Utah Sen. Mike Lee tops $1M, a personal record, as he faces tough GOP challengers

Becky Edwards has nearly $500,000 in available money as well as 2022 Republican race heats up.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mike Lee speaks with delegates attending the Utah Republican Party’s 2021 Organizing Convention at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Lee raised $1 million in three months for his reelection bid.

Utah’s Republican Senate primary has the potential to turn into a big money race.

A year out from the 2022 runoff, Sen. Mike Lee turned in his biggest three-month haul of his career, topping $1 million.

And one of his challengers, former state Rep. Becky Edwards, showed she is willing to put her own money into the chase. She loaned her campaign $275,000 and raised another $229,000.

Ally Isom, a former spokesperson for Gov. Gary Herbert and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, didn’t file this period. She launched her bid for the Republican nomination on July 1, the day after this fundraising period expired.

Edwards had a number of contributors who hit the max, donating $2,900 for the convention, primary and general elections. That includes Patti Edwards, the wife of the late legendary Brigham Young University football coach LaVell Edwards. Patti is Becky Edwards’ mother-in-law.

The former Utah House member also received a maximum contribution from Andy Reid, a former BYU football player who now coaches the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’m grateful for the trust these donors have put in our campaign thus far,” Edwards said in a statement. “The support we’ve seen during the first weeks of this campaign shows us that voters are eager to have a better option in 2022. We’re ready to show Utahns how we’ll bring better leadership to the state.”

Edwards, who entered the race in late May, said she gave herself the goal of raising $500,000 by this point. With her own sizable contribution, she did so.

“Hitting our goals is an important part of our campaign,” she said. “And it requires building lasting coalitions, acting on promises, and supporting a vision of collaboration, productivity, and balance for our future.”

Lee is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate and has notably increased his fundraising emails this year, some of which note his opponents within the party. He hit the $1 million mark by a combination of money given directly to his campaign and to joint fundraising committees that were then transferred to Lee’s account. That includes $70,000 from the victory fund for Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

“Senator Lee is grateful for the support from thousands of Utahns who have donated to or are volunteering with the campaign,” said Matt Lusty, a campaign adviser, “and looks forward to continuing to discuss the difficult issues facing the country.”

While the money he raised since the beginning of April is a record for Lee, it is far below what some senators are pulling in, particularly those who expect to face a stiff general election opponent.

Sen. Mark Kelly, the freshman Democrat in Arizona, raised $6 million. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, brought in $9.6 million.

But $1 million from Lee is still telling. He knows the race for his seat in GOP-dominated Utah is all about reclaiming that Republican nomination, and that fight is now. He has $1.6 million in the bank that he can spend on TV, online ads and other campaign essentials.

The senator will also have the support of third-party groups, like the Club for Growth. The conservative group, known for its focus on fiscal issues, has paid for mailers criticizing Edwards and Isom. The group has also helped Lee raise money.

“This has been a very impressive fundraising period for Mike Lee,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. “He remains extremely popular within the Republican Party, particularly with those Republicans who actively participate in the election process.”

Perry said Lee is aggressively amassing money now because he doesn’t know how many challengers he’ll have or their ability to raise funds.

“He’s preparing for the battle now,” Perry said, “before he is in the middle of it.”

Lee’s campaigning, including on hot-button issues like critical race theory, not only brings in some donations, but also helps build support. While Edwards, Perry said, is trying to capture attention and become better known in the state.