Two candidates for Aspen’s state House District 61 seat are hoping voters will focus on the issues in this year’s election and ignore the negative campaign fliers and radio ads that have recently flooded local mailboxes and airwaves.
Over the past month, there have been at least seven fliers and a handful of radio ads that promote Democratic candidate Millie Hamner and in doing so, disparage independent candidate Kathleen Curry.
The negative campaigning against Curry began about two weeks ago and is being paid for by the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee, a Super PAC that can’t make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties, but can engage in unlimited political spending for advertising and promoting those seeking office.
The ads accuse Curry of denying women mammogram coverage, and voting to give herself and other politicians pay raises of up to 400 percent when she was a representative in the House, among other things.
Last week, Curry requested that the district attorney offices in the 5th, 7th and 9th judicial districts launch an investigation into the committee, because the publication of false information with the intent to influence voters is a violation of Colorado law and those accusations are lies, she said.
Curry, who lives in Gunnison County, also has created a page called “Flyers vs. the Truth” on her campaign’s website addressing the accusations. While in office, she voted for a bill that required insurance companies to expand their coverage to include mammograms and she voted to bring reimbursement up to a level that was closer to the actual expenses faced by out-of-town legislators. The increase was 50 percent, not 400, Curry says on her page.
“I hope that folks who hear the ads and get the fliers — and there have been thousands sent out — would take a few minutes to check the website and reach out to me to understand my position on the issues,” Curry said.
Curry, who held the HD-61 seat for six years, lost a re-election bid after she disaffiliated with the Democratic Party and attempted to be re-elected as an independent in 2010.
Hamner, whose name is on the ads, said she is not affiliated with the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance and is trying to distance herself from the negative campaign. The ads have moved the focus of the election away from the issues, she said.
“I wish that we could just run campaigns on the issues rather than be distracted by these ads funded by Super PACS and 527 [political organizations],” Hamner said.
The Colorado Government Alliance is a 527 political organization whose registered agent is Julie Wells of Denver, according to the Colorado Secretary of State. The alliance raised over $2.3 million and spent $1.7 million. It has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Democratic organizations, including the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee alongside other groups like the American Federation of Teachers, Walmart, Better Schools for a Better Tomorrow, Safeway, Vail Resorts and the Monsanto company. With Colorado’s state House currently split 33-32 in favor of Republicans, Democrats are vying to regain control of the house.
Wells also is the registered agent of 11 other political organizations, including the Community Information Project, which is dedicated to informing voters, and Save Jeffco Schools, which supports Democratic candidates and educational issues in Jefferson County, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Attempts at contacting Wells were unsuccessful.
Hamner’s campaign has no control over the group distributing the fliers and commercials and she doesn’t know the people behind it, she said. Hamner hasn’t made an attempt to find out who is behind the ads, because she has been too busy focusing on her own campaign, which has been trying to send out positive messages, she said.
“I’m so busy with the size of this district I really don’t have the time to find out who’s behind it,” Hamner said.
Hamner said she is in total support of Amendment 65, an advisory vote that would encourage Colorado’s congressional delegation to support an amendment to the United States Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and allow states to place limits on campaign spending. Campaign financing is an unfortunate part of American politics, she said.
Hamner, a former public school superintendent who lives in Frisco, is going up against Curry and three others to represent the district, whose lines were redrawn last year eliminating Garfield County and bringing together Pitkin, Lake and Summit counties and parts of Gunnison and Delta counties. The three other candidates running are American Constitution Party candidate Robert Petrowsky of Leadville; Republican Debra Irvine of Breckenridge and Libertarian Ellen Temby of Frisco.
Even without the help of the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance, Hamner is winning the race in funds raised. Her campaign has brought in $106,618 and spent $65,083, while Curry has raised $29,014 and spent $18,858. Irvine has garnered $21,197 and the other two candidates have brought in less than $2,000.
Hamner’s campaign platform runs along party lines vowing that she will invest in education, renewable energy, transportation and infrastructure if elected. The biggest issue the district faces is how to fund education and manage the different interests of its constituents, which can be done as long as there is a leader who can listen and find common interest, Hamner said. She has the experience to do that, she said.
For Curry, the biggest issue the state legislature needs to address is the property tax structure and the Gallagher Amendment, which requires commercial businesses to pay a larger portion of the overall property tax than their private landowner counterparts. The tax impacts businesses negatively and the burden should be spread evenly, Curry said.
Curry also thinks the state needs to address infrastructure issues like congestion on Interstate 70. Curry is against increasing state taxes and wants to decrease spending and she supports using coal and fracking in environmentally friendly and transparent ways.