October 6, 2022

Utah’s U.S. Senate race could be the most expensive political campaign in Utah history

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Sen. Mike Lee has raised more than $6.5 million for his reelection bid.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mike Lee has raised more than $6.5 million for his re-election bid this year. The U.S. Senate race could be the most expensive political contest in Utah’s history.

Utah’s U.S. Senate contest is on track to be the most expensive political race in the state’s history, with the November election still several months away. According to campaign finance disclosures filed on Thursday, incumbent Mike Lee has already raised $6.5 million this cycle for his reelection bid. Lee’s campaign has spent a whopping $5.4 million ahead of the June 28 primary election.

In 2020, the 4th Congressional District race between Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican Burgess Owens saw the two candidates raise and spend more than $10 million, with another $14 million in spending coming from outside groups.

Republican Ally Isom, one of two challengers to Lee, has raised just $678,000 since launching her campaign. That includes $117,000 Isom has lent to her operation.

Should Lee prevail in the June primary, he could be facing a very stiff challenge from independent candidate Evan McMullin, who has reeled in nearly $2.7 million in contributions since jumping into the race.

The decision by Utah Democrats to not nominate a candidate for Senate to help McMullin’s chances of ousting Lee has caught the attention of election forecaster Larry Sabato. His “Crystal Ball” shifted the rating of the race from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican” this week.

Fundraising is perhaps the most significant advantage congressional incumbents enjoy over any would-be challengers. That dynamic is playing out across the four GOP House primary contests as the current officeholders are raising far more money than their opponents.

First District incumbent Blake Moore raised nearly three times as much campaign cash as Andrew Badger and more than 11 times as much as Tina Cannon over the last two months. Moore has raised more than $1 million during the current election cycle, far outpacing his challengers.

More than 40% of Moore’s fundraising in the last two months came from political action committees and other fundraising entities, which accounted for more than $90,000.

Cannon is pumping thousands of dollars of her own money into her attempt to unseat Moore. She lent her campaign more than $35,000 during the current reporting period and nearly $120,000 in total for the whole campaign.

It’s the same story in the 2nd Congressional District, where Rep. Chris Stewart is facing his first-ever primary.

Over the last two months, Stewart raised nearly three times as much as challenger Erin Rider. More than half of his $179,000 in donations came from political action committees and other fundraising entities.

Stewart has raised more than $3.5 million during the current election cycle.

4th District freshman Burgess Owens raised an astonishing 27 times as much cash over the last two months as challenger Jake Hunsaker. Owens reported more than $300,000 in donations to Hunsaker’s meager $11,299.

So far this cycle, Owens has raised $2.3 million.



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