Candidates vying for a seat on the Boulder City Council, and the political organizers supporting them and other causes, have filed their first campaign finance reports of the 2023 election season, providing an early glimpse into their financial situations ahead of the high-stakes election.
In all, candidates and organizers have raised more than $182,000, according to the city’s latest campaign finance reports. This amount is tracking similarly to the 2021 election, which generated about $220,000 in total campaign contributions.
Five seats on the Boulder City Council are up for election this year, meaning a majority is up for grabs. Also, for the first time, voters will directly elect a city mayor.
Councilmember Bob Yates, who is running for mayor, has so far raised nearly $30,000. That’s the most money of any city council candidate and more than all his rivals in the race for mayor combined.
This is partially due to his decision to not accept taxpayer-funded matching funds. As a result, he can raise — and spend — as much money as he wants on mailers, advertisements, yard signs and other campaign activities.
City code prohibits donations to candidates exceeding $100, regardless of whether they accept matching funds.
By comparison, two other candidates for mayor — Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmemeber Nicole Speer — have each raised about $13,000. (This total includes personal loans that they made to their own campaigns.)
Both Brocket and Speer are accepting a public match of up to $11,305. In doing so, they have agreed to spend no more than $22,610 this year. That expenditure limit is set based on the number of registered voters plus inflation, according to the city’s election rules. The other mayoral candidate, Paul Tweedlie, has contributed $575 to his own campaign and has not reported any other donations.
In addition to the expenditure limit, candidates accepting city funds can only take money from individuals — not LLCs, corporations, nonprofits or other entities.
Such restrictions will not apply to Yates. All of his more than 300 donations appear to have come from individuals.
In all, the 10 city council candidates have raised about $83,000 (not including mayoral candidates). The public match for these candidates, which most have accepted, adds another $76,000 to the sum. Most of the money so far has been spent on printing mailers and yard signs.
The amount candidates have raised so far is just one indicator of how much money might be spent to support them. Individuals can make unlimited “independent expenditures” for or against a candidate. Separately, unofficial candidate committees can raise and spend money supporting groups of candidates. One committee supporting Bob Yates, Boulder Elevated, has raised about $4,600. Boulder Progressives, a committee supporting Brockett and Speer, has raised about $2,400.
Unlike city council candidates, there is no limit on how much ballot measure committees can raise or spend.
The Safe Zones 4 Kids campaign has raised the most money of the ballot measure campaigns, totaling more than $18,000. The group is backing an initiative that would make tents and propane tanks near schools, multi-use paths and sidewalks “subject to prioritized removal” by the city.
The Safe Zones 4 Kids campaign’s top donors include Jennifer Rhodes, an organizer with the campaign, and Dan Caruso, a local tech investor. They each donated $3,000 to support the initiative.
By comparison, the Solutions Not Safe Zones campaign, which was set up to oppose the ballot measure, has raised nearly $4,000. The top contributor, Andy Sayler, a computer scientist and organizer with the campaign, donated about $1,100.
The Yes on 2A campaign, which is seeking to pass a ballot measure to reauthorize a sales tax and use half of the revenue for arts and culture programs, has raised about $9,000. The organization’s top donors include the Parlando School of Musical Arts, a local music school, and Butterfly Effect Theatre of Colorado (BETC), a local performing arts organization. Both donated about $2,000.
These campaigns are likely to raise more money ahead of the Nov. 7 election. By comparison, the 2021 Bedrooms Are For People ballot measure, which would have raised the city’s occupancy limits, generated nearly $30,000 in contributions.
The next campaign finance reports are due on Oct. 10.
Clarification: This story was updated on Sept. 29 to make clear that the total money raised by Aaron Brockett and Nicole Speer includes loans they each made to their own campaigns. Brockett loaned his campaign about $1,600. Speer loaned hers about $2,100.