Facebook Twitter

Governor hopefuls awash in funds

2 who’ve spent the most leading GOP field, poll finds

SHARE Governor hopefuls awash in funds

Deseret Morning News graphic

Money is pouring into the Republican race for governor, with one candidate spending more than $2 million and another nearly $750,000, according to campaign disclosures released Monday.

Meanwhile, a poll of the state GOP delegates — the 3,500 individuals who will be voting on the gubernatorial candidates in Saturday's state Republican convention — shows the two spending the most are also leading the eight-person GOP field.

Monday evening was the filing deadline for campaign financial statements. Those reports, along with some money spent by candidates' political action committees, show $5.23 million has been raised and $4.62 million spent by the GOP gubernatorial hopefuls.

Millionaire medical company executive Fred Lampropoulos has — as best as the Deseret Morning News can determine — raised $2.49 million and spent $2.31 million. He has clearly set a new record in pre-convention spending in a major Utah contest.

That total includes his campaign account, his political action committee, and $325,000 that his top aides say Lampropoulos spent out of his own pocket in 2003 to buy radio time for his "just thought you'd like to know" homilies on what's right with America. The $325,000 doesn't appear on any report. His aides say the expenditure falls outside campaign reporting law because it was made before Lampropoulos was a declared candidate.

More than 98 percent of the cash going to Lampropoulos' various committees came from Lampropoulos, his immediate family and top executives of his $500 million firm, Merit Medical Systems Inc.

Spending the second-largest amount is Jon Huntsman Jr. He has raised $846,355. Of that total, $337,000 comes from his extended family, the family-controlled Huntsman Chemical and from people and firms currently or formerly associated with the chemical giant.

Coming in third was former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen with $310,200. Almost $120,000 of that came from his old House campaign committee.

Democrat Scott Matheson Jr., unopposed in his party, did not have to file a campaign report Monday.

However, in a news release Matheson said he's raised $467,627 and spent only $51,874, leaving him $391,343 in cash as he awaits the Republican nominee.

LaVarr Webb, a member of the Exoro lobbying and consulting firm, said a survey paid for by his firm of 1,335 of the 3,500 state GOP delegates shows Huntsman with a lead over Lampropoulos. Huntsman has 25 percent of the first-place votes in the preferential voting tally, said Webb, who also co-writes a political column for the Deseret Morning News.

Lampropoulos has 17 percent of the first-place votes.

The field then falls away, with Gov. Olene Walker (13 percent), House Utah Speaker Marty Stephens (9 percent), Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras (9 percent) and former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen (7 percent). State Sen. Parley Hellewell and Gary Benson only tallied a few percentage points each, Webb said.

However, accurate polling with a preferential ballot system is difficult, Webb admitted.

Saturday, delegates will list their candidate preferences one through eight. As the least-popular candidate drops off in each round of voting, the remaining candidates may end up with more first-place votes. "Who knows what will really happen in the state convention," said Webb.

Some interesting information from the financial statements:

Benson: He has entirely self-funded his campaign — to the tune of $4,000.

Hansen: The former congressman drew on his national constituents for support, drawing checks from out-of-state donors, including $30,000 from two people in Minnesota.

Hellewell: To the surprise of some, he came in fourth on the big money list. A successful plumbing and heating contractor, Hellewell has raised nearly $300,000, but most of that is his own money.

The total may be inflated. He shows a $125,000 contribution from the Steven Stone family and then a $125,000 payment to the Steven Stone family for consulting.

Huntsman: Rarely do leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give money in partisan races. But Huntsman's grandfather, LDS Quorum of the Twelve member Elder David B. Haight, gave $5,000.

Huntsman Chemical owns several jets. Huntsman has flown on the corporate jet at least three times to county GOP conventions and other campaign-related events — an in-kind donation totaling $11,250.

The Eccles banking family has given $8,000. The Marriott hotel family, $10,500. Ann Romney, wife of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, gave $10,000.

Karras: The member of the state Board of Regents (the higher education governing body) and former House speaker has raised his money from dozens of Utah businesses and individuals, usually several hundred dollars at a time. Karras' campaign was supported by donations from Envirocare owner Khosrow Semnani, developer Steve Creamer and David Simmons of the Zions Banking family. But $100,000 came from Karras' own bank account.

Lampropoulos: The gregarious CEO has set a new record in wooing state delegates. He's invited them down to Tuacahn, paid for a concert by Beatles impersonators and arranged for discounted hotel rooms. Most contributions beyond his own come from his partners and officers in Merit Medical and his son Bryan. But even his ex-wife gave him money.

Stephens: The current House speaker got big chunks of money from current and former legislators, including Kevin Garn and current House Whip Jeff Alexander. His choice for lieutenant governor, Sen. Tom Hatch of Panguitch, gave him $4,000. Stephens also got money from the banking community. His largest contribution of $30,000 came from Robert Lichfield of La Verkin, Washington County, who owns a group of troubled-youth homes.

Walker: Larry Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and a dozen car dealerships, gave Walker $10,000, which came as a surprise to the Huntsman campaign.

"He's in our ads, he was at the unveiling of our economic development plan and he's a loyal supporter," said Huntsman campaign spokesman Jason Chaffetz. "He was the first contributor to our campaign."

So what about the donation to Walker? "Good for him," Chaffetz said.

Walker loaned her campaign $20,000 and gave another $51,000 from her Governor's Special Projects account.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com;spang@desnews.com; bbjr@desnews.com;spang@desnews.com.