Utah Republicans loan themselves millions in U.S. Senate race to replace Mitt Romney

Democrat Kathleen Riebe has more cash on hand than Republican Celeste Maloy ahead of November’s 2nd Congressional District special election

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brad Wilson launches his 2024 Senate campaign at The Studio in Draper, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

Three Utah Republicans hoping to succeed Mitt Romney in the U.S. Senate next year are pouring millions of dollars from their own pockets into their campaigns.

Earlier this month, Brad Wilson’s team sent out a news release claiming Wilson had raised more than $1 million for the second straight quarter, suggesting a “groundswell of support” for his campaign. At the time, Wilson’s campaign would not answer questions from The Salt Lake Tribune about how he pulled down the impressive total.

Now we know why.

According to fundraising disclosures filed with the Federal Election Committee on Friday, Wilson received just over $412,000 in donations for the three-month reporting period covering July, August and September. On the second to last day of the quarter, Wilson loaned his campaign $600,000, allowing him to claim $1 million in fundraising for the quarter. It was the last donation he reported for the period.

Wilson, the outgoing Utah House speaker and real estate developer, has loaned his campaign $1.8 million in total, so far making him the largest self-funding congressional candidate from Utah in recent memory.

That total is more than double the more than $800,000 Becky Edwards loaned her unsuccessful congressional campaigns in 2022 and 2023. Mitt Romney did not put any of his considerable wealth into his 2018 U.S. Senate race. However, Wilson still lags behind entrepreneur Jeff Burningham, who pumped more than $2.9 million in personal funds into his 2020 gubernatorial campaign before being eliminated at the GOP convention.

Wilson’s self-funding is not unique among the Republicans hoping to win Utah’s U.S. Senate election to replace Romney next year.

Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird kick-started his campaign with a loan of just over $1 million, and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs has put $50,000 of his own money behind his effort.

Even without the last-minute loan, Wilson raised the most among Republicans in the field, pulling in $412,000. However, that’s a significant drop from the $1 million in individual donations he reported three months ago.

Staggs’ campaign reported about $300,000 in donations, which isn’t too far off the pace set by Wilson. A September fundraiser for Staggs headlined by Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake netted $31,000 for his campaign. More than half of the donations to Staggs’ campaign rolled in following that event.

Wilson has the most cash in his war chest, currently at nearly $2.85 million. Even if you took out the massive personal loans, he would still have the most money in the race with just over $1 million.

2nd Congressional District special election

Republican Celeste Maloy is leading the fundraising race in November’s special election to replace Chris Stewart in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. Maloy, a former Stewart staffer, pulled in just over $145,000 in donations from July to September.

Just over 40% of donations to Maloy’s campaign during the current reporting period came from political action committees affiliated with industry organizations, individual companies and Republicans in Congress. Maloy received $5,000 from Utah Rep. John Curtis’s Conservative Climate PAC and $2,000 from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

Maloy has over $53,000 cash available, but her campaign reported nearly $32,000 in unpaid invoices.

Democrat Kathleen Riebe, Maloy’s chief rival on November’s ballot, pulled in just over $100,000 in donations last quarter. She has raised nearly $200,000 for the race, which is the most by a Utah Democratic congressional candidate since former Rep. Ben McAdams raised $5.6 million in 2020.

Riebe has about $85,000 in cash on hand, which is higher than Maloy’s available balance for the campaign’s final stretch.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 21.