Steamboat Springs Ken Gordon said he has turned down as much as $100,000 because of his principles.
The Democratic candidate for Colorado secretary of state, Gordon is emphasizing his refusal to accept campaign contributions from special-interest groups and political action committees. During a Monday visit to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, part of a two-day campaign swing through Northwest Colorado, Gordon also strongly criticized the performance of the current secretary of state, Republican Gigi Dennis, and expressed confidence in his chances of defeating Republican Mike Coffman.
But he focused on the money.
"Too much of American politics is dominated by elected officials who take money from special-interest groups," Gordon said. "I want people to know there is an option for a candidate who does not accept that kind of contribution."
Gordon said that based on financial offers he has received during his candidacy, his campaign could have gained between $50,000 and $100,000 in contributions from action committees or small groups, which are allowed by the state to make donations of up to $10,000 each.
Instead, Gordon is raising funds based on contributions from individuals, which state law limits at $1,000 each. His campaign has raised a total of about $300,000, he said, meaning Gordon has turned down an amount possibly equal to one-third of his campaign funds.
"It's been a significant sacrifice," said Gordon, a member of the state Legislature for 14 years and former state Senate majority leader.
The Denver legislator and former lawyer said the sacrifice is worthwhile to bring trust and non-partisanship to the Secretary of State's Office, which regulates elections and voting policies in Colorado. Gordon criticized the performance of Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, citing Dennis' Aug. 2 ruling that places restrictions on campaign contributions from small donor groups and unions. The ruling was widely thought to hurt Democratic candidates much more than Republican candidates.
The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected the ruling Thursday.
"I think the small donor decision was partisan," Gordon said. "(Dennis) did that at the request of Republican lawyers who were working for Beauprez and Trailhead."
U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez of Arvada is the Republican candidate for governor. Trailhead Group is an independent political group supported by Gov. Bill Owens and brewery magnate Pete Coors. Independent political groups are allowed to raise unlimited funds but are not allowed by state law to coordinate efforts with a candidate's campaign.
Dennis has defended her ruling as necessary to increase openness in campaign contributions and prevent political corruption.
Gordon also criticized Dennis' election oversight, saying she failed to properly test electronic voting machines before certifying them for use in elections.
"It was an abysmal failure to carry out her responsibilities," Gordon said. "It doesn't mean the machines don't work, it just means they weren't tested. (If elected), I would do what she should have done."
Coffman is a former state legislator and state treasurer who recently returned from Iraq, where he served as a civil affairs officer with the U.S. Marine Corps, working to establish election systems in the embattled country.
"I think I will win in a close election," Gordon said.