SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox reported contributions adding up to nearly $1.2 million Friday for his bid to become governor, more than any other candidate in the crowded race among Republicans hoping to succeed Gov. Gary Herbert.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the numbers. It’s been a really good few months for us,” Cox said. “I hate that money is so important in politics and campaigns but we know it is and it really matters. We’re just so very grateful for all the incredible Utahns that have generously donated to my campaign.”
The lieutenant governor said he’s collected more than 1,500 individual campaign contributions, giving him a much larger pool of donors than any of his competitors in the 2020 race, as well as past Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Cox’s campaign manager, Austin Cox, said the campaign has “conserved resources as much as possible. Our success in 2019 allows us to finish strong in 2020. We know Spencer won’t be the best-funded candidate, but we will have enough to share Spencer’s conservative vision for Utah’s future.”
Friday was the deadline for gubernatorial candidates seeking to succeed Herbert, who is not running for reelection after more than a decade in office, to turn in reports on their 2019 fundraising. Cox issued a news release touting his grassroots fundraising as well as his total since becoming the first candidate to officially get in the race last May.
Businessman Jeff Burningham, who announced his bid for governor last fall after a lengthy listening tour around the state, reported raising more than $1.5 million in 2019, but that total includes nearly $830,000 loaned to the campaign by the candidate himself.
“It takes resources to communicate with hundreds of thousands of voters. Voters want to make an informed decision on Election Day and I intend to do my part,” Burningham said, adding that he and his wife, Sally, “love this state and our contributions to the campaign are an investment in Utah’s future.”
Burningham’s campaign manager, Adrielle Herring, said that he “does not have the benefit of a taxpayer-funded staff in addition to campaign staff like Team Cox does.” She said, “Going into the race, we knew this would be the case, and we will continue to raise the resources needed to even the playing field.”
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, have both raised close to the same amount, around $520,000. Huntsman got in the race in mid-November, after returning from Moscow where he served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump.
“Our two goals when launching the campaign six weeks ago were to raise $500,000 and visit all 29 counties before the end of 2019. We accomplished both,” said Huntsman’s campaign manager, Lisa Roskelley. “We have many dedicated supporters who are contributing financially, as well as with their time and energy.”
Hughes, who didn’t announce until earlier this week, has been raising money through a political action committee he created four years ago after becoming speaker. Last September, he reported raising nearly $500,000 to use in his gubernatorial campaign.
“The strong financial foundation we had prior to entering this race has allowed us to have a very aggressive campaign launch,” Hughes campaign adviser Greg Hartley said. “We are confident that we will have the funds necessary to be very competitive in this race.”
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who jumped in the race in October, has collected almost $292,000. Her campaign spokesman, Danny Laub, said Winder Newton “has the momentum in this race. We’re confident she’ll have the resources to win the primary.”
Former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, who entered the race last week, said he’ll report his campaign contributions at the next required deadline.
A seventh Republican contender could be getting in the race soon — Rep. Rob Bishop, who is not running again for his 1st Congressional District seat this year and has expressed interest in running for governor. Bishop has said he’s made up his mind but has yet to make his decision public.
The lone Democrat in the race so far, Zachary Moses, reported raising just over $5,800.
Utah has not had a Democratic governor since the 1980s. The last time the governor’s seat was open was 2004, when Huntsman won a first term. His lieutenant governor, Herbert, took over as governor when Huntsman stepped down to become U.S. ambassador to China under then-President Barack Obama.
Contributing: Lindsay Aerts