GOP Rep. Mia Love and Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams remain tied in their tight congressional race, according to a New York Times Upshot poll that concluded Friday night.
It shows them tied 45-45 percent, with 9 percent undecided — and a 4.7 percent margin of error. A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll earlier this month also showed McAdams and Love tied, 46-46, with 8 percent undecided.
The new poll comes as a new twist emerged Friday over how the Love campaign is helping the Utah Republican Party — which has teetered near bankruptcy in recent years — to afford mailers attacking McAdams.
The Love campaign reported in new disclosure forms that it donated $70,000 this month to the party. The campaign acknowledges that helped the party to send out attack mailers that say “paid for by the Utah Republican Party."
Some of those party ads attack McAdams for donations that he accepted — and one shows him holding a buck
et full of cash.
The New York Times Upshot poll was conducted live — allowing people to view updates after every call. It interviewed 526 people over three days.
The Times is conducting such polls in districts nationally that it deems as key to whether Republicans will retain control of the U.S. House or lose it to a midterm election blue wave.
After the relentless barrage of attack ads against both candidates, the poll said that McAdams receives favorable ratings from 54 percent of those polled so far, while Love has favorable ratings from 47 percent.
It says that among the types of people who voted in 2014, Love leads by 8 percentage points. Among people who say they will vote this year, McAdams leads by 4 points. Among people whose history suggests they truly will vote regardless what they say, the pair are even.
“Voters are responding positively to our message about reaching across the aisle and finding solutions," McAdams said. "It’s time to end the divisiveness in Washington. Voters have seen my track record as mayor, of being a bridge builder. This poll is consistent with what we are seeing on the doorsteps.”
Dave Hansen, Love’s campaign manager, said her message also “is getting out there, that Mia has accomplished a great deal for the district.”
He added, “This campaign is about whether Nancy Pelosi is controlling Congress or not. The way things are looking nationally, it could come down to Utah whether Republicans control the House of Representatives or Nancy Pelosi is back in charge. It doesn’t matter that McAdams says in his ads that he won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi. If he wins, she’ll be the speaker, plain and simple.”
Both sides said everything now depends on who best can persuade their supporters to vote, and both say they have extensive plans for that and each predicts victory.
Meanwhile, new financial disclosure forms show a new controversy over campaign finances.
When The Salt Lake Tribune asked Hansen why Love’s campaign donated $70,000 this month to the Utah Republican Party, which has been in the news this year for being financially strapped, he acknowledged the money helps the party send its mailings that target McAdams.
“We make a contribution to the party. They are the ones doing the mailings,” he said, adding that situation is legal. “They are party mailings. If you look on the disclaimers, they are sent by the Utah Republican Party,” he said. The party mailings have been negative, while Love’s recent ads have taken a more positive tone.
One of the party mailings, for example, shows McAdams holding a bucket of cash while it says “his campaign cashed in” by accepting $10,000 from developers who pushed a high-density development. As McAdams says, he vetoed that development. But the ad says “he only backed down when local residents found out.”
The Utah Democratic Party has also sent tough mailers attacking Love. But Alex Cragun, executive director of that party, said, “We raised the money for that by ourselves and with our national partners” — not from donations from McAdams.
Earlier this year, the left-leaning American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint against Love with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the state GOP essentially gave Love $120,000 improperly by allowing her to use its lower-cost mailing permit to send out mailings in 2016.
Hansen said the $70,000 in donations this month was not for such use of party mailing permits now, and the campaign is carefully following federal election law.
New disclosures also fanned embers of a controversy over $1 million that Love had raised for a primary she never faced this year. The FEC initially questioned the legality of that, and told her she must refund or reallocate the money to help ensure donors did not exceed legal donation limits.
Later, it told her she could keep donations gathered before the state GOP convention formally nominated her and allowed her to skip the primary. But she also had raised $370,000 after that date and refunded or redesignated that money.
Love said the FEC had cleared her of any wrongdoing, and called for McAdams to withdraw from the race because of his attacks on the issue.
Hansen said the Love campaign has now refunded or reallocated all money raised for that primary — before and after the convention. New forms show she refunded a total of $40,546 to help ensure that donors did not exceed donation limits.
McAdams on Friday questioned why she refunded and reallocated the money if she did nothing wrong. “It’s what we said all along, that she raised money in violation of the law.”
Hansen responded, “There was never anything illegal done. Nothing wrong was done.”