New reports show Huntsman, Cox raised big money for their campaigns

Former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman raised $3.426 million $3.426 million in his run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination this year — an effort that ended June 30 with a 1 percentage-point loss to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. 

Cox himself has so far this campaign season — remember he started running for the job to succeed his boss, Gov. Gary Herbert, way back in June 2019 —  raised $3.3 million as of new filings. He spent $2.8 million and has $500,000 in cash as he heads into the final month of campaigning.

For Huntsman, that is an impressive showing in raising money. He spent $3.379 million, and has $47,570 in cash as of this week. We don’t have Cox’s new spending reports yet.

Huntsman, of course, comes from the Jon Huntsman Sr. family, with his late-father, and now brothers, running the multi-billion-dollar petro-chemical firm that has allowed the Huntsmans to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of Utah to set up a cancer-fighting hospital and research center — all bearing the Huntsman name. Jon Sr. passed away several years ago.

Jon’s younger brother, Paul, bought The Salt Lake Tribune four years ago and recently turned the statewide newspaper into a non-profit, where he still runs the operation now as the chairman of the nonprofit entity.

Jon Jr.’s mother, Karen Haight Huntsman, donated $1.675 million to her son’s run for governor. Other family members kicked in another $80,000, for a total of $1.755 million, or 51.8 percent of all the money Jon Huntsman raised in this year’s race.

Huntsman finished behind Cox, 36-35 percent, with two other contenders — former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and former state GOP chairman Thomas Wright — getting the rest of the primary votes.

Huntsman spent $420,000 on advertising, mostly TV, just before the June 30 primary.

Utah hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since the late Gov. Scott M. Matheson won a second term in 1980. And Cox is basically a shoo-in for the Nov. 3 final election against Democrat Chris Peterson, a U of U law school professor, who reported raising $57,490 raising $57,490, spending $37,563, with only $19,000 in cash as of the end of September.

As may be expected, some of the larger donors to Huntsman’s campaign read like a who’s-who of Utah business, civic and political avenues:
— Ocean Star International, a firm that harvests brine scrimp from the Great Salt Lake, donated $100,000. Others include: Ron Ashley, $61,583; Barbara Barrington Jones, $100,000; C. Boyden Gray, a former U.S. leading diplomat under the George W. Bush administration, gave Huntsman $50,000; leading local construction company owners donated $25,000 and up; Larry Mizel, $25,000; Ray Hunt, $25,000.

Cox has a lot of big-name Utahns also on his donation list, so far (he will still be fundraising through the Nov. 3 election, and even after if he wins). And a number gave really big money AFTER Cox won the GOP nomination.

For example, the Republican Governors Association gave $200,000 in Aug. 12. The Utah Realtors gave $125,000 on Aug. 27. And Bonnie and Brent Beesley gave $50,000 Sept. 4.

Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and auto dealerships, $125,000; Sheli Gardner, $60,000; James Clarke, $100,000; Alan Ashton, $70,000; Smith 507, $50,000; Todd Petersen, $50,000; Aaron Skonnard, $40,000; Crystal Maggelet, $40,000; Gary Crocket, $50,000; and David Lisonbee, $50,000.

The Clyde construction company gave more than $50,000 in in-kind donations.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest public school teacher association, gave $75,000.

Eight different folks or firms gave $25,000 or more, including Pacific Corp. at $35,000. Dell Loy Hansen, who is now selling his professional soccer teams in Utah, gave $25,000.

And Herbert’s own personal PAC donated $50,000.

Cox’s lieutenant governor campaign of years gone by donated $100,000.

The Republican State Leadership Committee — a national GOP committee for state candidates/officeholders — gave him $115,000. You’ll note they didn’t give anything to Huntsman, who is also a Republican, but wasn’t an incumbent state GOP officer (Cox is lieutenant governor).

When he started running more than a year ago, Cox said he would visit all 250-plus Utah cities and towns. And he got to them all. Along the way, he asked regular Utahns to pledge $20.20 a month (2020, get it?) to his campaign. And hundreds did — each noted in his lengthy campaign finance reports.