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In Utah legislative races most challengers outspent — but not all

Published October 31, 2012 4:32 pm

Republican Lampropoulos pours more than $50,000 into campaign, including TV ads.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Republican Anne-Marie Lampropoulos spent nearly $53,000 on her Utah House race in just the past two months, including the unusual — and expensive — step for a nonstatewide race of buying TV and radio ads.

"I'm running against an entrenched politician. She's been there 12 years, so it's taking a lot to get my message out," Lampropoulos says.

The incumbent she is challenging, Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, says, "I've never had this kind of money thrown at me before for negative advertising. ... I think it's overkill to do TV and radio. This is for a part-time job that pays $20,000 a year, for heaven's sake."

They are waging what for Utah's Legislature is becoming a rarity — a truly competitive race, at least financially. Most races are lopsided, but new financial disclosure forms filed Tuesday show a dozen or so where candidates are engaged in truly competitive spending that is significant, or close. A chart of some key races is online at sltrib.com.

Those hotly contested races include five with Democratic incumbents, and four with GOP incumbents — and four races for open seats.

Besides Moss, other Democratic incumbents in races that are competitive financially include Democratic Reps. Patrice Arent of Millcreek — who spent $21,663 compared to $11,838 by challenger Dana Dickson; Tim Cosgrove of Murray, who spent $11,573 compared to $18,476 by challenger Christy Achziger; and Mark Wheatley of Murray, who spent $10,586 compared to $14,439 spent by GOP challenger Casey Fitts.

House District 30 in West Valley City features an incumbent of each party, put together through redistricting. Republican Fred Cox spent $23,705 in the past two months, compared to $10,366 by Fisher.

Among other GOP House incumbents in competitive races financially are Kraig Powell of Heber, who spent $14,929 in the past two months compared to $21,472 spent by Democrat Chris Robinson; LaVar Christensen of Draper, who spent $8,405 compared to the $14,321 spent by Democrat Alain Balmanno; and Johnny Anderson of Taylorsville, who spent $19,368 compared to Democrat Celina Milner's $13,187.

Most other races are not close in spending. As a further sign of how noncompetitive many Utah legislative races are, 14 candidates are now unopposed. In six other races, Republicans face only minor-party candidates this year.

Lampropoulos, spouse of big GOP donor Fred Lampropoulos, gives some reasons why she spent so much, and was able to raise nearly all of it from others. She spent the most among legislative candidates over the past two months — $52,776, or more than double the $23,662 Moss spent.

"Instead of giving her [Moss] a 13th or 14th year in office, I have a lot of people contributing to my race because they think it's time for a new voice," Lampropoulos said. She turned that into plenty of TV and radio ads, billboards, robocalls, mailers, print ads and lawn signs — including some attacking Moss for letting the state pay for hotel rooms for her during the Legislature, instead of driving home nearby.

"I think the big spending and negative ads have backfired on her. People don't like it," contends Moss, a retired high school English teacher. "It's actually helped my fundraising. It led more people to come to me who want to help because of what they have seen." She says she is using traditional grassroots campaigning to try to overcome Lampropoulos's spending.

Meanwhile, not only is Wheatley in one of the state's most competitive races, so is his spouse, Josie Valdez, who is running for the state Senate. They are vying to become the first husband-wife team serving in the Legislature at the same time.

Valdez spent $24,240 in the past two months compared to $51,851 by Republican Brian Shiozawa — which was second in spending only to Lampropoulos. —

Ousted

The office of Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell says Brent L. Andrews of Sunset — a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 20 — failed to file a campaign financial disclosure form before the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline, so he will be disqualified from the election as required by law.

That is good news for his opponent, Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, who now will be unopposed.

Mark Thomas, state elections director for Bell, said his office was on the phone with Andrews shortly before the deadline urging him to file quickly. "He argued with us that the deadline wasn't until next week and hung up," Thomas said. "So we're going to pull the trigger" on removing him from the ballot.

Andrews did not immediately return calls to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Lee Davidson