Financially, the tables may be turning in the 59th District Colorado House of Representatives race – one of the most competitive in the state.
The incumbent Republican J. Paul Brown narrowly overtook Democratic challenger Mike McLachlan, a Durango-based lawyer, in the latest reporting period.
Going in, McLachlan had $50,354.72 in his coffers. Brown had $39,731.41.
But according to the most-recent Sept. 4 filings with the Colorado secretary of state, McLachlan raised $24,792.00 in 139 individual contributions while Brown took in $25,027 in 149 individual contributions, leaving Brown’s campaign with a balance of $64,758 and McLachlan’s with $72,001.
Citing large donations from business owners, McLachlan said he wasn’t worried that Brown was surging ahead.
“He started out almost $18,000, and now, we’ve got a $10,000-cash-on-hand advantage on him now,” he said.
Though Brown’s $235 margin of victory is no pecuniary landslide, with the election only weeks away, it marks a turning point: Until now, McLachlan had outraised Brown in every reporting period since announcing his campaign in February.
In a phone interview, Brown said he was pleased but mystified at pulling ahead of McLachlan.
“I don’t know what we did. You know, it just came in. I should have hustled more for it,” he said.
Brown agreed that the national political conventions had helped focus people’s attentions on the race.
“Folks are getting more excited, and it’s an important election year. And, you know, I think that folks think I’ve done a good job, and it’s an important race,” he said.
Brown’s biggest contributor this period was the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, which gave him $4,238, bringing its aggregate contribution to Brown to $20,403 this cycle.
The Realtor Small Donor Committee gave Brown $1,000 – bringing its total contributions to Brown to $2,000 this cycle – as did the Colorado Good Government League. The Lincoln Club of Colorado Political Committee gave Brown $400. Lobbyists were also generous, giving Brown $800.
While the majority of Brown’s donors gave $100 or less, there are signs the bigwigs of local GOP fundraising – who, till now, had largely spurned Brown – may be warming to him. Durango’s George Thompson, owner of Pride Weed Control, who has given more than $5,000 to GOP causes since 2005, gave Brown $400 this period, the maximum allowable individual contribution.
Demographically, Brown’s most generous patrons continue to be ranchers and retirees. Retirees gave Brown $2,804 in 34 individual contributions, while ranchers gave Brown $4,525 in 24 individual donations. As of September, ranchers’ aggregate contributions to Brown stand at more than $17,000 since 2010.
McLachlan’s biggest donors were the Public Education Committee and the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters Small Donor Fund, which both gave $2,250. The Colorado Conservation fund also gave $2,050. Colorado Wins SDC, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado PAC, and the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association Small Donor Committee, each gave McLachlan $1,000.
Perhaps the most eye-catching donation in McLachlan’s filing was a $99 contribution from Durango’s Robert Ptolemy, president of Rocky Mountain Escrow – a significant sum, given that Ptolemy is more accustomed to writing $500 checks to the Republican National Committee and has lavished more than $5,350 on GOP causes since 2005.
McLachlan’s demographic strongholds continue to be retirees and fellow lawyers. Retirees gave McLachlan $3,595 this period in 23 donations, and lawyers coughed up $4,180 in 28 individual contributions, meaning that as of September, lawyers and have given McLachlan about $20,000 in 107 individual donations since he announced his candidacy in February.