Hughes raising big bucks ahead of 2020 gubernatorial bid

Greg Hughes 01

It’s nice to have a few well-to-do friends to help jump-start your governor’s race.

And it’s nice to have hundreds of friends to give a little at a time.

Welcome to fundraising for two candidates, one unannounced, one announced, for the 2020 Utah governor’s race.

Unannounced candidate Greg Hughes, the former speaker of the Utah House, has raised $180,005 from just eight entities/people.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who has announced and has set up a campaign organization/fundraising effort, has raised $309,456 from hundreds of small donors, and a few large ones, too. From his 2016 LG campaign account he has taken $100,000 to get his effort going.

Hughes has not set up a formal campaign account with the lieutenant governor’s Utah Election Office, for now he is reporting money given to his old speaker’s PAC, which you can see here.

Cox has a campaign account, Cox for Governor, and it can be found here.

Both following the law don’t have to make a full report until the end of the year. For now, they have to list contributions once the donation checks are cashed.

And those are the numbers is reporting now.

Either way, $180,000 or $310,000, both are good financial starts.

As reported previously, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has resigned his post as U.S. ambassador to Russia, effective Oct. 3, and plans on returning to Utah, likely to run for governor next year. By law, he can’t start fundraising until his official ambassadorship ends. And he likely may not set up a campaign organization until later this year or early next year, should he decide to get in the race.

As reported yesterday in a UtahPolicy/Y2 Analytics poll this week, many Utahns do want Huntsman to run next year, but many hard-core Republicans/conservatives do not.

Here are the big donations to Hughes:

Shed Development, a northern Utah firm whose principle is Jed Stevenson, $25,000; developer/restaurateur Kevin Gates, $25,000; J. Steven Price, $25,000; former Utah House majority leader Kevin Garn, $25,000; current GOP House leader Mike Schultz; developer (and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Kem Gardner, $50,000.

Cox’s list is longer, and while it has a few big donors, they haven’t pumped as much money into Cox’s coffers as Hughes’ deep-pocketed donors.

When Cox announced his campaign in June, he touted a fundraising total of more than $250,000. $100,000 of that was transferred from his Lt. Governor’s campaign account. 

In the ensuing month and a half since his announcement, Cox’s campaign has pulled in just under $60,000 in donations, mostly from donors who are giving under $1,000. 

Cox is encouraging supporters to join a recurring small-dollar donation program to fund his campaign. It’s unclear how successful that program has been. Cox’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from

Cox counts several large dollar donors to his campaign, including LRF Partners ($20,000) St. John Properties ($20,000) and Cowboy Properties ($10,000)

Far and away, the leader in fundraising right now is Provo Businessman Jeff Burningham, who counts more than $585,000 in donations to his nascent gubernatorial campaign. Just over $100,000 of that total is a loan to his own campaign.

Vivint President Alex Dunn, who was Mitt Romney’s chief when he was governor of Massachusetts, donated $5,000 to Burningham’s campaign.

Burningham’s campaign manager Adrielle Herring tells that they’ve been encouraged by the early fundraising support.

“The ability to fundraise is an early indicator of the success a political campaign will have. Jeff has shown he has a message and vision that resonates with Utahns. That’s why so many people have been willing to write checks already,” she said.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who has been meeting with supporters ahead of a possible campaign, has about $52,000 in her county council account that she could tap for a gubernatorial bid. There’s approximately $20,000 in her Utah Values PAC that could also be used on a campaign.

Rep. Rob Bishop, who is rumored to be mulling running for governor in 2020 after he retires from Congress, has nearly $300,000 in his federal account that could be transferred to a state account if he decides to run.

Former Utah GOP Chairman and successful real estate executive Thomas Wright is also thinking about seeking the Republican nomination in 2020. He tells he hasn’t begun any fundraising activities.

“I am still in the process of deciding whether I will run. The process started a few months and ago and continues today.  It includes meeting with citizens of Utah, talking to prospective donors and formulating a plan for what that run would look like. If the decision to run is made, I am confident that the plan I have been working on will be ready to deploy quickly and will include campaign experts as well as the proper funding mechanisms to make me a viable choice in the Republican Primary of 2020,” said Wright in a text message.

Business Greg Miller is also said to be thinking about the race.