Prepare for more big outside money to flood Utah political races.
FreedomWorks — a tea-party group that has spent $782,000 so far this year against Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — vowed Thursday to start doing the same against Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
FreedomWorks formally endorsed Matheson’s GOP opponent, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, and vowed at least to match the $50,000 that it spent against Matheson two years ago.
“Mia Love is the real deal for conservatives. … She’s very innovative, and she’s an exciting candidate,” said Russ Walker, FreedomWorks’ national political director.
“In the 2010 election, we worked very hard to unseat Jim Matheson. I think we spent just over $50,000 in that race,” he said, adding it would make a similar effort this year. “We will be spending the resources we think are necessary to help deliver a victory for Mia Love, and I think others will, too.”
He said in 2010, Matheson’s close race against Morgan Philpot “just didn’t get the national attention it deserved. This cycle it will. So we will be spending significant resources.”
FreedomWorks makes large independent expenditures in races and by law cannot coordinate with candidates’ campaigns. It also spent heavily against Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, two years ago, and claims credit for helping to defeat him after three terms in office.
Meanwhile, the group formally endorsed Dan Liljenquist in the June 26 GOP primary against Hatch.
“We’re super excited about Dan. Dan is a fantastic young legislator, who as a freshman legislator was able to do something that is almost unheard of in the political world, which is reform the pension system of the state,” Walker said. FreedomWorks volunteers will be delivering information to homes about Utah’s Senate race and the 4th Congressional District seat — but said spending in the two races may not overlap much beyond that.
“Dan’s Senate race will most likely be decided in the primary,” Walker said, figuring Hatch or Liljenquist can beat Democrat Scott Howell in the Nov. 6 general election.