Derek Brown, the newly-elected chair of the Utah Republican Party, tells UtahPolicy.com that he wants $1 million in party coffers as the 2020 election year rolls around – more than double what the party spent in last year’s elections.
That is a pretty ambitious goal, Brown admits. But he adds that such financial resources are needed to bring back Utah’s majority political party in the big election year.
“We are very encouraged by our fundraising efforts,” just one month into his two-year chairmanship, he adds.
In 2018 the state GOP raised $398,800, much less than it did just a decade ago.
No. 1 priority for Brown is taking back Utah’s 4th Congressional District, won by Democrat Ben McAdams in 2018 by less than 700 votes.
But he also wants to put “considerable” resources into selected GOP legislative races, even a few high-profile county races, like unseating Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson – who won handily last year in her intra-party race to fill out the remaining two years of McAdams mayoral term and will seek re-election to a whole four-year term in 2020.
That $1 million “is above” the $100,000 that the GOP owes from overspending/under fundraising from before 2017 – a debt incurred in large part because of the party’s bitter infighting over SB54.
That debt will be paid off this year, Brown hopes.
A number of big party donors stopped giving after 2014 when then-party leaders began a lawsuit against SB54 – the compromise law passed by the GOP Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert that allows for an alternative route – signature gathering — to a party’s primary election.
When Brown took over party leadership in May, he promised that the SB54 fight was behind Republicans.
And he found out that the telephones had been turned off at party headquarters for lack of paying the bill.
Only one of the surprises left over from an almost bankrupt party operation.
Brown said adequately funded by the $1 million, in 2020 the state GOP will:
= Give money and other resources to GOP legislative candidates.
It used to be Utah’s most prominent political party would aid its legislative candidates in the final election. But in recent years it has been the other way around – GOP candidates were asked for donations to the party itself so that party operations could continue.
Brown said he met with a group of Republican legislators recently. “I told them the days of them giving to the party were over; we were going to be supporting them.” The legislators cheered him, he said.
= The state GOP will conduct polling in targeted areas, even in some legislative districts – which in the past was rarely done.
“We need to know where we are” in voters’ minds, “so we can best utilize our resources.”
= Have an accurate and extensive get-out-the-vote effort.
Former GOP 4th District Rep. Mia Love lost because some heavily Republican precincts in Utah County didn’t vote last year.
That’s not happening in 2020 – which is also a presidential election year where traditionally Utah Republicans tend to turn out – says Brown.
“We will have new marketing programs,” said Brown – perhaps reminiscent of decades ago when the Utah GOP ran some general billboard and TV ads touting how good state government has been run by Republicans and why Republicans need to turn out and vote.
Democrats have done a “pretty good job” of working hand-in-hand with their legislative candidates to get them elected, said Brown.
The Utah GOP has to do the same thing.
“It will be a true partnership” with legislative incumbents and challengers in open or Democratic-held seats.
In some cases, the state party may give cash to the GOP candidates.
In other instances, the party may help the candidates with mailers, neighborhood walking, or other efforts that will be in-kind contributions. It all depends on what the candidates and their campaigns need, said Brown.
Brown spent part of last week in Washington, D.C., at Republican National Committee meetings aimed at teaching new state party chairs and other officers.
The RNC has spent “hundreds of millions” of dollars on developing extensive data and analytic programs at the state levels, he said.
And the Utah GOP will be using that information to set up and execute high-tech campaigns and GOTV efforts.
Brown unseated a Democratic incumbent when he won his Utah House seat several years ago (he resigned to go to work for U.S. Sen. Mike Lee), so he said he knows what it takes to win in a close, swing district.
And all this high tech and targeted spending will result in a very good 2020 election for Utah Republicans, promises Brown.