Analysis: GOP race to face Ben McAdams is wide open


As the Republican Party nomination battle in Utah’s 4th Congressional District now gets underway, state Rep. Kim Coleman has the most cash on hand.

But Coleman is not among the top two leaders in a 2News poll, and has her work cut out for her among rank-and-file “likely” GOP primary voters.

A analysis of Federal Election Commission reports finds that Coleman had $115,084 in cash just before the late-April Republican state convention, where Coleman finished first among seven candidates with 54.5 percent of the delegate vote.

Coleman is the only candidate among the four who will be on the June 30 GOP ballot who took only the convention route this year, the primary winner facing incumbent Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah.

The other three, Burgess Owens, Jay “JayMac” McFarland, and Trent Christensen, all gathered the 7,000 required signatures to make the primary ballot. Owens also finished second in the state convention, 45.5 percent of the delegate vote, and so advanced to the primary via that route, as well.

If not for the SB54 signature route, Christensen would have been eliminated from the race in convention, where he finished fifth. Likewise, McFarland would have fallen in convention, finishing third. The top two come out to the primary ballot if no one gets 60 percent or more of the delegate vote.

McFarland actually is ahead in the Y2 Analytics poll, taken the end of March, with 31 percent of the “likely” GOP primary voters.

Owens finished second in the poll, with 22 percent support.

Coleman tied with Kathleen Anderson, who was eliminated in the convention, with 17 percent support.

And Christensen came in a tie for 5th in the poll, with just 6 percent support.

Christensen also has the least amount of cash, FEC reports show, among the four on the ballot with only $4,435.

However, Christensen was a major fundraiser for now-U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney in both his presidential and Senate campaigns, and so does have some chops in the fund-raising category. We’ll see how he does now in the GOP primary, where it is always hard to raise money.

Owens, a former NFL football player and a current motivational speaker, has $92,812 in cash as of the pre-convention FEC report.

McFarland had $32,523 in cash.

Christensen, so far, has loaned his campaign $64,236 of the $85,000 raised, or about 75 percent.

The other candidates have not loaned their races any money, reports show. Christensen tells that if he wins the GOP primary he’ll be able to raise, across the country, enough money to be competitive to McAdams’ $2 million the congressman already has in the bank. But whoever wins the Republican nomination will likely have all kinds of national support, as McAdams is ranked as one of the more vulnerable Democrats in 2020.

Some interesting financial notes:

— Christensen had Utah-based Gather, Inc., collect signatures to put him on the ballot. His reports show Gather charged his campaign $59,475, or $8.49 each for the 7,000 required signatures.

Owens spent $22,500 with Gather, Inc., for signatures, or a cost of $3.21 per signature.

McFarland didn’t list any signature-gathering cost in his FEC report, so he either used all volunteers to get his 7,000 signatures or listed any gathering costs under another expense title, like campaign consulting.

Coleman raised the most in her pre-convention campaign. But she also spent heavily, her FEC reports show — a lot on direct mail and postage. She also spent money on Facebook ads.

Former Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah — whom McAdams narrowly defeated in 2018 — also spent a lot of campaign money on direct mail, both in fundraising and communicating with voters.

Coleman’s efforts paid off in the convention, where she finished first.

McFarland, until last year, was an afternoon talk show host, under the name “JayMac,” on KSL Radio, and so had a lot of name I.D. going into this election year.

Now it will be seen how the four 4th District GOP candidates do among the rank-and-file Republican voters over the next two months.