SALT LAKE CITY — GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and his Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, may not be close in the polls but they have spent about the same amount of campaign cash.
Campaign disclosure statements filed Tuesday with the state show Herbert has spent more than $1.9 million and Corroon, just over $1.8 million in this year's special gubernatorial election.
Yet the most recent Deseret News/KSL-TV poll by Dan Jones & Associates, conducted Oct. 11-14, showed Herbert had increased his lead over Corroon slightly, to 25 points.
"It shows our race has been very competitive, on the fundraising side," Corroon said. He said he worked hard to raise enough money to ensure he could afford to reach voters around the state with television, radio and billboards.
Although Corroon has been criticized for airing negative TV commercials about whether campaign contributions to the governor influenced the award of state contracts, he said his poll numbers aren't an indication voters don't like what they're hearing from him.
"We're still getting our message out, so most of the money is being spent in these last few weeks. So we'll see where it stands on Nov. 2," the mayor said. "I think the citizens of Utah want to see a strong challenge to Gary Herbert."
Herbert's campaign spokesman, Don Olsen, said he wasn't surprised the governor was ahead in the polls despite not spending that much more than Corroon.
"I think it reflects the kind of campaign the governor has run," Olsen said. "It's been issue oriented. It's been very upbeat. It's been very positive and people are responding to that."
Since both candidates have similar-sized war chests, he said both have had the same opportunity to reach voters. "What's made a difference in this campaign, obviously, is the nature and the tone of the messages," Olsen said.
"Money is not a factor," said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and an adviser to the governor. "They both had more than enough money."
But that raises another question, he said. "What does it take for a Democrat to run a competitive race? The debate will be whether the Democrats are really dead in Utah or whether Corroon overplayed his hand with the negativity."
Herbert reported $2.4 million in contributions to his campaign account; Corroon, more than $2 million. That gives Herbert nearly $456,000 left to spend in the final week of the campaign, while Corroon has more than $286,000.
Corroon said he'll end up spending everything he's raised by the time Election Day rolls around. But Olsen said Herbert's campaign expects to end the race with much of that balance still in the bank.
"I don't anticipate that there are going to be any surprises that would have us spending the cash on hand," Olsen said. "But this is a campaign, so we shall see."
Both candidates are traveling around the state in the final days of the race for the remaining two years in former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s term. Huntsman resigned during his second term last year to become U.S. ambassador to China, forcing the special election.
Gov. Gary Herbert
Cash raised: $2.4 million
Cash spent: $1.9 million
Mayor Peter Corroon
Cash raised: $2 million
Cash spent: $1.8 million