SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert's reelection campaign reported raising just under $1.3 million since June at his annual "Governor's Gala" fundraiser, held Friday night at the Salt Palace.
About $1 million of that total is from the gala itself, campaign spokesman Ben Horsley said. The event cost cost $500 a person to attend and sponsors paid $5,000 for a table, $10,000 to be listed as "supporting" and $25,000 to be listed as "presenting."
Herbert asked the crowd to acknowledge the support of the gala's sponsors, which, at the top level, include Jon Huntsman Sr., the Larry H. Miller Group, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and the Workers Compensation Fund.
"It's what enables us to have these kinds of things and run a campaign, which will be competitive, and get our message out," the governor said, who also called the event festive. "We have a lot of things to be festive about. Our economy is growing well."
The theme of the evening, "Hollywood Comes to Utah," was reflected in red carpet leading to the ballroom and the posters on display from movies shot in Utah, including "High School Musical" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."
But the event also marked Friday being Veteran's Day, with the introduction of about a dozen representatives of the Utahns who served in World War II, as well as the wars in Korean, Vietnam and Iraq. Herbert presented a $10,000 check to the Utah Department of Veteran Affairs.
This year's gala was described as being sold out, with more than 149 tables filling about two-thirds of the convention center's ballroom. Some 1,400 people were expected to attend, including business and political leaders.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said he was there to back the governor's re-election bid. "Gov. Herbert is generally regarded in the party as having done a good job," Valentine said. "It's been a hard challenge for him, but he's risen to the occasion."
Two years ago, the governor charged sponsors as much as $50,000 and collected what was then a record $1 million at his gala in advance of the 2010 special election for the remainder of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s term.
Then, Herbert was trying to fend off any serious challengers, especially from within his own party. He managed to keep away any GOP competition, but faced a tough campaign against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
Just a day before this year's fundraiser, a fellow Republican announced he was going to run against the governor, Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork.
That timing "may not be a bad thing in the sense that I think it gives a little more impetus to Herbert in terms of raising money," University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said.
The governor is able to tell donors, "I am going to have a contested election, please contribute," Burbank said. "An incumbent governor is in a much stronger position to raise money. If he can use that sort of challenge to prompt that, it could work to his advantage."
According to the state Election's Office website, Herbert's campaign has collected just over $609,500 through Oct. 31. The campaign has up to 30 days to report contributions. Horsley said that number also does not reflect contribution commitments yet to be received.
He said the goal of the campaign is to raise $3 million for the 2012 election.