This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The airwaves are being peppered with campaign ads with early voting underway and two weeks to Election Day, and if the amount of TV time translated into votes, Democrat Mike Weinholtz would be Utah's next governor.
Weinholtz, who started a successful health-care staffing business, pumped $2.7 million of his own money into his race and has dropped nearly a quarter million on TV ads.
Weinholtz needed to use his own money, he said, to run a "serious and professional campaign," but he has also raised more than $300,000 from 2,500 individual donors, compared to Herbert's $3.4 million raised from fewer than 250 contributions. Weinholtz also has refused to take corporate money, which limits his fundraising options.
With Republican Gov. Herbert agreeing to two debates, Weinholtz said he was forced to pump money into television ads. But he also plans to push other forms of media and stressed direct contact with voters, "including the largest field team Utah politics have ever seen, meaning organizers and volunteers who go door to door and make phone calls."
It has put Herbert in an unusual position for an incumbent running against an opponent who is spending nearly as much on the campaign as Herbert is on his re-election and getting considerably more TV face time.
The Weinholtz campaign has lined up 969 television commercials during the course of his gubernatorial bid, totaling nearly nine hours of air time. That includes more than 100 ads slated to air over the next two weeks leading up to Election Day.
Herbert, meantime, has leaned more heavily toward radio, buying 226 television ads, but purchasing 320 radio ads on KSL radio alone, and spending a total of $253,610 about $22,000 more than Weinholtz.
The governor also as most Utahns may have noticed has scores of billboards across the state, thanks to $24,000 of complimentary signs from Reagan Outdoor Advertising.
Herbert may actually be on pace to set a new record for spending on a governor's race, with a prospect of eclipsing the mark set by Jon Huntsman when he ran the first time in 2004. That year, as in this year, both candidates faced tough primary fights.
Herbert has raised about $3.4 million the same amount that Huntsman spent in 2004 and spent about $1.5 million fending off a challenge from Republican Jonathan Johnson. That means Weinholtz has actually spent more during the general election than Herbert.
"We had what amounted to an expensive primary challenge before facing an opponent in the general [election] who had funded his own campaign with $2.5 million of his own money," said Herbert's campaign manager, Marty Carpenter. "We based our plans on what we felt we needed to do to be successful."
Weinholtz, meantime, is likely to spend more than the last three Democratic gubernatorial candidates combined.
"Most of [Weinholtz's money] is going to wholesale, rather than retail [campaigning]," said University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless. "It's going for media in various forms rather than, say, grassroots, get-out-the-vote efforts. It's one thing to get your name out there and get recognized and put forth your public policy positions, but you've got to have an organization that identifies your voters and gets them out."
Indeed, all of Weinholtz's money doesn't seem to be doing much to close the gap on Herbert. A poll released Tuesday by UtahPolicy.com showed that he still trails by a wide margin 64 percent for Herbert to 25 percent for Weinholtz, about the same margin Herbert beat Democrat Peter Cooke by in 2012.
"I assumed from the get-go that I'd have to work all summer to achieve some name recognition, and that it would all come down to a slow climb in October," Weinholtz said. "We've gained some encouraging momentum and are excited to see it continue through Election Day."
Chambless said Herbert has the built-in advantage of incumbency and name recognition, and he hasn't made any big mistakes that would anger voters. In addition, he has managed to keep his distance from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and avoid being dragged down by Trump's unpopularity in the state.
"The governor, like other Republicans in the state, has done a dance between the tango and twist-and-shout," Chambless said. "It's mystifying that we get such a split [between Republican voters and their nominee] and I'm surprised [Trump] hasn't had more of a ricochet effect in the governor's race."