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Democratic challengers in CD6 race face tough time raising dough

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By AJ Vicens

Although nearly 18 months remain in the race for the 6th Congressional District seat, an early look shows that the two Democratic challengers are facing hurdles when it comes to fund-raising.

"It's been slow," says John Flerlage, one of two Democrats running to oust Rep. Mike Coffman from his congressional perch in November 2010. Flerlage, a South Jeffco Democrat, says his fund-raising has been difficult because of the economy.

Flerlage is running against Highlands Ranch Democrat David Canter for the Democratic nomination in the 6th District, which represents most of Jefferson, Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert counties, along with a small portion of Park County. The candidate who wins the primary will face Coffman in the 2010 November general election.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Flerlage and Canter were way behind Coffman in terms of cash on hand for the 2010 campaign as of March 31, which is the most recent available data. Flerlage had $6,281, and Canter had $5,620. Coffman had $185,111.

Coffman and Canter each carried significant campaign debt at the end of March. Coffman reported more than $72,000 in debt, and Canter reported $11,326. Flerlage reported just $851.

"The reality is that we have to spend money to get money," Canter said. "There are some significant operational costs just to bring the money in." Canter added that a large chunk of his campaign debt is actually money owed to him because he put personal money into the campaign.

Coffman, an Aurora Republican, was unavailable for comment last week.

Flerlage said avoiding large amounts of debt is part of his strategy.

"It shows that I'm going to be responsible with every penny and every minute people donate," Flerlage said.

Both Democrats are going to have to find ways to raise a lot more money by the time the campaigning moves into high gear in early 2010. Coffman raised $1.4 million to win the race last year, compared with the $273,000 raised by his Democratic opponent, Hank Eng.

One way to raise more money is to have just one Democrat running. But both are confident that they'll be the Democrat to take Coffman on.

"I don't have any doubt about it," Flerlage said when asked if he'll be the nominee.

Canter is also confident.

"My confidence level is still high," Canter said. "I believe I'm the right candidate for this district."

The two are taking very different approaches to the race. Flerlage is attending all the events he can and trying to pile up endorsements, and Canter is working the phones and talking to people throughout the district about fund-raising.

Flerlage said he'd like to get endorsed by as many Democrats that have run for the 6th Congressional District as he can. He's also trying to line up endorsements from other well-known Democrats, hoping they will translate into campaign donations. So far he's been endorsed by former Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former 5th Congressional District candidate Cal Johnston and Jeffco Commissioner Kathy Hartman. Flerlage, who is a long-haul airline pilot, also been endorsed by several airline pilots associations.

Canter says he has endorsements, but he's waiting to unveil them.

"I do have a number of endorsements that I'm holding in my back pocket," Canter said. He plans to unveil them in July.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

To learn more about the three candidates running for the 6th Congressional District, visit their websites:

• John Flerlage: www.flerlageforcongress.com

• David Canter: www.canterforcongress.com

• Mike Coffman: www.coffmanforcongress.com