In his radio ads announcing his congressional bid, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom tells how he turned his father's family business into "one of the most successful and thriving architectural firms in the Intermountain West."
That business Sandstrom Associates Architecture earned Sandstrom nearly $480,000 this year, designing schools and other buildings across three states, pushing his net worth to an estimated $11 million.
"I think one thing we need in Washington, D.C., where we need to grow jobs is someone who's been in the trenches, who has been a small-business owner," who can understand the effects of federal taxes and regulation, Sandstrom said. "I think someone who's been successful in business is a huge plus in Congress."
Sandstrom also earned $15,605 in his legislative salary, which doesn't include his health benefits.
If he is elected, Sandstrom would be the 64th wealthiest member of Congress, according to tabulations by the Center for Responsive Politics, and he would easily be the most affluent of the Utah delegation. His yearly household income is about ten times that of the average Utah family.
U.S. House members earn an annual salary of $174,000.
Sandstrom's considerable wealth has already come into play as the Republican candidate has reached into his pocket and loaned about $62,000 to his campaign.
"Obviously I don't want to use a lot of my own funds, but right now it's a tough time, especially kicking off a campaign right during the holidays," Sandstrom said. "So, I would rather not put my own money into the race, but I will do it as needed."
Sandstrom ran for Congress once before in 1996 and spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money on that race but failed to get the Republican nomination.
Sandstrom's fellow state Rep. Carl Wimmer, who is also running in the 4th Congressional District, filed his disclosure last month and reported a household income of about $60,000, but had two mortgages on his home.
Wimmer, who co-founded a security company and landscaping business, has cast himself as an average working-class candidate.
"Obviously, there's a definite contrast. You can't hide from that. It just is what it is," Sandstrom said. "I don't know how much of an issue it will be. I think that's up to the individual voter to look at candidates and decide who they're going to support, if they're going to look at their whole life story."
Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love has filed to run for the 4th District seat but has yet to make an official announcement or file a personal financial disclosure.
According to his disclosure, Sandstrom did work for school districts around Utah, Brigham Young University, a charter school in Sandy and several school districts in Wyoming and Denver.
"We're doing well," Sandstrom said. "Even during these economic downturns I've actually hired people."
The company had four employees when Sandstrom took it over from his father, who had fallen ill. He said they have 20 employees today and are looking to hire a few more, after landing another significant contract.
His assets include a gun collection worth as much as $100,000 and a coin collection valued at up to $15,000.
Sandstrom said his gun collection is fairly extensive, filling two, 30-gun safes. He has collected guns since he was young. Several are rifles his father had bought for him. He said he has several high-end custom rifles and several firearms that have been out of production for years.
He said he started collecting coins when he was earning a merit badge in the Boy Scouts. Sandstrom's wife, Jennie, earned a salary of about $33,000 from the company and one of his children made about $19,000.
Jennie Sandstrom also had credit card debt of between $10,000 and $15,000, but the campaign said the balance is paid every month.