State Republican and Democratic conventions on Saturday could narrow races for a dozen multicounty legislative seats. But new disclosure forms Monday showed the "money race" for donations is truly close in only one of them — and the rest are runaways.
Most legislative incumbents are easily out-raising opponents. But in one race, a newcomer is far surpassing both an incumbent and a former legislator he faces. Meanwhile in an open-seat race, former Weber State University President Ann Millner has raised more than twice as much as any other legislative candidate in the state.
Of course, party officials have long argued that Utah’s convention system doesn’t require much money for a candidate to contact delegates in the kind of person-to-person campaigning that occurs at that level, so a big lead in money may not predict the outcome.
In the GOP race in House District 69 in parts of Duchesne, Carbon, Emery and Grand counties, newcomer Bill Labrum, a Roosevelt car dealer, has the most money against incumbent Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, and former Rep. Christine Watkins (who switched to the GOP after serving as a Democrat).
Labrum raised $6,450 and spent $509 — but he provided $5,000 of it himself. His other donations still outdistanced Anderson, who raised only $350 this year and has spent $196, and Watkins, who raised $700 and spent $639.
Only one other incumbent with a convention challenge on Saturday reports being outspent by a challenger. Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, was outspent by school teacher Susan Horrocks, $8,305 to $6,529.
However, Van Tassell has raised $9,500 this year to Horrocks’ $5,271 — all of which came from her own pocket. She also shows a deficit of $3,000, while Van Tassell has $10,688 in the bank.
The five other GOP incumbents facing challenges Saturday have significant money leads — Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City (a 15-1 lead in donations over former Sen. Casey Anderson); Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City (a 7-1 lead over Vicki Griffith); Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville (a 12-1 lead over Blaine Hone); Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City (outspent Blake Cozzens 2-1); and Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City (outspent Wylder Smith 58-1).
The one close money race among challengers Saturday is in House District 55 in Duchesne and Uintah counties. Rancher Scott Chew raised $1,000 and spent $500, while optician Tod Tesar raised $965 and spent $616. No Democrat has filed for the office, so the winner of the GOP race will win the seat.
Former Weber State University President Millner, a Republican seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, raised the most of any legislative candidate in the state: $60,588 — including $10,000 from Sid Foulger, a Potomac, Md., developer and Weber alumnus who recently endowed Weber’s school of music.
Millner also received donations from seven incumbent GOP legislators.
Opposing her is Lars Birkeland of Morgan, a banker and former BYU baseball player, who has raised $7,358 — eight times less than Millner. He received a donation from one legislator, Rep. Mel Brown.
In the lone Democratic legislative race on Saturday — for the Senate seat held by Thatcher — credit union manager Clare Collard outraised LeGrandPeeples $8,355 to $0.
In the GOP race for the seat of retiring Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, farmer/rancher Scott Sandall outraised Oakley Nelson $3,450 to $1,100.
If a candidate wins 60 percent of delegate votes, they proceed to the final election. Otherwise, the top two candidates face off in a primary election.
Legislative races for seats entirely within one county were previously narrowed by county conventions.
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