Steamboat Springs State Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, has raised more money than all but four of the 36 other candidates vying for 19 Colorado state Senate seats up for election this year.
Through Sept. 10, White has raised $98,202 in the current election cycle, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's campaign finance database. White's Senate District 8 opponent Ken Brenner, a Steamboat Springs Democrat, has raised $42,304, including two $2,000 contributions and a $10,000 loan to his campaign from himself. The next filing deadline for the candidates is Monday.
White said his strong fundraising - unprecedented for a race for a legislative seat representing this part of the state - "translates into support."
"Certainly, it's an advantage if you look at the number of individual contributions," White said Tuesday. "I think it's just an indication that people want me to get elected."
Brenner downplayed the significance of the fundraising discrepancy and criticized White's donations from sources such as political action committees and small donor organizations. There are dozens of such donations, including $400 from Xcel Energy Western PAC, $100 from the Colorado Mining Association Small Donor Committee, $1,000 from the Colorado Medical Society Small Donor Committee, $400 from Colorado Ski Country USA PAC, $200 from Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company PAC and $400 from the Colorado Contractors Association.
"That's to be expected," Brenner said Wednesday about White's high level of fundraising. "He has broad support from the lobbies and special interests that, to date, have run the Legislature. : My contributors are people who live in Senate District 8. We will run a credible campaign, and I feel we will be competitive. : This campaign is going to be about issues, not money."
White, who is term-limited after representing House District 57 for eight years, said the donations Brenner criticized are a show of support for the legislative work he has done and the issues he advocates.
"Of course I'm going to get support from entities that advocate those issues," White said Wednesday. "There are some, and I don't deny that. But if you look at the number of individual donations, there's many, many more individual contributions to my campaign than to (Brenner's)."
White also pointed to Brenner's $4,250 donation from the United Food & Commercial Workers Local No. 7 of Wheat Ridge. The contribution is larger than any single donation to White.
"If he wants to go high and mighty on me, that's not going to work," White said.
Brenner said he agreed to accept the money because he is pro-union, and he noted the number of union-related measures on the ballot this year.
"I'm a big proponent of the right to organize," Brenner said. "It's a critical issue right now."
Similar to past Senate District 8 elections, most of White's and Brenner's time and campaign dollars haven't and won't be spent in efforts to sway Routt County voters. Both candidates acknowledged this week that they are focusing most of their efforts in Garfield and Eagle counties, where the vast majority of the district's population is centered.
"I've lived here over 50 years and just finished 10 years of public service here," said Brenner, a former Steamboat Springs City Council president. "I'm not nearly as well known in that area down there."
White spoke similarly and noted that House District 57 does not overlap identically with Senate District 8 in that part of the state.
"The voters in Routt County have known me for years," White said. "I'm not taking Routt County for granted by any means. But I have more of a job in Eagle and eastern Garfield County."
Term-limited state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, proved in 2004 that you can lose Routt County and still take the district. Democratic Routt County rancher Jay Fetcher beat Taylor, 6,504 votes to 4,881 votes, in Routt County but ultimately lost the race. Eagle and Garfield counties no doubt dwarf the rest of the district in terms of population, but it was huge wins in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties that delivered Taylor his narrow victory, 28,521 votes to 26,896 votes.