By Tori Richards | Colorado Watchdog
In May 2011, Democratic leaders were looking toward Colorado to help win back the House of Representatives in the upcoming 2012 election.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer found their man in Brandon Shaffer.
He was an unlikely choice — a termed-out state senate president with a propensity for raising taxes and towing the liberal party line, running against an incumbent in the 4th District, a mostly rural district east of Denver to the state line. Shaffer seemed to have a bull’s-eye on his back from the start.
But the Washington insiders seemed certain that their thorough search had identified just the right man.
“We do two, three, four visits to recruit,” Hoyer told the Denver Post last year, adding that Shaffer himself was confident about winning.
What a difference a year makes.
Pelosi and her Democratic Party have left Shaffer twisting in the wind, providing lackluster endorsements and lousy funding. Shaffer’s opponent, incumbent Republican Cory Gardner, now appears unstoppable.
Shaffer has raised just $551,039 compared to Gardner’s $1,818,160. The only contribution he received from his party until June was a $20.84 in-kind payment from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — and that was tagged for Internet development.
Then on June 7, he received a modest $333 from the Boulder County Democratic Party. Two weeks later, the DCCC donated $5,000. But there was still nothing from Pelosi, who meanwhile gave $4,000 each to Sal Pace and Joe Miklosi, Democratic state legislators also running for Congress. Pace has also received an additional $12,000 from various Democratic committees, and Miklosi has received more than $7,000, Federal Election Commission documents showed.
Shaffer has tried to put the best face on his anemic fundraising.
“Since the very beginning this has been a grassroots campaign, and over 3,000 people have invested in Brandon’s campaign,” Shaffer campaign manager Kim Howard said in an email response. “Ninety-seven percent of our contributions come from Colorado individuals. Our campaign is very clearly funded and directed by the people of Colorado. We’ve been able to build a strong campaign because of our generous grassroots supporters.”
Funding is hardly Shaffer’s only problem.
He was shafted by his own party last year when the Democrats won a bitter redistricting battle with Republicans. As part of the compromise, Democrats moved Shaffer’s hometown of Longmont out of the 4th District and into the neighboring district of multimillionaire Democratic congressman Jared Polis.
Shaffer vigorously fought the redistricting while accepting Hoyer’s invitation to run — only to find out six months later that his base of political support now belonged to Polis. His own 4th District was suddenly 56 percent Republican.
If that weren’t enough, Shaffer has made a series of gaffes that have provided great fodder in the press:
- He used a state email account to send out an endorsement for now-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
- He did not include a mandatory disclaimer from the Department of Defense when issuing a campaign email highlighting his military service complete with his photo in a Navy uniform
- The same disclaimer issue cropped up with a TV ad that debuted this week
- When a Denver Post reporter asked about his legislative battle with Republican state lawmakers, he compared himself to rape victims.
His record of voting for tax increases — and, in one case, even working to eliminate a senior-citizen tax break — has been widely criticized.
Still, Shaffer forges ahead with the race. He issued a press release this week that says an internal poll shows him gaining ground on Gardner, and the race tightening to 40 percent to 37 percent.
“The poll also shows Cory Gardner’s negative job rating increasing,” Shaffer claimed. “Nearly half of all voters in the district have a negative view of his performance. This is not surprising given his votes to slash education funding and end Medicare as we know it.
“Possibly the best news from the entire poll is that the more voters learn about my priorities as a veteran and education champion, in contrast to Cory Gardner’s special-interest backed agenda, the more they support me,” Shaffer said in a statement.
Pelosi’s campaign office did not return a call seeking comment.
Contact Tori Richards at email@example.com.