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Candidates set records in fund-raising

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One million dollars has been raised in Utah House races this year, $635,000 in the state Senate contests.

Not only are records being set in cash flowing into state legislative races, but some incumbent legislators are building up huge campaign war chests that are clearly aimed at stopping any serious challenges in years to come.For example, Sen. Eddie Mayne, D-West Valley, has $43,032 in cash sitting in his campaign account. No wonder his Republican opponent, Duane Torsak, dropped out of the race more than a month ago.

Mayne is president of the state AFL-CIO and has received more than $17,000 from labor unions this year.

The money being raised and spent in some contests far outreaches what was considered necessary for a competitive Senate or House race just 10 years ago, the pre-election filings with Lt. Gov. Olene Walker's office that were due Tuesday show.

Sen. Dave Buhler, R-Salt Lake, is the king of cash.

He's raised $69,453 this year to hold the District 7 seat, which includes Sugar House and the Mount Olympus Cove areas. So far in this election, Buhler has spent $45,828 in his campaign against his challenger, Democrat Karen Hale. She has raised $24,150 and spent $11,822.

It's the most expensive legislative race this year so far and may end up setting a record. The totals show $93,000 raised and $58,000 spent for an office that pays about $12,000 a year in part-time salary.

While the Deseret News didn't break out all the cash given by individuals as opposed to that given by businesses, labor unions and lobbyists, it is clear from a cursory review of the reports that most of the money, as in years past, comes not from individuals in candidates' districts but from special-interest groups.

While $635,000 was raised in the 15 Senate races this year, just over $446,000 had been spent by last week, when the cut off for the latest campaign finance reports fell. That means $200,000 is sitting out there to be spent over the last 10 days of the election or there will be some pretty hefty campaign accounts around to discourage challengers in 2002.

The 75 House races see even a greater discrepancy. While just over $1 million has been raised in those races, only about $770,000 has been spent, leaving $230,000 to be spent in 10 days or saved in campaign accounts.

Five candidates, only one being from a major party, failed to file a report by the 5 p.m. deadline, says Walker.

Democrat Cindy Barton-Coombs' status is unclear. Walker says Barton-Coombs called her office at seven minutes to 5 p.m. Tuesday asking for a blank form to be faxed to her. The form, filled out, was faxed back at 5:36 p.m., past the 5 p.m. deadline set in law. Barton-Coombs couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

"I'll decide very soon" whether to accept the late filing or order Barton-Coombs' name removed from the Nov. 3 ballot in District 54, says Walker. "I'll do what I can, but is a telephone call before 5 p.m. `good faith' in trying to file on time?" she asked.

Barton-Coombs is an underdog in the Uinta Basin race. Her report shows she's only raised $100 and spent $454 compared with GOP candidate Gordon Snow's $9,869 in contributions and $5,608 in spending. The seat has been held by a Republican for more than 20 years.

Here are some campaign fund-raising highlights:

- Sen. Nathan Tanner, R-Ogden, must be planning a big push this week. He has raised $21,000 but only spent $7,000 in a tight contest with Democratic challenger Edgar Allen. Allen has raised $23,880 and spent $20,000. (Tanner, you may recall, was out of the country when the Sept. 15 drop-dead campaign finance filing deadline fell and had a son-in-law file a report for him showing all zeros. Democrats demanded Walker strike Tanner's name from the ballot, as a new law allows, and threatened to sue if she didn't. Walker said Tanner's filing was in good faith and accepted it. Allen asked the state party not to go to court and the matter was dropped.)

- As expected, it looks like a tough battle in the Cottonwood Heights' area District 41 will be the most expensive House race. Democratic Rep. Patrice Arent has raised $37,558 and spent $21,177. GOP challenger Athelia Woolley has raised $29,552 and spent $15,201.

Arent is targeted for defeat by the state Republican Party, which has given Woolley $10,800 so far, reports show.

- House District 41 is also a close battle. There, Democratic Rep. Perry Buckner is challenged by Republican Max Meng. Meng was actually endorsed by the state AFL-CIO, a rare time where an incumbent Democrat didn't get labor's backing. Labor union officials had a bitter fight with Buckner over one of his bills last year. But, reports show, Meng didn't get any labor money. And Buckner got $4,000 from teacher unions (who aren't members of the AFL-CIO). Buckner has raised $19,125 and spent $15,289, while Meng has raised $16,839 and spent the same amount. Meng has also put $1,865 of his own money into the race and received $5,000 from the state GOP.

- While he made the filing deadline, Rep. Dave Ure's report is incomplete and election officials couldn't determine how much he's raised and spent. Besides a missing summary page, Ure also has some of the worst handwriting in the House and his reports are difficult to decipher. He sometimes puts question marks behind contributions and expenditures as if he himself doesn't remember the actual amounts. His Democratic opponent, Greg Miner, has raised $17,232 and spent $16,768 in the Park City-based House race.