Conservation Colorado today released its 2014 Electoral Memo and 2014 Elections Report* about our work to elect pro-conservation candidates to the Colorado legislature and the governor’s office. Enclosed is a statement from Executive Director Pete Maysmith and the body of our electoral memo:

“When it comes to protecting our air, land, water, and unique quality of life, who we elect matters. Conservation Colorado has a proven track record of running targeted, effective state legislative campaigns and 2014 marks the largest electoral program in our history. In a challenging election year, Conservation Colorado made a decisive difference in key state legislative races across Colorado while elevating issues of water conservation, public lands protection and continuing our leadership in the clean, renewable energy economy. We know Coloradans support candidates who protect our outdoor heritage and stand up for our unique quality of life; Conservation Colorado proudly stands with our conservation champions elected to office.”  – Pete Maysmith, Executive Director

*The Elections Report is less in depth than Electoral Memo but more graphical.

November 14, 2014
To: Interested Parties
From: Conservation Colorado
Re: 2014 Elections

We know that when it comes to protecting our air, land, water, and unique quality of life, who we elect matters. That is why Conservation Colorado supports pro-environment candidates and works hard to help them win election.

With that in mind, we entered 2014 with two electoral goals – 1) make a decisive difference in key state legislative and other races across Colorado, and 2) elevate the issues of water conservation, public lands protection and renewable energy as we tackle climate change.

On an election night that was decidedly mixed, we made significant progress toward both of our goals. We won 84% of the races we endorsed in, 42 out of 50, including a race we went all in for – electing newcomer to the state Senate, Kerry Donovan. Governor Hickenlooper defeated anti-environment challenger Bob Beauprez, focusing on his radical agenda of the state seizing America’s public land and eventually selling them off to the oil and gas industry.

We fought hard to help maintain a pro-environment majority in the Colorado House, while unfortunately, the state Senate lost it’s pro-conservation leadership. However, with the victory of Leroy Garcia and Mike Merrifield we took back two key state Senate seats lost in the 2013 recall elections.

Conservation Colorado also stood behind several up and coming pro-conservation stars by going into their races big and early.  We are excited to work with Representative-elects Jessie Danielson, Jeni Arndt and our own Faith Winter in the 2015 Legislative session.

All told, Conservation Colorado was a major factor this election season – spending over $950,000 – three times more than we have ever spent on elections before.

Finally, while our work on federal races is limited, we were saddened by the electoral loss of our long time friend and ally Mark Udall.  However, we took solace in that, once again, to win statewide in Colorado, candidates must support conservation issues (or at least act like it as Cory Gardner demonstrated with his wind farm ad).

Our job going forward is to hold all those elected to office accountable to the fundamental Colorado values of protecting our great state’s environment and preserving our unique quality of life.

 Conservation Colorado 2014 Political Program

Conservation Colorado employed the full spectrum of sophisticated and targeted field, paid media and grassroots to support our conservation candidates.

Total Spending – $957,000, including $100,000 in direct contributions to candidates from our PACs and via our board members.

Total Targeted Voters – 150,000 in 5 districts
Radio – 3,500+ radio spots spread across a total of 12 weeks
Mail pieces – 29 mail pieces reaching over 150,000 targeted voters
Phones – 240,000+ phone calls
Canvass – 45,000 doors knocked
Digital Advertising – 6.1 million online impressions (the number of times digital ads were displayed on the computers of targeted voters)

Conservation Colorado Board, Staff, and Volunteers tripled their efforts from previous campaigns spending  164 hours knocking on 4,400 doors and 147 hours making nearly 3,000 calls.

For samples of campaign mail pieces, radio spots and digital advertising, see the Battleground Races link on our website.

Key Issues

Much of the messaging in five contests we targeted was around water, public lands protections and growing the clean energy economy. Coloradans consistently show strong support for pro-conservation candidates, tendencies that cut across party affiliation and demographics. In fact, the 2014 Colorado College State of the Rockies poll found 76% of Coloradans are more likely to support a candidate who promotes clean, renewable energy like wind and solar while 72% are more likely to support candidates who will enhance protections for public lands. The same poll found 78% of Coloradans favor water conservation efforts over water diversions.

