SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, his Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz and other candidates for Utah's most heated political races are expected to make their pitch to retirees Wednesday night at an AARP barbeque in Salt Lake City.
Herbert is a heavy favorite as he runs for another four-year term in a state that's considered a Republican stronghold.
He's been in office since 2009, and earlier this year fended off a bruising primary challenge from Overstock.com board chairman Jonathan Johnson. Herbert was on the defensive after Johnson attacked his support for the Common Core education standards, a position the governor eventually retreated from.
Herbert also faces criticism after a recording emerged of him saying he'd be "Available Jones" for wealthy campaign donors, though he insisted the money wouldn't influence his policies.
In just over two months since he defeated Johnson in the primary, he's raked in more than $650,000, according to state fundraising reports. That includes a $250,000 donation from the national Republican Governors Association.
Weinholtz is a wealthy businessman who has largely run his campaign on his own money. In the months since his last campaign report, he's loaned his campaign $1.5 million and raised about $100,000 in contributions. He loaned his campaign $1 million earlier this year.
In his quest to take on Herbert, Weinholtz is expected to emphasize the governor's decision to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is unpopular with many in the state's GOP.
Earlier this month, Weinholtz called Trump "an offense to Utahns and our values" and said "Herbert's endorsement of Donald Trump is shameful because it proves that he puts the interests of the party before the people of Utah."
Weinholtz has advocated for Utah to expand Medicaid to more people and legalize medical marijuana. He made a surprising announcement at his party's nomination convention earlier this year when he revealed his wife is being investigated for pot possession.
Federal prosecutors confirmed the investigation in July but offered few details.
Other candidates set to speak at the event include U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican, and businesswoman Charlene Albarran, a Democrat who is challenging him in Utah's 2nd Congressional District.
Stephen Tryon, a Democrat running against Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Utah's 3rd Congressional District, and Misty Snow, a Democrat who is running against Sen. Mike Lee, are also expected to address the crowd.
The Salt Lake City event is open only to members of AARP.