Republican candidates for governor spent nearly $4 million on advertising ahead of the primary

GOP Cash 01

The Republican candidates for governor spent more than $3.7 million on advertising ahead of the party’s June primary.

According to figures provided to by Advertising Analytics, Jon Huntsman spent the most on advertising, coming in at $1,247,281. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who narrowly edged out Huntsman for the party’s nomination, totaled $822,011 in ads.

Cox’s campaign bet big on digital advertising, spending $522,000 for online ads, primarily on Facebook and YouTube. That was far and away more than any other gubernatorial candidate, and more than double any other single campaign put toward online. 

Cox started his online advertising in May of 2019, shortly after he announced his candidacy, getting in the race far ahead of any of his rivals. Figures show Cox continued to advertise exclusively online through February of this year. Cox began advertising on other platforms in March of this year, just before the Utah Republican State Convention, where he finished in first place. 

The lion’s share of Cox’s ad buy took place in May and June. His campaign spent more than $617,000 on advertising those two months, with more than half of that going toward digital.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who narrowly lost the GOP nomination to Cox by just over 6,300 votes, spent an eye-popping $909,000 on television ads on broadcast and cable TV. His campaign put another $252,000 into online advertising.

In the two months before the primary election, Huntsman’s campaign put $551,000 into broadcast television advertising alone, adding another $202,000 on cable.

A group of Huntsman’s supporters is working to convince him to mount a write-in campaign for Governor in the fall. He will likely have to raise, and spend, a large amount of cash for such a long-shot effort. For comparison, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised $4.6 million for her successful write-in campaign in 2010. Utah’s population is more than four times that of Alaska’s, so it’s not a stretch to think that Huntsman’s campaign would need to drop at least another $1.2 million on advertising to give him a fighting chance.

Greg Hughes, who finished third in the gubernatorial primary, dropped more than $532,000 on advertising on broadcast and cable television. Another $131,000 went toward online ads.

Thomas Wright’s fourth-place campaign put most of their resources toward traditional broadcast television, dropping more than $193,000 on that medium. Most of their television advertising came during April and May. Wright dramatically scaled back that advertising in June, likely because polling showed he was not in a position to win the race.

Jeff Burningham, who was eliminated from the race at the party’s April convention, spent more than $717,000 on advertising in his unsuccessful effort. The bulk of that was on broadcast television advertising, where his campaign spent $440,000. Another $106,000 went to radio. The rest was spent on cable, digital and satellite advertising. 

Aimee Winder Newton’s unsuccessful bid for governor spent just $8,400 on advertising, while Jan Garbett’s attempt to qualify for the GOP primary through signatures spent a paltry $2,500.