Clean Energy Leadership – While Colorado has emerged as a national leader in promoting clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, including an expansion to the renewable energy standard in 2013, we were forced to fight off half a dozen attacks during the 2014 legislative session. Electing more pro-conservation candidates is critical to our leadership in the clean energy economy, a sector that’s already employing more than 22,000 Coloradans, reducing air pollution and promoting energy independence.

Closely linked to clean energy is the necessity to tackle climate change. The good news is that Colorado has been a national leader when it comes to combating climate change. Of course, there is far more to do. Colorado is already feeling the impacts of climate change, from extreme weather and reduced snowpack to unhealthy forests with more intense fires and decreasing crop yields.

Fortunately, Coloradans increasingly get it — polls released just before election day show that 60% of Colorado voters recognize the threat of climate change and support by equal margins the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan that would for the first time address carbon pollution at our nation’s power plants. Our job is to translate this groundswell of public support into concrete action.

Preserving our Outdoor Heritage – The last several legislative sessions have seen numerous attempts to devolve control of national public lands to the State. These efforts would cost Coloradans millions to properly manage the lands and remove important protections for fishing, hunting and camping. Not to mention, such a move would potentially open our lands to be sold to private development and fossil fuel interests. Electing more pro-conservation candidates means defending our most iconic public lands, as well as our $13.2 billion outdoor recreation economy.

 Protecting our Water Resources – Colorado faces an imminent gap between our water supply and our water demand. As our population continues to grow, developing innovative strategies to conserve water is the most critical way for Colorado to meet this ever increasing need. Still, water conservation measures have been controversial at the state legislature and few proposed solutions consider the importance of healthy rivers to our economy and outdoor heritage.  Water conservation was a key issue in our election work, bringing more awareness to the urgency of  crafting a plan for our water’s future.

2014 Race Highlights

Colorado State Senate

  • Senate District 3 (challenger): Representative Leroy Garcia (elected) – supported senator-elect Garcia in taking back a 2013 recall seat.

  • Senate District 5 (open seat): Kerry Donovan (elected) – see below

  • Senate District 16 (incumbent): Senator Jeanne Nicholson (not elected) – conservation champion in battleground Jefferson County race

  • Senate District 22 (incumbent): Senator Andy Kerr (elected)  – conservation champion in battleground Jefferson County race

  • Senate District 11 (challenger): Michael Merrifield (elected) – supported senator-elect Merrifield in taking back a 2013 recall seat.

Colorado State House

  • House District 3 (incumbent): Representative Daniel Kagan (elected) – see below

  • House District 24 (open seat): Jessie Danielson (elected) – Conservation Colorado endorsed in the primary.

  • House District 59 (incumbent): Representative Mike McLachlan (currently losing by 160 votes) – see below

  • House District 35 (open seat): Faith Winter (elected) – Former Conservation Colorado staffer with a bright future.

  • House District 53 (open seat): Jeni Arndt (elected) – future champ on water and other environmental issues.

2014 Political Program Highlights

Senate District 5: Kerry Donovan (D-Vail)

The 5th Senate District – spanning Salida to Gunnison, Delta to Aspen and Edwards to Vail – represents some of Colorado’s most iconic public lands. Kerry Donovan ran on fighting to protect the district’s open spaces, outdoor heritage and outdoor recreation economy, while promoting clean, renewable energy jobs. We highlighted Kerry’s support for protecting our rivers and streams and their importance to Colorado’s environment and economy. We also pointed out that her opponent – Don Suppes – named to the national “Dirty Dozen in the States” list – supported seizing our national public lands and potentially selling them off to the highest bidder, resulting in fewer places to hunt, fish, hike and camp.

Donovan won by 1,063 votes.

–  Canvass – Conservation Colorado knocked on doors throughout this central mountains district, going door to door in sixteen communities across seven counties. The canvass targeted over 6,000 doors and 10,000 individuals. Conservation Colorado knocked on every targeted door at least two times for a total of over 17,000 knocks.

