While it’s unusual in Douglas County commissioner elections for Democrats to be competitive with their Republican opponents in campaign fundraising, so far that’s the case for both open seats.
That’s rare, according to a Colorado Community Media analysis of the past 18 years of campaign finance reports in county races.
With the election still several weeks away, District 2 Democratic candidate Lisa Neal-Graves is only $3,000 behind Republican opponent George Teal in contributions. In the District 3 race, incumbent Republican Commissioner Lora Thomas is trailing by more than $17,200 behind her Democrat opponent, Darien Wilson.
Updated campaign finance reports reveal who is funding these campaigns and how successful each candidates’ fundraising efforts have been in recent months. The latest contribution reports, which cover June 22 through July 25, are available on the Colorado secretary of state’s TRACER website.
To date, the District 2 race between Teal, Neal-Graves and Libertarian Victoria Reynolds has been the most costly race. Of the more than $166,000 raised in total through July, about $103,000 was spent among the three.
District 2 encompasses southern and western Douglas County, including Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Larkspur, Perry Park and Roxborough. However, Douglas County elects its commissioners at large in a countywide election. The winner in November will succeed current Commissioner Roger Partridge.
Teal alone has raised $82,300 for his campaign and spent $85,500. Neal-Graves is close behind in contributions with $79,300 but has only spent about $15,000. Reynolds has raised $5,190 and spent $2,760.
In just the late-June-through-July period covered by the most recent contribution report, Teal raised $29,555 and spent $21,864. Among Teal’s contributors in that period were Frank McNulty — a former Republican speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives — as well as Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Merlin Klotz and Republican State Rep. Kim Ransom. The latest report said Teal had 52 individual contributions, many of which were for at least $500.
Teal, a Castle Rock town council member, has focused his campaign on conservative policies, including promises to cut taxes, support gun rights and advocate for free-market principles. His website also includes water management, transportation and responsible growth as priorities.
Contributions to Teal’s campaign have all been from state residents, many coming from Douglas County and Denver but also some from other parts of the metro area.
Neal-Graves, the former chief innovation officer for state Attorney General Phil Weiser, has a platform focusing on innovation, transparency in governmental spending and balance in the county's growth. She raised $20,000 in the late-June-through-July period covered by most recent report and spent $6,150.
Former Governor John Hickenlooper, Adams County commissioner Emma Pinter and state Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, are included in Neal-Graves’ benefactors. In her latest campaign finance report, she had about 220 contributions, virtually all of which were donations below $500.
Contributions to her campaign have come from across the county, state and country, including California, New York, Oregon and Texas.
Reynolds, the chairperson of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, raised $730 in the most recent period and spent $1,370. Her contributions in this period have come from Douglas County, Denver and other parts of Colorado along with Connecticut, Georgia and California. She had nine benefactors in the latest period with all donations under $200.
Meanwhile, in the District 3 race, Democratic challenger Wilson has raised a total of $75,500 since entering the contest and spent $13,300 while her opponent, Thomas, has brought in about $58,300 and spent $8,233.
District 3 includes Highlands Ranch and the area of unincorporated Douglas County south of Highlands Ranch between Castle Pines, Sedalia and Louviers.
Wilson, an entrepreneur, says she plans to prioritize the community’s health, safety, transparency, representation, conservation and economic development if elected as commissioner.
According to the most recent report, she raised $12,380 in the late-June-through-July period and spent $1,000. The vast majority of her 175 contributions in this period were under $500 each.
People from Douglas County, the Front Range and some other states including Texas and Oregon donated to her campaign.
Thomas, who has also served as the county’s coroner and as a state trooper, says she will focus on wastewater solutions, mental health support and economic development if she wins a second term.
Thomas had 47 contributions in the latest period, also with most donations under $500 each. She raised $9,380 and spent $100. Included in these contributions were donations from Ransom, Parker town councilmember Jeff Toborg and Douglas County treasurer Dave Gill.
Her contributors this period came mostly from Douglas County and other Front Range communities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has surged throughout the country, issues related to that have taken center stage in the election. Teal and Thomas, for instance, have voiced support for the current commissioners decision to divorce from Tri-County Health Department. Neal-Graves and Wilson, however, have criticized aspects of the move.
Ballots for the commissioners race, along with the presidential, U.S. Senate and other elections will be sent out Oct. 9. Election day is Nov. 3.
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