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Colorado Democrats spend $500,000 in ads boosting Republican election denier

3rd Congressional District primary, social media laws in Colorado
Left, Right, Center: 3rd Congressional District primary, social media laws in Colorado 16:13

Democrats are spending about a half million dollars to help a Republican win his primary race in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, which covers western and southern Colorado.

Democratic congressional candidate Adam Frisch and the Rocky Mountain Values super PAC are running ads aimed at helping Republican election denier Ron Hanks and hurting Jeff Hurd in the GOP primary there. They see Hanks, a former state representative, as easier to beat in the general election. So do Republicans, who are now running ads attacking Hanks for being a California liberal and accusing Democrats of "pathetic primary meddling."

"He won't say where he is on abortion, the Second Amendment or building the wall," a television ad paid for by Frisch's campaign said, in part. "Hurd won't even say who he voted for in 2016, in 2020 or who he supports for president now. All we really do know about Jeff Hurd is he's financed by out-of-state, corporate money. Lots of corporate money."

Election 2024 Boebert
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., shakes hands with attorney Jeff Hurd of Grand Junction on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. Jerry McBride / AP

Meanwhile, a TV ad paid for by the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC called Hanks, "a bull's-eye for liberals. A misfire for Colorado."

Political analysts Dick Wadhams, a Republican, and Mike Dino, a Democrat, joined CBS News Colorado political specialist Shaun Boyd to discuss the race for CD3 in this week's installment of Left, Right, Center.

Based on voter registration data, a Republican is likely to win CD3. If that ends up being Hanks, Democrats have helped send a far-right fringe Republican to Congress. Dino said the tactic is a gamble.

"This has happened before; both parties do employ this tactic," he said. "But it is. It is a gamble. And you know, possibly, the numbers don't add up for Democrats over there. Frisch is getting a second shot at this race. And maybe that'll help him out. But it really comes down to, you know, if you put a good Republican in there as a nominee, they probably have the best chance of getting elected."

According to fundraising data from the Federal Election Commission, Frisch has raised over $13 million in the race and spent $9.7 million of that, as of June. His primary challengers, Anna Marie Stout and Debby Burnett have raised about $173,000 and $43,000, respectively, but Stout dropped out of that race in January.

Colorado Election Adam Frisch
Democrat Adam Frisch, a candidate for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, makes an appearance on the campus of the University of Colorado-Pueblo, Sept. 28, 2022. David Zalubowski / AP

In the district's crowded Republican primary, 12 people are seeking the party's nomination. Hurd has raised just over $1 million, Russ Andrews has raised about $423,000, Stephen Varela has about $263,000, Lew Webb has raised about $193,000 Curtis McCrackin has raised $73,000, Hanks has raised almost $23,000 and David Karpas raised $6,000 before terminating his campaign. The other candidates have not raised a single dollar.

Frisch lost to Lauren Boebert in CD3's general election in 2022 by less than 500 votes. His outpacing her in fundraising for this election could explain, at least in part, her move to try to win the seat in Colorado's 4th Congressional District.

Frisch told CBS News Colorado his approach to the race remains unchanged, despite the lack of Boebert.

So can he win this time around?

Wadhams says it depends entirely on who wins the GOP primary.

"I do think that who wins that primary will determine if that is a competitive election or not," he said. "Ron Hanks is so far out of the mainstream. I do think Frisch would have a shot at beating him."

State Rep. Ron Hanks at a rally at the west steps of Colorado's State Capitol building in Denver on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Wadhams, who was formerly the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, didn't hold back in his criticism of Hanks.

"He's so offensive in his politics and how he conducts himself. But if Hurd wins the nomination, it's over with. Hurd is a mainstream, thoughtful Republican in the tradition of that district of Scott Tipton, Scott McGinnis and other Republicans who have represented that district," he said. "But I am appalled."

Colorado's primary election is Tuesday, June 25. You can view live results once the ballots start being counted on our website.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Wadhams is the current chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

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