California billionaire and leading Democratic donor Tom Steyer has entered Colorado’s 2018 election arena ahead of schedule, as per a review of Colorado’s campaign finance reports by Western Wire.
During the 4th quarter of 2017, Steyer made contributions to five competitive Colorado House and Senate races earlier than in 2016.
With Democrats controlling the state House and Republicans holding a slight edge in the state Senate, Steyer donated $400, the maximum allowed per individual, to each of the five Democratic candidates on December 20, 2017.
Steyer supported Rep. Tony Exum (HD-17) in El Paso County, Rep. Barbara McLachlan (HD-59) in Southwest Colorado, and Rep. Jeff Bridges (HD-3) in Denver’s southern suburbs. Additionally, Steyer’s wife, Kathryn, matched his donation with another $400 to Exum.
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The donation to McLachlan is noted with the description “Democracy Engine – Give Green,” whereas the other candidates don’t have this designation.
However, all five candidates, including those from Colorado and Nevada, as well as Governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Andrew Cuomo of New York, are listed on the “Give Green In the States” campaign website.
In the Senate races, Steyer focused on two fiercely contested districts in Denver’s northeast suburbs and the western foothills.
Senate District 24 witnessed a close victory for Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik in 2014, securing the seat by fewer than a thousand votes during that Republican gain. Democratic representative Faith Winter from HD-35 is now challenging Humenik.
Senate District 16, currently represented by Republican Sen. Tim Neville, is considered a high-priority target due to the district’s voter composition and Neville’s political profile.
The 2014 race for Neville’s seat was closely contested, and in 2016, the GOP legislator unsuccessfully sought the party nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
Tom Steyer is supporting Tammy Story as his preferred candidate in this critical district.
Story has garnered endorsements from U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis, both Democrats from Colorado. Notably, Polis is in the running for the Democratic nomination for the Colorado governorship.
“Our focus has always been on equal opportunity for all Coloradans, and that doesn’t fit with what Tom Steyer wants to do,” Neville told Western Wire. “He’s very concerned about making sure government picks and chooses winners and losers and makes decisions for Coloradans.”
“Heaven forbid they are allowed to make their own decisions,” Neville quipped.
Senator Tim Neville expressed that he wasn’t surprised by Tom Steyer’s endorsement of his opponent and the other candidates in Colorado that Steyer supports.
Neville interpreted these early, small donations, constrained only by the state’s campaign finance laws, as a form of “messaging” from the prolific Democratic donor. According to Neville, Steyer’s intent is to signal to other donors in Colorado and across the country to invest in competitive state House and Senate districts with the aim of flipping seats in the 2018 elections.
“Definitely all targeted races,” Neville said. He pointed to the seat-by-seat similarities between Steyer’s donations and races profiled by Colorado Resistance, which the group has prioritized for a “balance of power” in the state that would mean Democrats holding the House and taking back the Senate.
Neville said the return on investment for local races was likely much higher than big ad buys or a diffused effort to get out the vote.
A comprehensive analysis by Western Wire of Tom Steyer’s expenditures in Nevada during the 2016 cycle revealed that focusing on five key races played a pivotal role in Democrats gaining control of both the State Senate and State Assembly. Steyer’s contributions to these races amounted to $70,000.
In addition to his efforts in Nevada, Steyer and his wife also contributed $65,000 to candidates in New Mexico in the same year. Over the span of 2014 to 2016, Steyer allocated a substantial $163 million to federal races, supporting Democratic candidates.
The Colorado Resistance, an initiative at the state level, has emerged as a local offshoot of the national Indivisible Movement.
This progressive movement, inspired by the Tea Party, consists of former Democratic and progressive D.C. staffers who were motivated by the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
The Colorado Resistance has numerous local affiliates, and they have created the “Colorado Resistance Manual: An Indivisible Guide for Colorado, by Coloradans.” The manual outlines strategies to succeed at the state and local levels, emphasizing the importance of channeling energy into electing progressives to counter Trump’s agenda. This approach includes targeting competitive races like Senator Tim Neville’s Senate District 16.
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“In 2018, 20 target races [emphasis in original] will decide the balance of power in Colorado. We’ve created detailed profiles of each race that will be continuously updated through election day. We’ve also set up “district funds” to create pots of money, raised in advance, for the eventual Democratic nominee in each target district,” Colorado Resistance writes.
Neville said the group makes no bones about its intentions, spelling out clearly why they are focused on state politics.
Top of mind for Colorado Resistance? Redistricting.
“In 2010, a Republican sweep of state legislature races allowed the GOP to gerrymander congressional districts nationwide, unfairly rigging elections in favor of Republican candidates. We cannot let this happen again,” the group writes. Getting Democrats elected in 2018 will give them a head start on reclaiming that process.
“Many of the state legislators who will control the crucial redistricting process will be elected in 2018. Winning majorities in the legislature in 2018 is the first step towards protecting Colorado from Republican gerrymandering,” they continued.
The group’s name, Colorado Resistance, not only highlights their involvement in redistricting but also signifies their opposition to the Trump administration, particularly regarding energy issues.
“Trump’s destructive policies may originate in Washington, but they’ll be implemented in our communities by state and local officials. The more power local Democrats have, the more power the Resistance has to fight back,” Colorado Resistance writes. “With a fully blue state government, Colorado could step up as a national leader in the Resistance. For example, winning the Attorney General’s office would allow us to join states like Hawaii and Washington in challenging the Trump administration’s unconstitutional actions in court.”
“The fact that East coast and West coast billionaires are playing in Colorado and trying to dictate the lives through their proxies shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Neville said.
“These are the battles we have to fight,” Neville concluded.
Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank based in Denver, told Western Wire that Steyer was “signaling” his friends and fellow donors.
“One—I wish I was Tom Steyer. Two—this is an example of how Colorado is becoming East California,” Caldara said. “Now Californians are directly buying legislative seats.”
Caldara humorously suggested that a more honest renaming of the state would be “East California,” insinuating that donors like Steyer are pushing for a political direction aligning more closely with California.
“It’s obviously a signal. Anyone who likes California-style politics will pour money into these seats,” Caldara said.
And while the contributions seem low, Caldara noted, the money going to other in-state independent expenditures is likely much higher.
“If Steyer is maxing out in these races, one can only imagine what he is giving to independent expenditures” behind the scenes, Caldara predicted.
In Colorado, there is no limit for individuals on independent expenditure committee donations. This means that individuals, like Tom Steyer, can contribute without facing specific constraints to such committees.
Steyer has maintained national involvement, notably spearheading an effort to impeach Trump. Additionally, he announced a substantial $30 million campaign aimed at mobilizing the youth vote to potentially shift control of the U.S. House to the Democratic party.
“The Democratic and Republican leaders in Washington D.C. need to step up and do what they were elected to do—protect and serve the people they represent,” Need to Impeach Founder Tom Steyer said in a statement. “Donald Trump has already passed the threshold for impeachment. You know it, we know it, and so do members of Congress. Up to this point, Congress members have offered countless excuses for not backing impeachment.”
Tom Steyer’s push for impeachment has garnered mixed reviews from Democrats, with figures like former Obama adviser David Axelrod and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressing reservations.
However, the goal of flipping the U.S. House aligns with the potential outcomes of Steyer’s impeachment efforts.
Engaging in state-level political races, as observed in Nevada in 2016 and Colorado in the current cycle, aligns with the rebranding of Steyer’s organization from “NextGen Climate” to “NextGen America,” which he launched last year. This suggests a broader focus on political and environmental initiatives beyond climate change specifically.
NextGen America says it wants “to promote American values and stand up to Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on our way of life.”
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