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Oil and gas money pours into Thornton mayoral race, voters raise concerns about influence

Jan Kulmann has raised $70,005 thus far
Posted at 7:16 PM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 21:16:31-04

THORNTON, Colo. -- Critics say a candidate running for mayor in Thornton has a built-in conflict of interest, but Jan Kulmann says her background as an oil and gas engineer gives her expertise and the tens of thousands of dollars energy employees have donated to her campaign 'isn't unusual.'

"To me it looks bad, especially when it doesn't look like she has the interests of the residents of Thornton," said voter Peni Caven.

Caven said she worries what kind of influence the outside money from oil and gas will bring with it, and if it could bring fracking inside Thornton's city limits.

"If there's oil to be had, if Jan's in office, they'll be coming after it," she said. "That's my concern."

Kulmann is currently the city's Mayor Pro Tem and campaign finance records show she has raised $70,005.05 as of the Oct. 15, 2019 filing report.

As a point of comparison, the next highest fundraiser raised less than half that. Mayoral candidate Beth Martinez Humenik raised $20,140.50 during the same time period, according to records.

Kulmann's campaign finance report shows oil and gas employees and energy companies donated more than $13,000 to her mayoral race, including large donations from PDC Energy, KP Kaufmann, and Extraction Oil and Gas.

Kulmann contributed $20,970 of her own money to the campaign where she listed her employer as Whiting Petroleum and her occupation as direction, reports show.

"When somebody's taking all their contributions from big corporations, oil and gas, and real estate, that should speak for itself," said Caven.

Kulmann declined Denver7's request for an interview.

"It's no secret I work in the oil and gas industry. I have been transparent about this for the last six years I have served on council," Kulmann said in a statement provided by her campaign manager. "Because of the job, it isn't unusual that my colleagues would donate to my campaign."

"It's terrible, it should not happen. Just plain and simple. Nobody should work for an industry, they should be working for the people," said Caven.

There are currently no active well permits in the Thornton, but there is drilling close by in unincorporated Adams County and some fear it could come within city limits soon.