State GOP Chair Call views Sen. Udall’s hefty fundraising as a sign of weakness

The Colorado Statesman

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall raised upwards of $1.5 million for his reelection bid in the first quarter of 2013, his campaign announced on Monday. The Eldorado Springs Democrat — who has yet to draw a Republican opponent for next year’s election — will report “over $2.5 million” cash on hand, a Udall spokesman said, adding that checks were still arriving in the mail on the day after the fundraising period had closed.

“We had an exceptionally strong quarter of fundraising,” said Michael Sozan, Udall’s chief of staff and acting campaign manager. He said that the quarterly report will show “a strong mix of small and large donors, and a healthy in-state and out-of-state mix” and boasted that contributors include “a number of prominent Republican and unaffiliated business people.” The report won’t be available until later this month.

Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call, however, said that Udall’s hefty early haul was a sign of weakness, not strength.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall

“It’s pretty typical for an incumbent senator, especially for one with such close ties to labor and radical environmental causes,” Call told The Colorado Statesman this week. “It also speaks to how much time and effort he is putting into fundraising, because he is worried. We certainly believe Mark Udall is vulnerable. Mark Udall believes Mark Udall is vulnerable — that’s why he’s raising so much money, because he can’t stand on his own record.”

While the 2014 race hasn’t made the prognosticators’ rankings of the most competitive Senate contests, Udall backers like to point out that Colorado is the only swing state without an announced challenger. But Call countered that’s because potential candidates are “weighing the challenges associated with (a run) as well as the opportunities” and said that a candidate or candidate should emerge by summer.

“The Republican Party of Colorado does have a number of top-level candidates presently kicking the tires, determining whether they have the ability to build the statewide organization and fundraising that will be required,” Call said. “I am very confident one or more Republican candidates will make an announcement in the next two to three months. I’m very confident the Republican Party of Colorado will field a top-notch, national-caliber candidate.”

Call declined to reveal which Republicans are weighing bids but did say to expect a “consensus-oriented candidate the entire party will rally quickly behind.”

That said, he didn’t rule out the possibility the party could wind up with a primary.

“If more than one candidate offers his or her service to the party, then we would welcome a primary, but I think also there is a lot of value in identifying a candidate early on behind which the party can gather consensus,” Call said.

Republicans said to be considering a Senate run include former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, state Republican Party vice chairman Don Ytterberg and state Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer — who lost his last Senate run to Udall in 2008 — has also been touted as a possible top-of-the-ticket candidate by prominent Republicans. Others point to U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, serving his second term in the heavily Republican 4th Congressional District, though he has given no indication he plans on handing off his safe House seat anytime soon.

Udall’s colleague, Democrat Michael Bennet, stunned observers when he posted $1.4 million in the comparable first quarter a year before he faced voters, although he was starting from scratch after being appointed to the seat left vacant by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Bennet, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this cycle and whose seat is up for election in 2016, defeated Republican nominee Ken Buck in a highly competitive 2010 race that drew more than $30 million in outside spending, more than anywhere else in the country that year.

In the first quarter of 2011, when another set of states had Senate seats gearing up for election, only the incumbents in New York, Tennessee, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey raised more than Udall plans to post for the same quarter in this cycle. Udall’s projected cash-on-hand total at this point, though, doesn’t stand out as clearly compared with last cycle’s crop of Senate candidates — 14 of the incumbent or announced 2012 campaigns had at least $2.5 million in the bank at the same point in the campaign.

Udall won election to the Senate in 2008 after serving five terms in the U.S. House and one term in the Colorado House. He serves on the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees and on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com