Just how much of an underdog is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Bradley? So far down that just about anything - votes, money, name identification - can only get better.
Bradley trails the popular GOP incumbent Mike Leavitt by 63 percentage points in a new Deseret News/KSL poll. Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that Leavitt, seeking another four years in office, leads 75 percent to Bradley's 12 percent.In addition, Leavitt has $500,000 in his campaign account. Bradley has little or no money. And Leavitt has the ability to raise millions of dollars more, should he decide to do so. Bradley, a former Salt Lake County commissioner, hopes to raise $250,000, but there's no guarantees of that.
When Bradley announced his candidacy several weeks ago, filing on the last day of the candidate filing deadline, he joked that he hoped someone would conduct a poll pitting him against Leavitt.
"At least I can only go up from there," said Bradley, who was unseated from his commission seat in 1994.
It's true Bradley can only go higher, found Jones. Even members of his own Democratic Party favor the Republican Leavitt. Jones found that among Democrats, 32 percent favor Bradley, 55 percent favor Leavitt and 10 percent don't know.
Leavitt campaign manager Charlie Evans says the governor isn't taking anything for granted this year, however, and Leavitt's fund raising over the last 12 months shows that.
"I've worked for a number of (Republican) campaigns, and I've never seen anyone with the ability to raise money in the state like (Leavitt)," says Evans, who worked on GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch's 1994 re-election race.
Evans professes Leavitt, the consummate campaign planner, has no set budget for his re-election. "But (Leavitt) will definitely spend less than he did four years ago" when Leavitt was an unknown Republican in a crowded GOP field and faced convention and primary fights. Leavitt spent $1.7 million in 1992.
Leavitt won't be campaigning at all this summer, says Evans. "You won't see the governor in the campaign mode - no TV or radio ads or anything - until after Labor Day" in September. "He'll just keep on doing what he does best, be the governor."
But that doesn't mean Leavitt won't be fund raising. He will, and much of the money will be going into the campaign. The rest will go into Leavitt's personal political action committee out of which comes travel and entertaining expenses for non-state functions. In 1995, Leavitt raised $741,765 through various events and spent $430,259 - part of that money going to pay for the fund-raisers and part for travel and entertaining not paid for by the state.
Leavitt can raise just about whatever he wants, says Evans. People were literally standing in line to contribute to Leavitt this past year.
A September golfing fund-raiser (in which Leavitt shunned the Legislature's trip to Moab in order to host the event) had so many people sign up that some had to be turned away. Evans couldn't get all the golfers on to an 18-hole course during daylight hours. That event cost $1,500 per foursome and netted about $75,000. This fall Leavitt will host the Governor's Golf Classic on a 27-hole course so more can contribute, says Evans.
A December Palm Springs event - also a yearly tradition - brought in about $20,000. Leavitt also held his yearly Winter Celebration at the Park City ski resort. Overhead is tough for a skiing event, says Evans, and Leavitt only netted about $28,000.
And Leavitt is now planning his yearly governor's ball - or as he calls it, the Spring Gala. That will net about $200,000 as people cram into the Salt Palace to hear music and wade through long buffet lines. "We spent quite a sum on entertainment in 1995; we're going to be more frugal" in 1996, says Evans, leaving more money for the campaign year.
Leavitt also went to New York City at the end of 1995. There, local developer John Price hosted an event that brought in close to $100,000 for the governor. Price, a member of the national Republican Party's Team 100 - very rich guys who give at least $100,000 a year to the national party - invited a number of well-heeled East Coast Republicans to the New York event.
But the real hit - financially and otherwise - of the fund-raising season for Leavitt was a two-day trip to the Leavitt family ranch outside Loa, Wayne County.
For $10,000 a person a select few, seven as it turned out, got to spend two days at the ranch last October with Leavitt and wife Jackie. Some were put up in the Leavitt family's Loa bed and breakfast inn, others stayed in a local motel. The ranch outing was put together at the last minute, and Evans says a number of people invited couldn't clear their schedules quickly enough to attend. Leavitt plans to hold one, maybe two, more ranch outings this year.
Leavitt's 1995 PAC report shows some of those paying $10,000 to attend included Alan Layton of Layton Construction; Lowell Peterson, former state senator now lobbyist for Laidlaw Environmental, which recently purchased USPCI's west desert hazardous waste facility; US WEST's Mark Stromberg and attorney Frank Suitter. Suitter, by the way, was just named state GOP chairman.
What do you get for $10,000? Evans says the guests herded cattle on horseback with Leavitt or went fly fishing or pheasant hunting. They also had a campfire cookout where cowboy poets recited verse.
"It was a very successful event; we're planning some more of them," says Evans.
Deseret News/KSL poll
If the general election were held today, which of the following candidates for governor would you vote for?
DEFINITELY BRADLEY 8%
PROBABLY BRADLEY 4%
DEFINITELY LEAVITT 60%
PROBABLY LEAVITT 15%
Poll conducted March 26-28, 1996. 204 3rd District residents. Margin of error +/-7%. Survey conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. 1996 Deseret News.