Eagle County congressional race breaks records | VailDaily.com

Eagle County congressional race breaks records

Harriet Hamilton
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY , Colorado ” Voters can expect the high-priced television spots and shiny mass mailings to continue during the last 10 days of campaigning before the Aug. 12 Democratic primary election for Eagle County’s seat in Congress.

Internet entrepreneur Jared Polis contributed another $1.6 million of his own money to his campaign in July, bringing the total amount of his personal contribution to more than $5 million ” a record for Colorado politics.

In the three-way race to succeed U.S. Rep. Mark Udall as Colorado’s 2nd District congressional representative, the Democratic candidates combined have raised nearly $10 million, making it the most expensive primary contest in state history.

With about 150,000 registered Democrats in the district, spending leader Polis has so far dished out about $35 per voter in his attempt to capture his party’s nomination.

Generous personal campaign contributions are not unusual for Polis, a former chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education whose personal income averaged $16 million a year from 2000 to 2006.

As a member of the “Gang of Four” ” a group of wealthy Coloradoans with political interests ” Polis helped bankroll the takeover of the state legislature by Democrats in the 2004 election.

As the race enters its final days, negative campaigning between the Polis camp and that of rival Joan Fitz-Gerald regarding campaign financing has intensified.

Polis has raised questions about Fitz-Gerald’s acceptance of contributions from the oil and gas industry, while the campaign of the former state Senate president recently issued statements linking the multi-millionaire with a corporation doing business in the Cayman Islands.

“Jared Polis still needs to explain to voters about his investments in power generation facilities, energy speculation, oil and gas development and war profiteering ” and these investment connections to the Cayman Islands,” said Fitz-Gerald campaign manager Mary Alice Mandarich.

Polis campaign manager Robert Becker minced no words in answering this latest criticism.

“They’re lying,” he said. “This is what politicians do late in the campaign when they’re desperate.”

As for the disparity between the Polis spending and that of his rivals, Becker defended the $5.3 million in personal contribution.

“Advertising is expensive,” he said. “And Jared is committed to winning this contest.”

Trying to stay above the fray, Will Shafroth continues to present his candidacy as the grassroots alternative. With only $200,000 remaining in his war chest, the Shafroth campaign got a much-needed boost last week, when the Boulder conservationist received an endorsement from the Denver Post.

Because it’s considered a lock for the Democrats in November’s general election, the Aug. 12 primary will most likely determine the next congressional representative for the district, which includes Summit, Grand, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, as well as the city of Boulder and portions of several counties in the Front Range.

Unlike in the February party caucuses, unaffiliated voters can declare themselves as Democrats on election day to vote in the primary.

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