WELD COUNTY — Evaluating the importance of raising money to win the race for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District this November depends on which candidate you’re talking to.
A few months ago, Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave had $1.1 million in her re- election campaign chest. Democratic challenger Angie Paccione sat on about $235,000, and Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness said he had spent only a few thousand dollars of his own money.
Campaign staff for the three candidates have all but conceded that the financial race — not the political one — is all but over. Musgrave will spend the most money, followed by Paccione, then Eidsness.
How much does it matter?
“We know we’re not going to win the money race,” Paccione campaign spokesman James Thompson said. “We think we have a great chance of winning the election without winning the money race.”
Thompson points to the 2004 race, when incumbent Musgrave outspent Democrat Stan Matsunaka by a nearly 4-to-1 margin ($3.3 million to $868,439) but kept her seat with only 51 percent of the vote, compared to Matsunaka’s 45 percent.
“We think we (Democrats) are going to do far better this time around,” Thompson said, “not in terms of fundraising but in terms of votes.”
President Bush’s appearance at a $1,000-a-plate fundraising lunch alone injected Musgrave’s third-term re- election campaign with $450,000 in November.
“Fundraising is a great indicator of how well grass roots is going to move,” Musgrave campaign manager Shaun Kenney said. “It’s a good sign of health.”
Candidates like to see a balance of individual donations, Political Action Committee funding and labor union funding, Kenney said. The broader the financial base of support, the better a candidate’s chances at the polls.
“To have a million dollars at this point in the race is outstanding. We’re pleased, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” he said.
Eidsness said he’s just started to raise funds and hasn’t yet breached the $5,000 mark requiring a report to the Federal Election Commission. While his opponents hope to raise between $1 million and $2 million by November, Eidsness said he needs only $150,000 to get his message to voters.
“I want those two women to slaughter each other through the 527s,” Eidsness said, referring to the independent groups that fund political advertising campaigns. He said his opponents will likely neutralize each other with political attack ads, leaving him out of an ugly fight and free to concentrate on his message.
By July 15, the three candidates need to update their campaign financial reports to include donations and expenditures made between April 1 and June 30. While the 4th Congressional District hopefuls aren’t likely to change places in the financial race, the next three days of fundraising are key to the image game.
“It’s standard practice to try to have a good showing at the end of the quarter,” Thompson said, “to show people you’re moving in the right direction — momentum.”
For an itemized list of who has contributed to a candidate’s campaign and how much, visit the FEC’s Web site at www.fec.gov.
Ben Ready can be reached at 303-684-5326, or by e-mail at email@example.com.