 and District 3 seats. That figure excludes nearly $113,000 in loans that District 3 winner Lora Thomas gave to herself that year.

In this year's two races, through Oct. 8, a total of more than $560,000 had been contributed to the two Democrats and two Republicans on the ballot.

In the District 2 race, Democrat Lisa Neal-Graves and Republican George Teal are neck and neck in terms of contributions, with Neal-Graves outraising Teal $128,316 to $128,263 — a difference of $53 — according to the round of campaign finance reports turned in by Oct. 13.

In past elections, Democrats running for county commissioner have not been competitive in their fundraising efforts, according to the past 18 years of finance reports. Four years ago, the two Democrats running for commissioner combined to raise less than $4,000.

Teal says the difference this time is the influence of out-of-state interests.

“There’s a lot of money coming from around the country that’s being funneled to my opponent,” he said. “This is a nationwide campaign that I find myself in.”

About a quarter of Neal-Graves’ contributions have come from out-of-state donors, according to finance reports, which are available on the secretary of state’s TRACER website, tracer.sos.colorado.gov. That includes nearly 200 contributors from across the country.

Neal-Graves said these donations are all from communities she once lived in or from people who are members of the same non-political organizations in which she’s also involved.

“These are all my friends, they’re all people who support me,” she said. “I’ve poured into their lives and they’re using this opportunity to pour into our lives here in Douglas County.”

Teal’s campaign also has benefited from non-Coloradans, with six donors contributing $13,635, a little more than 10% of his total contributions.

Also in District 2, Libertarian Victoria Reynolds has raised $7,730.

In the District 3 race, Thomas, the Republican incumbent, has outraised her Democratic opponent, Darien Wilson, by about $64,000 — $186,499 to $122,305. In this race, about 5% of donations have come from outside Colorado for both candidates.

All three current commissioners are Republicans, and the two races in 2016 were won by members of the GOP with about two-thirds of the vote.

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