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Utah governors race fueled by variety of financial sources

Salt Lake Tribune logo Salt Lake Tribune 1/11/2020 Benjamin Wood
Aimee Winder Newton wearing a suit and tie: (Chris Samuels | Tribune file photo) Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham makes remarks as gubernatorial candidate Aimee Winder Newton, right, watches at a press conference in opposition to a recently-passed tax reform bill and support for a ballot referendum repealing the bill at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. Burningham has loaned a significant amount of his own money to his campaign, while Winder Newton's largest campaign contribution to date is a transfer of balance from her previous Salt Lake County Council campaign account. © Chris Samuels (Chris Samuels | Tribune file photo) Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham makes remarks as gubernatorial candidate Aimee Winder Newton, right, watches at a press conference in opposition to a recently-passed tax reform bill and support for a ballot referendum repealing the bill at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. Burningham has loaned a significant amount of his own money to his campaign, while Winder Newton's largest campaign contribution to date is a transfer of balance from her previous Salt Lake County Council campaign account.

The number of Utahns vying to be the next governor continues to grow with additions this month of former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes to an already crowded field.

And campaign disclosure forms filed with the state elections office show those candidates are being fueled by donations small, large and very large — and in a couple of cases their own wallets, ahead of primary elections in June.

Provo businessman Jeff Burningham has received more than $1.5 million in contributions, according to his campaign disclosures. But more than half of that amount was loaned to the campaign by Burningham himself, including a hefty $750,000 donation in November.

Among the other top contributions to Burningham’s campaign are a combined $200,000 from John and Heidi Pestana — John Pestana co-founded the software company ObservePoint — $50,000 from Jamie and Catherine Dunn, and $50,000 from Jeff and Kim Danley. Jamie Dunn and Jeff Danley are Burningham’s colleagues at the investment firm Peak Capitol Partners.

“I am working to raise the funds required to communicate with Utah voters so that, when they go to the polls in 2020, they will feel informed and confident in their decision,” Burningham said in a prepared statement. “In the process, I hope to earn Utah’s support.”

Spencer Cox, Utah’s current lieutenant governor, received more than $1.1 million in contributions in 2019, his campaign disclosures show. In a prepared statement, Cox touted the volume of small contributions to his campaign from individual donors.

“We have many donating to a campaign for the first time, some just 10 and 20 dollars,” Cox said. “Abby [Cox] and I promised our campaign would be different and this response has been remarkable.”

But Cox’s fundraising includes a number of large and noteworthy donations as well. The largest contribution is a $100,000 transfer of funds from Cox’s previous lieutenant governor campaign account, followed by a $50,000 donation from the political action committee of Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not seeking reelection this year, and $50,000 from Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and the Larry H. Miller Group.

Other top donors to Cox’s campaign include $34,000 from St. John Properties — $9,000 of which was an in-kind contribution — $27,500 each from Pacificorp, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power, and Nevada-based Rustler Investments. Cox also received $25,000 each from investor James Clarke, Prime Holdings Insurance Services and the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee.

Hughes, the former House speaker, has not yet opened a gubernatorial campaign file for his disclosures. But his political action committee, Hughes Leadership PAC, reported roughly $520,000 in contributions during 2019.

Included in that figure is $125,000 in donations from real estate developer and Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper; $100,000 from developer and philanthropist Kem Gardner; and $75,000 from Kevin Garn, a developer and former Utah House majority leader. Hughes also received $15,000 from current House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and $25,000 from real estate developer Steve Price.

Like Burningham, Hughes’ spokesman Greg Hartley linked campaign fundraising to the amount of information available to prospective voters.

“We are very grateful for the strong financial foundation and support we’ve received so far," Hartley said, "and feel confident we will be able to raise the additional funds necessary to win this election.”

Kem Gardner and Steve Price also contributed $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, to the campaign of former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who has so far reported roughly $530,000 in contributions.

Huntsman’s other top donors include $50,000 from Zions Bank President Scott Anderson, $50,000 from investor Richard Durham, and various four-figure or five-figure donations from members of the Huntsman family, including $50,000 from his mother, Karen Huntsman; $50,000 from his brother Peter Huntsman; and $5,000 from his brother Paul Huntsman, the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said the campaign’s goals for 2019 was to raise $500,000 and visit all 29 of Utah’s counties, which it accomplished.

“We have many dedicated supporters who are contributing financially, as well as with their time and energy,” Roskelley said. “We’re grateful for all the support and are continuing every effort to engage more voters every day.”

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton has received $290,000 in contributions for her gubernatorial campaign. Roughly half of that amount, $150,000, is a loan that Winder Newton paid to her own campaign in December.

Winder Newton also transferred $50,000 from her previous county council campaign account, and received $18,400 from the Utah Values PAC — which supports Winder Newton and her brother Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City — and $10,000 from Friends of Mike Winder, LLC.

The largest outside contributions to Winder Newton’s campaign are $5,000 from Harris Simmons, chairman of Zions Bank; $5,000 from Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller; and $5,000 each from Acadia Healthcare, CCA Acquisition, Mountain West Commercial and BTB Properties.

Danny Laub, a spokesman for Winder Newton’s campaign, said Winder Newton has the momentum in the governor’s race and that her team is confident she’ll have the resources to win the Republican primary.

“As Aimee travels the state she hears the same refrain,” he said, “Republicans are ready for something a little different in the governor’s office — someone who can bring a fresh conservative perspective to state government, but still has extensive experience and [a] policy background.”

Democratic candidate Zachary Moses has reported $5,834 in donations to his campaign, the bulk of which are loans from himself and in-kind contributions from Moses’ web design company Perch Innovations.

Thomas Wright, the former Utah Republican Party chairman, has not yet disclosed any campaign contributions.

Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Tribune owner and Publisher Paul Huntsman.

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