Money walks from GOP to Hickenlooper campaign
Like most Republicans, Verda Patterson believes governments should be fiscally conservative and business friendly.
But unlike many in the Grand Old Party, the Grand Junction resident isn’t involved in the tea party movement that helped create an anti-political-establishment sentiment in the nation.
No, Patterson still believes it’s better for voters to support whoever they believe is the best person for the job.
When it comes to the race for Colorado governor, for her that isn’t Republican Dan Maes or former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo, who joined the race late as the American Constitution Party candidate because he didn’t believe Maes had the wherewithal to defeat Democrat John Hickenlooper.
“I am a registered Republican and have been for years. My husband’s a Democrat, but neither one of us have ever voted the party line in our lives, and I still don’t,” Patterson said. “I like John Hickenlooper. I get an uneasy feeling about Maes; I think he’s a lost cause. And Tom Tancredo has always been a little too, too far right, ‘round the corner, off in la la land.”
Patterson isn’t alone.
A computerized database that compared the 3 million registered voters in the state with people who made campaign contributions to the three candidates showed Hickenlooper has done far better than the others in getting money from members of opposing parties.
In addition to support from Colorado Democrats, who gave Hickenlooper nearly $2.6 million, more than 900 Republicans donated more than $200,000 to the Denver mayor.
Meanwhile, only 27 Libertarians, 15 Democrats and 11 American Constitution Party voters contributed about $6,000 to Tancredo and Maes combined.
The bulk of their money came from Colorado Republicans, and they were close in the amount of money they received from GOP voters, with Tancredo getting about $268,000 and Maes, $251,000. Unlike Maes, however, Tancredo received a lot of out-of-state support, about $170,000 worth, in individual contributions from voters who supported his failed 2008 GOP presidential primary bid.
But because some opposing-party voters gave money to the two conservative candidates doesn’t mean they’ll translate to actual votes.
In Maes’ case, two Democrats gave a combined $350 to the Evergreen resident. One, however, said she doesn’t intend to support him on Election Day and has even requested a refund. The other is an old friend who said he donated out of loyalty, but won’t say whom he’ll support on Tuesday.
“I did it early on when I believed that he was a man of integrity and that he would do the right thing,” said Larkspur resident Coletta Anderson, who had yet to receive that refund. “I don’t support him anymore. It was incident after incident, the misinformation, changing stories, the misuse of campaign funds with his family having ATM cards to the campaign account. How’s he supporting himself? It’s off of our money.”
Anderson said despite her Democratic history, she has become increasingly more conservative in recent years and ultimately intends to change her party affiliation. For now, she plans to cast her ballot for Tancredo, primarily because of his efforts in combatting illegal immigration.
Grand Junction resident Raymond Meininger has gone the other way, though he didn’t mean to. Meininger was a Democrat until after the 2008 presidential race.
Dollar bills for Tancredo
But Meininger, now a registered Republican, admits he got a little confused earlier this fall when he donated money to Tancredo, whom he remembered as being a Republican. He returned two envelopes sent from the Tancredo campaign seeking donations but put $1 in each.
He’s since cast his vote for Maes.
“Was he a Republican who decided to go to independent?” Meininger asked of Tancredo. “What I did during this election, I voted strictly party line, and I didn’t know if his vote fell in that party line. I guess I didn’t vote for him, huh? Oh, OK. I voted for Dan Maes then. I hope I did the right thing.”
And the $2? That was all the change he had handy, Meininger said.
As with every election in Colorado, the one-third of voters in the state who aren’t affiliated with any political party are always targeted by candidates. Hickenlooper leads in the number and amount of donations from unaffiliated voters.
While Maes has received almost $13,500 from 102 independent voters, and Tancredo nearly $24,900 from 240 of them, Hickenlooper has garnered more than $323,000 from 1,750 unaffiliated voters.
Wanda Putnam is one of them. The Grand Junction resident said she donated to the Hickenlooper campaign much for the same reasons as Patterson.
“The Democrats, they tended to waste money, but the Republicans are mean,” she said. “I’m thinking in terms of meanness in how they treat their constituents, what programs they want to cut, and I’m terrified of these tea party people. That’s why I’m voting Democrat.”
Reeves Brown, president of Club 20, an organization of governments and civic leaders on the Western Slope, said many people give to candidates not only because they genuinely support them but because they believe those candidates will win.
Brown said that doesn’t necessarily mean those donors expect to get support for their pet causes. On the other hand, he added, it doesn’t hurt candidates to get on the good side of those donors.
Money on the favorite
“The first rule in making campaign contributions is to be sure above all else to make a contribution to the lead horse who you’re likely to be working with later, regardless of their party affiliation,” said Brown, who didn’t donate to any of the gubernatorial candidates. “You see a lot of players donating to both candidates just to have a relationship with those candidates.
“For quite some time in this race, Hickenlooper has been viewed as the strong favorite, so I suspect a lot of those donors were motivated as much by their interest in establishing a relationship with the likely future governor as they were anything else.”
Fred Hamilton says he isn’t one of them.
The former Texas oilman who now owns a profitable venture capital and real estate firm in Denver says he is old friends with Hickenlooper, but that’s not why he’s supporting him.
Hamilton, who was Hickenlooper’s finance chairman in his bid for Denver mayor, said the Democrat has far more experience in business and fiscal matters and is better-equipped to deal with one of the worst budget crises the state has seen in decades.
“The fact that he’s a Democrat is immaterial to me because I am a Republican, and normally I would say it’s very, very rare for me to support a Democrat,” Hamilton said. “I’ve gotten a fair amount of criticism from my other friends who support some of the same people I normally would. They’ve said, ‘What in the heck are you up to?’ I said this is the best guy to me. I’m certainly going to vote for most of the Republican candidates in the state, like the Senate and the House.”