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Biggest loser: Bloomberg’s election spending won little for departing NYC mayor

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DENVER — The biggest loser in this year's Colorado election cycle may have been New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Colorado voters kicked the mayor to the curb at the ballot box again, rejecting a proposed statewide income-tax hike backed by Mr. Bloomberg just two months after ushering out two Democratic state senators who supported his gun-control agenda.

Mr. Bloomberg sunk $1 million into the $10 million campaign for Amendment 66, a proposed $1 billion tax increase to fund K-12 education. Despite an enormous spending advantage — opponents of the ballot measure only raised about $20,000 — Amendment 66 lost by a whopping 66 percent to 34 percent.

The lopsided defeat comes after Mr. Bloomberg was unable to save Democratic state Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse in the Sept. 10 recall election, even though both Democrats enjoyed a huge funding edge, thanks in part to a $350,000 donation from the mayor.

To top it all off, voters in the town of Telluride, Colo., doused a proposal Tuesday to add an excise tax to sales of sugary soda pop. After gun control, the mayor may be best known for his fight to limit consumption of sugary soft drinks.

Mr. Bloomberg can't say he wasn't warned.

Even Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, hinted last month that the mayor's involvement may have been hurting more than helping, telling USA Today that Coloradans "don't really like outside organizations meddling in their affairs."

Foes of the tax increase were in full I-told-you-so mode Wednesday after election returns showed Mr. Bloomberg suffering another ignominious defeat.

"Bloomberg is now 0 for 3 in Colorado in 2013. When will this guy learn to just stay away?" said Morse recall organizer Rob Harris in a message on Twitter.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman released a statement Wednesday calling Amendment 66 "another example of the countless extreme liberal policies being promoted and funded in Colorado by out-of-state billionaires."

Referring to both Mr. Bloomberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who chipped in another $1 million to the tax-hike campaign, Mr. Cadman added that he hoped the next legislative session would reflect "the will of the people — I mean those who actually live here."

Colorado has become an irresistible testing ground for out-of-state political players promoting their issues because of the state's small size, purple-state credentials and relatively inexpensive media markets. The population is just 5 million, and the Denver media market is ranked 17th in the nation and Colorado Springs-Pueblo is ranked 90th.

What Mr. Bloomberg's recent misadventures show is that money can't always buy votes, analysts say.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg should think about a different post-mayor career. Investing in Colorado elections is not only a losing proposition, but his name and money is counterproductive," Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said in a Wednesday blog post.

"And while Amendment 66 was ill-positioned from its inception, Bloomberg did not help and possibly reinforced, if not initiated, some late 'no' votes," Mr. Ciruli said. "Move on Michael, move on."

Mr. Bloomberg fared better Tuesday in Virginia, where he contributed nearly $2 million to help elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor.

Stu Loeser, spokesman for Independence USA, a Bloomberg-financed political-action committee, said the mayor has no intention of stepping out of the political arena, especially when it comes to cracking down on firearms.

"We've done it in New York, we can do it in other places, and Michael Bloomberg is going continue to help candidates across the country who support commonsense gun laws," Mr. Loeser said in a conference call. "He's going to help them get their message out. The specifics of what that means are things you will see over the next weeks and months, more like months and year."

Before plowing more money into Colorado, however, analysts say Mr. Bloomberg may want to think twice, or at least make his contributions less transparent.

"He's been rejected three times in Colorado. I don't know what interest he has here," said GOP state Rep. Frank McNulty. "But if he's going to continue to put his name behind his millions, I think that's good for Republicans."

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