AURORA | Among the hundreds of thousands of dollars Aurora mayoral candidates are spending on phone banking, consulting and event hosting, the group of hopefuls are spending their donations in some unexpected ways, too. 

Candidates are required to track who their donations come from and how it’s spent. Typically, campaign finance reports divulge a bevy of anticipated expenditures, like pizza for volunteers, stamps or newspaper ads. Mixed in recent reports are items like cell phones and meetings related to legal fees.

Candidate Renie Peterson, the former Ward II councilwoman, reported she dropped nearly $650 at the Cherry Creek Apple Store for a cell phone. Omar Montgomery also reports he’s spent money on a wireless services, from Cricket Wireless, about $200 in all.

Peterson said she checked with the Aurora city clerk’s office to confirm it was an acceptable expenditure, and was warned by the office that though it was, she’d probably still have to field calls from the Sentinel about that particular spending.

“My cell phone died and I needed a cell phone for getting email, direction, keeping up with the campaign and everything. Of course, you can’t be without a phone,” she said.

Mike Coffman, who has out-raised and out-spent everybody in the race, reported he spent $475 for Spanish lessons from Giuliana Consulting Services. Coffman has made language study a priority since his days as a Congressman. 

He told the Sentinel last year he’d wake up at 5 a.m. to fit the training into his schedule. Spanish workbooks and flashcards were often a staple on his office bookshelf in social media photos. He also regularly appeared on Spanish radio and television and held town hall meetings in Spanish.

“Being fluent in Spanish is important in order to be able to directly listen to the concerns and challenges of the Hispanic Immigrant community, the largest immigrant community in the City of Aurora, and to share my views with them without the need of an interpreter,” Coffman said in an email. “It is also a sign of respect for the Hispanic community; I even speak in Spanish to Hispanic immigrants who understand English.”

Tiffany Grays, a write-in candidate who failed to meet the required number of petition signatures, has reportedly spent nearly $1,000 on legal fees. She reports $80 in transportation, related to legal costs. Grays has been battling the city to get her name on the ballot, arguing that she was wrongfully left off.

She lost that fight last week, she reported on her campaign’s Facebook page. An Arapahoe County district judge apparently dismissed Grays’ claims that she was treated unfairly by the Aurora city clerk.

One more campaign finance report from the candidates is due to the city before Election Day. Candidates also have to report donations and spendings 30 days after.

— KARA MASON, Staff Writer