Groups drop $300,000 into House race

The head of Focus on the Family’s political arm, Tom Minnery, said the Colorado Springs-based organization launched a Mesa County letter campaign to warn of the influence of outside money in affecting a key state House race.

“His influence, bringing outside money into races in the quantity that he brings … is unprecedented,” Minnery said, citing wealthy Democratic businessman Tim Gill.

However, large-scale infusions of Front Range cash into state Rep. Bernie Buescher’s re-election contest have been the rule rather than the exception, according to campaign finance filings and advertising disclosures maintained by Grand Junction television affiliates.

Groups ranging from the conservative House Leadership Fund to the left-leaning Colorado Values committee have injected at least $300,000 worth of political mailings and advertisements aimed at swaying House District 55 voters.

Recent ads include one accusing Buescher’s opponent, Republican Laura Bradford, of opposing cancer screenings as part of her health care reform package and one accusing Buescher of opposing a state savings fund.

Buescher said the interest and investment of Front Range groups — even on his behalf — has been one of the more frustrating aspects of running for public office.

“I think on balance I would be in a better place without the stuff the 527 (committees) have done,” Buescher said.

“I know there has been some money spent on my behalf, but they have succeeded in raising my opponent’s name recognition.”

“I’d much prefer that each candidate ran his or her own race,” he added.

Bradford said recent ads depicting her as being in favor of draining water project funding and opposed to cancer screenings have prompted her to produce a new television advertisement.

Bradford said the silver lining of being a target for attack ads is liberal groups have been forced to waste resources in Mesa County.

“I’ve done my part for the party … forcing them to spend that money here,” she said.

Shari Bjorklund, who has twice run in House District 55, said she was not surprised to see Focus on the
Family and its peer groups get involved in the Buescher-Bradford race.

“When an issue strikes home with a particular issues committee, they will get involved,” Bjorklund said. “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the rough and tumble.”

John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said the infusion of cash into the House District 55 race this year is less rooted in the district’s competitiveness and more so in Buescher’s potential as a leader in the state House.

“He’s the odds-on favorite to be speaker. … That’s the logical place to go with your money,” Straayer said.

“This is what groups do all the time. You want to pick winners.”

Straayer said as long as effective state lawmakers sit in the moderate House District 55, outside money will persist as a factor.


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