Legislative Republicans, political action committees, donated thousands to vulnerable incumbents

Mitt Romney’s political action committee donated $50,000 to five Republicans in tough primary contests.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lawmakers in the House Chamber during a special legislative session, at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

A handful of Republican legislators are facing tough primary elections on Tuesday. According to recent financial disclosure filings, several candidates received hefty campaign contributions from their colleagues in the Utah Legislature and prominent political action committees.

House and Senate Republicans have used their political action committees to make significant financial donations to fellow Republicans this year. Senate Republicans have donated $35,000 each to Sens. Evan Vickers, Jerry Stevenson, Keith Grover and Ann Millner, who are all on Tuesday’s primary ballot. The PAC also donated $10,000 to Sens. Kirk Cullimore, Scott Sandall, Daniel Thatcher and Ron Winterton to help them fend off challengers for the GOP nomination at party conventions.

House Republicans donated $4,000 to eight incumbents with primary challengers on Tuesday. Reps. Melissa Garff Ballard, Jeff Stenquist, Ray Ward, Susan Pulsipher, Kera Birkeland, Kelly Miles, Mike Petersen and Christine Watkins received the $4,000 donations from House Republicans. Another nine House Republicans were given $2,000 donations ahead of party conventions.

House Speaker Brad Wilson also donated to Republican House incumbents through his leadership PAC. Birkeland and Ward received $3,000, while Ballard was given $2,000. Wilson’s PAC made a $1,500 donation to Miles, Watkins and Pulsipher. He also kicked in $2,000 to Paul Cutler, who is running to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Tim Hawkes.

Senate President Stuart Adams is also in the incumbent protection business. His leadership PAC donated $5,000 to Grover for his primary matchup against Brandon Beckham.

Several outside political action committees have also jumped into the fray to shore up some Republican incumbents.

  • Mitt Romney’s “Believe in America PAC” donated $10,000 to Reps. Stenquist, Ward, Pulsipher and Miles. They also gave $10,000 to Paul Cutler’s campaign.

  • The Utah Association of Realtors PAC paid $3,100 to run digital ads on behalf of Sen. Millner and almost $2,500 for a mailer promoting Paul Cutler. They reported another $572 on get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations for Cutler’s campaign. The PAC also donated $10,000 to Speaker Wilson’s leadership PAC.

  • The Count My Vote PAC donated $26,000 to several candidates to assist their efforts in gathering enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot. Sens. Evan Vickers and Keith Grover each received $5,000. Sen. Jerry Stevenson was given $2,000, and Democrat Nate Blouin received $2,500 for his race against longtime incumbent Sen. Gene Davis. The CMV PAC recorded a $50,000 donation from Gail Miller.