Analysis: Campaign cash may define the 1st Congressional District GOP race

Money Politics 01

As the Republican primary race in U.S. House District 1 in Utah gets started, former state Agriculture director Kerry Gibson leads in cash on hand, but he’s way behind in the 2 News polling of “likely” GOP voters in the district.

An analysis by shows that Gibson has $101,761 in cash as of just before the April 25 state GOP convention, where Gibson finished first among the 1,000 or so delegates.

But while Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson was technically eliminated by the delegates, he got the 7,000 GOP registered voter signatures needed to put him through to the June 20 primary election.

And the Y2 Analytics poll of “likely” GOP voters conducted in late March puts Stevenson well ahead, with 25 percent of the vote. That poll included all 12 of the pre-convention Republican 1st District candidates — so the vote was spread out considerably among them.

The approximately 1,000 convention delegates winnowed down the field to two, Gibson and Blake Moore. Stevenson and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt finished well back in the pack.

But Witt, like Stevenson, got 7,000 GOP signatures and so under SB54 advanced to the primary. And Witt finished second in the Y2 poll to Stevenson, with 17 percent support among rank-and-file likely Republican voters.

So, there are four Republicans on the primary ballot: Stevenson and Witt (who qualified by signatures and lead in the poll) and Gibson and Moore (who qualified by the convention route and are well back in the poll).

Still, it’s good that Gibson has just over $100,000 because he really needs to start advertising and reaching out to the GOP voters — he got only 7 percent in the Y2 poll. Not very good, coming in sixth place among likely primary voters.

Moore has $84,392 in cash, Federal Election Commission reports show. He finished 7th in the poll, with just 6 percent support. He has a long way to go to catch up to Stevenson and Witt, as well.

This shows, once again, that GOP state delegates DO NOT represent the candidate preferences of likely rank-and-file primary Republican voters — something has pointed out time after time over the last few election cycles.

The other eight candidates were eliminated in the convention, they didn’t finish one or two and they didn’t get signatures.

Witt is in the worst shape financially. While she lent her campaign $70,000, she only has $8,888 in cash left. And it is tough to raise money in a party primary race — a lot of donors want to wait to see who the ultimate GOP nominee is before giving money.

If Witt wants to gain on Stevenson among voters, she may have to lend her campaign some more cash, if she has it.

Stevenson has $65,034 in cash, FEC reports show. And he’s ahead in the poll, so he may be able to raise some more money before June 30. He has loaned his campaign the most among the four — $156,699.

Moore has loaned his campaign $8,983.

While Gibson has given his campaign $51,183.

Now, as stated above, Stevenson and Witt qualified via signature gathering. And they both paid professional firms to help get those 7,000 signatures.

According to a analysis, Stevenson paid $73,120 to Gather, Inc., to become qualified via SB54 (7,000 verified signatures). That’s $10.44 per signature.

Witt paid Grassfire, LLC, $62,500 for her 7,000 verified signatures, or $8.92 per signature.

Moore also signed up to gather signatures, but he got only 4,525 verified signatures — not enough to make the primary. He paid two firms, Fiefia and Election Hive, a total of $16,757.50 for those signatures, his FEC reports show — or $3.70 per signature — even though in the end he didn’t qualify for the primary via signatures; he got there by a second-place finish in the convention.

In a special April session, the Utah Legislature decreed that all voting June 30 will be by mail-in ballots — no traditional polling places will be open because of social distancing and the coronavirus outbreak.

That means primary candidates need to hustle — the mail-in ballots will start going out in just a few weeks, and a goodly percent of voters may cast ballots well before the June 30 Election Day.

The candidates need to start reaching potential GOP voters sooner, rather than later. And there’s not much “later” in the normal compacted primary election season in Utah, much less this coronavirus-abbreviated primary.

As the candidates well know, this House seat will go to the Republican nominee — to be decided June 30. It is a heavily GOP district and no Democrat has held the northern Utah seat since the early 1980s.

So, if the four GOP candidates can afford it, they likely will be putting more of their own money into their races over the next several weeks.