Bennett extends fundraising lead over Shurtleff

Bennett extends fundraising lead over Shurtleff

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett's campaign reported raising about $400,000 in the past three months, dwarfing the amount of cash his chief rival raised in the same period.

Bennett is seeking a fourth term, but is facing several challengers from within his own Republican party, including Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

The GOP will choose its nominee next spring.

Shurtleff's campaign reported raising about $100,000 in the past three months, bringing his total to nearly $210,000. It wasn't immediately clear how much cash on hand Shurtleff or Bennett has.

At the end of June, Bennett reported having $933,000 in cash on hand while Shurtleff had $103,000.

Federal Election Commission reports for all federal candidates are due Thursday.

Shurtleff's campaign attempted to paint Bennett's fundraising advantage as evidence that Bennett has been in Washington too long.

"It's clear that the D.C. insiders are protecting their own in this race. The D.C. community fears change, they fear fresh ideas, they fear a balanced budget, and they fear losing their old reliable friend, Senator Bob Bennett," Shurtleff said in a statement.

When first elected in 1992, Bennett said he would only serve for two terms.

Bennett's campaign spokesman, Jim Bennett, said statements by Shurtleff's campaign about the fundraising discrepancies were a "comical spin on the numbers."

"It's clear he doesn't have the support necessary to defeat a credible Democrat opponent," he said.

The only Democrat to file for the Senate race so far is Sam Granato, a restaurant owner and chairman of the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. He has never sought an elected office before and at the end of June reported having $2,500 in his campaign account.

In heavily Republican Utah, whoever wins the GOP nomination is likely to cruise to victory the next November.

But a significant fundraising advantage doesn't necessarily guarantee victory. Political parties in Utah choose their nominees through a party convention system, where it is relatively inexpensive to woo delegates who tend to be party insiders.

Only candidates who fail to receive more than 60 percent of delegate votes in May are forced into a June primary, where money becomes more crucial.

Shurtleff has said he hopes to eliminate Bennett at the state convention, where other Republican challengers are expected to include former congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater, Internet real estate marketer Cherilyn Eagar and South Jordan businessman James Williams.

Shurtleff contends that he doesn't need to raise as much money as Bennett to defeat him, but when he announced he was seeking his seat in May he said he would likely need to raise at least $1.5 million if he and Bennett make it into a primary.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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