Woody Allen said, “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”
He could have been talking about the 59th House District, where J. Paul Brown and incumbent Democrat Mike McLachlan are just starting out on what’s sure to be an exciting, grueling and expensive rematch.
Neither candidate has done much to raise money so far.
But McLachlan – who handily outraised Brown last time around despite Brown’s then-built-in incumbent fundraising advantage – already is eclipsing his Republican rival, raising $13,000 to Brown’s $2,000, according to campaign finance reports filed last week with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.
In a phone interview, McLachlan said his fundraising efforts – which include events, personal phone calls and writing letters to specific people – would hit full swing once the legislative session end in May.
Brown said he expects to soon surpass McLachlan.
“I think it’s going real well,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re getting around. But that’s one thing that we need to really concentrate on, is really getting some money, so we’re taking that seriously.”
But Brown, a rancher whose strength as a campaigner stems from down-home charm, sincerity and a total disdain for pretension, said he’s still overcoming his inhibitions about asking people for money, a political weakness he’s been disarmingly open about.
“I guess it’s because I grew up with not a lot of money,” he said. “And now, we’re not rich by any means. It’s still a little difficult to ask folks for money – but it’s something that, if you’re going to be in this, you’ve got to do it.”
Brown isn’t the only politician to bemoan the necessity of dialing for dollars. Indeed, when pressed by a reporter in October 2012, McLachlan – whose campaign still takes great pride in his fundraising prowess – conceded he did not relish panhandling for donations.
“Unfortunately, campaign finance is part of the big picture, and it does reflect the number of your supporters and the breadth of your support from throughout your district,” McLachlan said in an interview this weekend.
Brown likewise is the first to say his manners are counterproductive to winning a tight race in Colorado.
“You know, you have to raise the money, you have to get advertising and you have to get your message out there, and sometimes you have to really work hard at rebutting negative messages. Money is real important – it was in the last election and it will be in the next election,” Brown said.
In 2012, the race for House District 59 was the closest in the state, with McLachlan beating Brown by a handful of votes.
It also was one of the most expensive house races in state history: All in, the election cost more than $1.2 million, with the candidates’ direct spending – a record-breaking $270,000 – accounting for a fraction of the overall price tag.
Brown and McLachlan are starkly different candidates: McLachlan has enjoyed hero status among many Colorado Democrats since casting a decisive vote for gun control earlier in 2013, while Republicans’ enthusiasm for Brown is undiminished by his narrow loss at the ballot box.
But both candidates say they were uncomfortable with the tsunami of independent expenditure from outside political groups whose exotic legal status – 501c4s, political action committees and Superfunds – often threw veils over their financial activity.
“I think Mr. Brown and I agree on this. It’s pretty much a situation in which we have no control, and due to the way the financial structures are set up, we don’t even have contact with those people,” he said.”
Brown said he didn’t think McLachlan would maintain his financial edge.
“I don’t know that he’ll have a fundraising advantage because there are a lot of people that are pretty upset with what the legislature did last year,” he said, citing the gun control legislation that McLachlan signed – a vote that incited a failed attempt to recall him.
“There’s a lot of people still pretty upset about that,” he said.