Governor hopefuls awash in funds

2 who've spent the most leading GOP field, poll finds

Published: Tuesday, May 4 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

Money is pouring into the Republican race for governor, with one candidate spending more than $2 million and another nearly $750,000, according to campaign disclosures released Monday.

Meanwhile, a poll of the state GOP delegates — the 3,500 individuals who will be voting on the gubernatorial candidates in Saturday's state Republican convention — shows the two spending the most are also leading the eight-person GOP field.

Monday evening was the filing deadline for campaign financial statements. Those reports, along with some money spent by candidates' political action committees, show $5.23 million has been raised and $4.62 million spent by the GOP gubernatorial hopefuls.

Millionaire medical company executive Fred Lampropoulos has — as best as the Deseret Morning News can determine — raised $2.49 million and spent $2.31 million. He has clearly set a new record in pre-convention spending in a major Utah contest.

That total includes his campaign account, his political action committee, and $325,000 that his top aides say Lampropoulos spent out of his own pocket in 2003 to buy radio time for his "just thought you'd like to know" homilies on what's right with America. The $325,000 doesn't appear on any report. His aides say the expenditure falls outside campaign reporting law because it was made before Lampropoulos was a declared candidate.

More than 98 percent of the cash going to Lampropoulos' various committees came from Lampropoulos, his immediate family and top executives of his $500 million firm, Merit Medical Systems Inc.

Spending the second-largest amount is Jon Huntsman Jr. He has raised $846,355. Of that total, $337,000 comes from his extended family, the family-controlled Huntsman Chemical and from people and firms currently or formerly associated with the chemical giant.

Coming in third was former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen with $310,200. Almost $120,000 of that came from his old House campaign committee.

Democrat Scott Matheson Jr., unopposed in his party, did not have to file a campaign report Monday.

However, in a news release Matheson said he's raised $467,627 and spent only $51,874, leaving him $391,343 in cash as he awaits the Republican nominee.

LaVarr Webb, a member of the Exoro lobbying and consulting firm, said a survey paid for by his firm of 1,335 of the 3,500 state GOP delegates shows Huntsman with a lead over Lampropoulos. Huntsman has 25 percent of the first-place votes in the preferential voting tally, said Webb, who also co-writes a political column for the Deseret Morning News.

Lampropoulos has 17 percent of the first-place votes.

The field then falls away, with Gov. Olene Walker (13 percent), House Utah Speaker Marty Stephens (9 percent), Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras (9 percent) and former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen (7 percent). State Sen. Parley Hellewell and Gary Benson only tallied a few percentage points each, Webb said.

However, accurate polling with a preferential ballot system is difficult, Webb admitted.

Saturday, delegates will list their candidate preferences one through eight. As the least-popular candidate drops off in each round of voting, the remaining candidates may end up with more first-place votes. "Who knows what will really happen in the state convention," said Webb.

Some interesting information from the financial statements:

Benson: He has entirely self-funded his campaign — to the tune of $4,000.

Hansen: The former congressman drew on his national constituents for support, drawing checks from out-of-state donors, including $30,000 from two people in Minnesota.

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