Utah Gov. Gary Herbert raises $1.3M ahead of primary battle

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert has continued on a massive fundraising tear in the past few months, raising more than $1 million over the past two months as he tries to fend off a re-election challenge next week from Overstock.com board chairman Jonathan Johnson for the Republican nomination.

The latest campaign finance reports show Herbert has raked in five-figure donations from wealthy Utah residents, real estate developers, power companies and more. Johnson raised less than half of what Herbert brought in.

Johnson’s campaign manager Dave Hansen said Wednesday that the campaign has always known they’d be at a fundraising disadvantage but aren’t worried about that ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

“It’s kind of David vs. Goliath,” Hansen said, “But come Tuesday, David will win.”

Herbert campaign manager Marty Carpenter said “a broad group of businesses and a broad group of Utahns supporting an incumbent governor indicates that they like what’s been happening in our state and would like it to continue.”

Johnson, a wealthy businessman who contributed large amounts of his own money to get his campaign off the ground, has fueled his race largely on donations from Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.

His latest fundraising report shows $500,000 of the $600,000 he collected since mid-April came from Byrne. That’s on top of more than $300,000 that Byrne has already given to Johnson.

Both candidates have pointed to the mega-checks the other has received and whether those donors would have undue influence on the governor’s office.

Johnson has said it was “sickening” to hear the governor offering this spring to meet with lobbyists in exchange for campaign donations. Herbert said he was disappointed in himself and his campaign but that nothing unethical or illegal occurred.

The governor in turn pointed at Johnson’s reliance on Byrne, calling the CEO a “sugar-daddy rich guy.”

Johnson said he’s not beholden to Byrne and they disagree on several issues.

In addition to big donations from Byrne, Johnson received $25,000 from Utah real estate developer Richard Beckstrand and $20,000 from the political action committee of school choice group Parents for Choice in Education. Johnson’s running mate and lieutenant governor candidate, Robyn Bagley, is the board chair of the group.

In his latest report, Herbert has $50,000 from Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller and $55,000 from companies associated with Nevada real estate executive Dan K. Shaw, who gave more than $40,000 to Herbert last year.

The governor, who has been in office since 2009, also received about two dozen checks of $20,000 to $25,000 from wealthy Utah residents and companies such as natural gas utility Questar, home security firm Vivint Smart Home and medical device maker Merit Medical.

He has about $600,000 left over in his campaign account for the final week and a half before the June 28 primary, in addition to about $17,000 in his political action committees.

Johnson has about $93,000 on hand.

The winner will face Democrat Michael Weinholtz, the former CEO of a Utah medical staffing company, in November. Weinholtz, who has loaned his own campaign about $1 million, has about $235,000 in his campaign account.

Weinholtz said in a statement Wednesday that the $34,000 he raised from small donations in recent months shows he has more grassroots support than his opponents.

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