Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
FILE - Mitt Romney talks to the media after addressing House and Senate Republicans during their caucus lunch meetings at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney reported Monday his campaign has more than $1.15 million in cash on hand, a total that includes $1 million from his presidential bids.

Romney, who joined the race in mid-February, is one of a dozen Republicans running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. His campaign spokeswoman, MJ Henshaw, had no comment on his financial disclosure statement.

The report filed with the Federal Election Commission in advance of the April 21 Utah State Republican Party Convention shows that Romney has raised nearly $677,000 and spent almost $527,000 — and transferred $1 million into his Senate account.

The transfer is from Romney For President, Inc., an account set up in Massachusetts before Romney's first run for the White House in 2008. In 2012, Romney was the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

"Wow," said Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, one of three Democrats seeking the Senate seat. "Interesting to see his presidential donors are funding his Utah Senate race."

Wilson, whose FEC filing deadline as a Democrat is a week away, wondered whether Romney "has anything left over from his Massachusetts governor's race to throw in the pot. Some of us do it the old fashioned way. One donor at a time."

No other Republican filings from the Utah Senate race were listed on the FEC website Monday evening, but GOP candidate Larry Meyers said he's raised about $15,000 and has about $4,000 in cash on hand.

Meyers, a St. George attorney whose campaign website labels him "Utah's better choice" and compares him to "Massachusetts Mitt," said he wasn't surprised to hear how much money Romney had.

"I wouldn't say it's discouraging. I think everybody knew that was the way it would be when we saw Romney was in the race," Meyers said, citing Romney's personal wealth and donor base as a presidential candidate.

He said the delegates at the Utah GOP convention who'll advance no more than two candidates to the ballot are focused on issues, not how much cash a campaign has available.

"Nobody's even asked me how much money I have on hand," Meyers said.

Romney is the only GOP candidate so far who has turned in signatures to secure a spot on the June primary ballot, but will also compete for the support of delegates at the party's state convention.

Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Romney's war chest proves he's a formidable contender.

"We knew that Mitt was popular in the state," Perry said. "For any challengers, they're going to look at that ability to fundraise and they will realize that he is a real candidate, and that he is going to be exceptionally hard to beat."

30 comments on this story

This is Romney's first run for a Utah office, but he ran for the Senate in 1994 in Massachusetts and was elected that state's governor after living in Deer Valley for several years as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics. He now calls Utah home.

Perry said Romney "knows he needs to spend time in every county in the state and to get know the voters. … Tto fund a ground game like that, you're going to need money."

He said the big numbers Romney is reporting shouldn't put off voters.

"The only way that usually backfires is if people say, 'He has enough money and I don't need to donate,'" Perry said. "I think he will work hard to make sure people know he doesn't take this race for granted."