–   Radio – Conservation Colorado ran three radio spots across the district for a total of eight weeks. The radio ads support Kerry Donovan for promoting renewable energy, water conservation and public lands protections, while criticizing Suppes’ extreme views on renewable energy and his desire to remove protections on public lands. Altogether, the radio program ran over 3,100 individual ads.

–   Mail – Conservation Colorado sent nine mail pieces targeting over 25,000 voters in the district. Seven pieces inform voters around issues of public lands protection, water and renewable energy, while two pieces mobilized voters to go to the polls. All together, 175,000 mail pieces were disseminated.

–   Digital – Conservation Colorado ran advertising to support Kerry Donovan online through banner ads, Facebook sidebar advertising and paid Facebook promotions. Twelve different ads ran in rotation and generated over 2.5 million impressions.

–   Phones – Conservation Colorado called over 10,000 voters across the district to educate them about the stark difference between the candidates in this race and to mobilize pro-conservation voters who may not vote in a midterm year. Over 43,000 phone calls were made in the district.

  • Small Donor Committee contribution – $4,457
  • Action Fund contribution – $374
  • Staff voter contact time – 24 hours

–   Total Program Budget – $308,000

 House District 59: Representative Mike McLachlan (D-Durango)

The 59th House District – spans from Durango to Pagosa Springs and from Telluride to Gunnison. Conservation Colorado backed Rep. McLachlan for his support of clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal, and promoting water conservation to help protect Colorado rivers and streams. McLachlan opponent J. Paul Brown had earned 28% lifetime conservation score for a previous stint in the legislature. Brown has expressed support for advancing drilling and fracking on public lands over protections and has denied human’s role in climate change.

Brown is leading by fewer than 170 votes and the race has not been called.

–  Canvass – Conservation Colorado knocked on doors throughout this Southwest Colorado district, going door to door in more than ten communities and targeting over 12,000 doors and 19,000 individuals. The canvass knocked on every targeted door three times for a total of over 28,000 knocks.

–   Radio – Conservation Colorado ran three radio spots across the district for a total of five weeks. Altogether, the radio program ran over 1,200 individual ads.

–   Mail – Conservation Colorado sent nine mail pieces targeting over 18,000 voters in the district. Six pieces informed voters around issues of water, renewable energy and responsible energy development, while three pieces mobilized voters to go to the polls. All together, over 158,000 mail pieces were disseminated.

–   Digital – Conservation Colorado ran digital advertising to support Rep. McLachlan online through banner ads, Facebook sidebar ads and paid Facebook promotions. Eight different ads ran in rotation and generated over 1.2 million impressions.

–   Phones – Conservation Colorado called thousands of voters across the district to educate them about the stark difference between the candidates in this race and mobilize pro-conservation voters who may not vote in a midterm year. The program made over 23,000 calls.

  • Small Donor Committee contribution – $4,499

  • Action Fund contribution – $400

  • Staff time voter contact time – 18 hours

–   Total Program Budget –  $212,000

Conservation Colorado staff “Boots on the Ground” Highlights:

Senate District 20: Senator Cheri Jahn

  • Small Donor Committee contribution – $4,132

  • Action Fund contribution – $400

  • Staff voter contact time – 28 hours

House District 3: Representative Daniel Kagan- House District 3

  • Small Donor Committee contribution – $2,628

  • Action Fund contribution – $400

  • Staff voter contact time – 34 hours

Key Takeaways:

  • Conservation Colorado employed the largest political program in its history with an 84% success rate winning 42 of the 50 races we endorsed in.

  • Conservation Colorado spent over $900,000 and employed the full spectrum of sophisticated and targeted field, paid media and grassroots efforts to support our conservation candidates.

  • In pre-election polling Coloradans consistently show strong support for pro-conservation candidates who endorse clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, enhance protections for public lands and favor water conservation efforts over water diversions.

  • Coloradans also support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and addressing climate change.

  • To win a statewide election in Colorado, a candidate either needs to be pro-environment or at least pretend that they are.

  • Going forward Conservation Colorado looks forward to working with our newly elected state legislators, and our existing conservation champions.

  • We will continue to hold elected officials accountable for their commitments to protecting Colorado’s environment and preserving our unique quality of life.