Rep. Merrill Cook and his Democratic challenger this year - Lily Eskelsen - are close in Deseret News public opinion polls and close in fund raising as well, the latest Federal Election Commission filings show.
And if you didn't know that Cook was a Republican and Es-kel-sen a Democrat before looking at the reports, you would afterwards.Cook is getting much of his support from big business PACs - with hefty giving from banking and insurance groups - and conservative causes. He sits on the House Banking Committee, which oversees financial institutions and insurance.
Eskelsen is getting labor union PAC money - Democrats almost always do. But much of her support comes from individuals, many in the education business, no doubt.
And she's getting contributions from causes that usually back the Democrat in the 2nd Congressional District - environmental advocates, gun control groups and pro-choice organizations.
Cook has received $2,950 from the National Rifle Association and thousands from banks and insurance companies. Eskelsen has received $1,000 from U.S. Handgun Control, $4,500 from EMILY's List and $1,500 from pro-choice groups.
A June Deseret News Poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates found that among registered voters Cook has 46 percent support, Eskelsen 34 percent with 15 percent undecided.
All the federal candidates except Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, had filed their FEC reports with Lt. Gov. Olene Walker's office by Friday morning. The reports must be filed or postmarked by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Eskelsen, a former Teacher of the Year in Utah and former president of the Utah Education Association, is touting the number of regular people that have given to her race.
She's raised $120,000 from individuals so far this year. Cook has raised $101,000 from individuals, but has gotten $207,000 from PACs.
"This is going to be a very competitive race," said Eskelsen. "I'm doing all I can to ensure a level (financial) playing field. Utahns don't want any more campaigns to be bought and sold by millionaires." She added that more than half her money comes from individuals, while she claims that 70 percent of Cook's money comes from PACs.
Cook ends his first term in office this year. Since 1985 Cook has run and lost six major races - several as an independent. His 1996 win came as a Republican.
And while a review of the individuals who've donated to his campaign turn up some of the regular givers to major GOP races in Utah, you don't see all the names you'd find on campaign reports of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, or GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt.
It appears there are still some Republican Party stalwarts who may give Cook their vote when he faces a Democrat, but not their money.
Cook's campaign manager Caroline Roemer disputes that. "We're getting all the traditional Republican support in this state," she said Friday.
Roemer had no comment on Eskelsen's claim that PACs are funding Cook's campaign, while Eskelsen's is getting more individual contributions. "We haven't studied her report to see that."
But Roemer warns be ready for "big labor" to come into the 2nd District race with an independent campaign against Cook. "Big labor spent $30 million in independent campaigns (against GOP candidates) in 1996. They've targeted 35 congressional races this year, but we don't know yet if ours will be one of them," said Roemer.
Eskelsen has more cash on hand than Cook - a rarity for a Democratic challenger in Utah.
She has $234,000 in cash as of July 15, Cook has $144,000. She's husbanding her money, Eskelsen said, to make a serious advertising run at Cook nearer the November election. "We're saving our resources. I have more money in the bank than (Cook), which shows what a strong campaign we have," she said.
Cook, a millionaire owner of a mining explosives firm, over the years has spent more than $3 million of his own money on his various races and citizen initiative petition drives.
In 1996, he spent around $1 million of his own cash on his 2nd Congressional District race. This year he hasn't put any of his own money into his race. "We aren't worried at all about our (financial) position now," said Roemer. "When the congressman needs the (campaign) money, it will be there."
FEC reports show he's raised $311,000 and spent $168,000. Eskelsen has raised $219,000 and spent $98,000 since the first of the year. However, both Eskelsen and Cook raised considerable funds in 1997 - and thus the big Eskelsen cash war chest.
The reports of Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, show he has a big lead over Democratic challenger Scott Leckman in cash as well as in the public opinion polls.
Bennett, who has been fund raising for most of his six years in office, raised $390,000 since Jan. 1, 1998, and spent $327,000. But he has $437,000 in cash on hand.
Leckman, who only got into the race last December, has raised $74,000 and spent $63,000. He has only $10,000 in cash and has himself donated $10,000 to his race.
Hansen's report was not in. Steve Beierlein, a Democratic financial consultant who is challenging the 18-year-incumbent in the 1st Congressional District, has raised $26,000 and spent $82,000. Beierlein has given his campaign $4,200 and loaned it $74,000.
In the 3rd Congressional District, GOP Rep. Chris Cannon has no Democratic opponent. He has $25,000 in cash in his account.
Cannon did have an unexpected primary election in June. Just before that election he loaned his campaign $10,000. His reports still show his 1996 loans of around $1.6 million. In fact, his report has 35 pages listing those loans and showing them still outstanding.