Cox, Huntsman and Wright banked big campaign donations in the days before the primary election

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Talk about getting your check in just under the deadline — three of the GOP gubernatorial candidates this year collected over $1 million just before or after the June 30 Republican primary election.

Money that came in AFTER the pre-election-day financial reports due just before the primary and general election dates.

The largest amounts came from the mother of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr, who gave her son $650,000 in two payments.

All the giving is perfectly legal. Utah has no state campaign donation limits.

And it shows how Huntsman, who finished just behind Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in the four-way race; Cox, and real estate magnate Thomas Wright, who finished a distant fourth; believed their final campaign collections and spending could help their cause.

Final reports on spending have yet to be disclosed for the primary losers, which include former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, who didn’t cash as many last-day checks as did the other three.

Under Utah campaign finance reporting laws, contributions and spending just before a primary or final election are due several days before those elections. If you cash a campaign check after that date, you have to report that within several days of doing so.

And those are the reports examined for this story.

They show:

Huntsman: Karen Huntsman, widow of Jon Huntsman Sr. and mother to Jon Jr., donated $350,000 on June 23 and another $300,000 on July 1.

Jon Sr. and Karen became multi-billionaires through the family’s extensive oil/plastic production firms, and have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to cancer research and hospitals at the University of Utah, along with other philanthropic endeavors.

Altogether, Huntsman Jr. raised $766,544 in the final days just before and after the June 30 election, or $126,544 outside of his mother’s campaign donations. On Huntsman’s pre-primary report is a Karen Huntsman donation of $250,000, for a total giving of $900,000, as of current reporting.

As Managing Editor Bryan Schott is reporting, supporters of Huntsman are trying to talk him into running a write-in campaign for governor in the fall.

Cox: Got last-day contributions from a number of individuals and groups, including $40,000 from the Republican State Leadership PAC, $15,000 from Rustler Investments, $25,000 from Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, and $25,000 from Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Real Salt Lake pro-soccer club. All told, Cox raised an impressive $260,364 in the final days before the election, his supplemental report shows.

While final vote totals have not been released, Cox beat Huntsman by around 7,000 votes out of half a million cast, and now faces Democrat Chris Peterson in November.

Wright: He made several last-day contributions to his own campaign, the largest being a “loan” of $88,000 on June 23. Between his individual giving and his various real estate firms, Wright donated $114,705 to his campaign after the final pre-primary reporting deadline. He raised $117,000 in cash after that reporting deadline, his reports show.

Hughes didn’t donate any more money himself to his campaign after the pre-primary report (he kicked in personally around $358,000 previously). And he didn’t get any really big last-day contributions, either; none over $2,000. He raised just $12,000 between the final pre-primary report and his latest check-cashing update.

Cox, who is not personally wealthy, should have no trouble financing his general election campaign unless Huntsman does decide to conduct a write-in campaign.

Then both men will have to raise and spend considerable sums of cash once again, outside of their already hefty primary election campaign costs.