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Democrat rolls in money

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Laura Bonham, in a third bid for the Statehouse, is raising and spending more money than her previous two campaigns combined, campaign-finance reports show, spotlighting the Democrats’ belief that they have a chance on Election Day to capture a rare seat for the state’s minority party.

Bonham and others say that the cash flowing into her campaign is a result of the incumbent, Republican David Ure, not seeking re-election and that Bonham, after her two unsuccessful bids, is a more recognizable figure than in 2004 and 2002, when she was easily defeated in her campaigns for the 53rd District seat in the House of Representatives.

Bonham’s financials, meanwhile, are outpacing her two opponents, Republican Mel Brown and Libertarian Gary Shumway. Bonham is expected to have a solid showing in the Park City area on Election Day but it is anticipated that Brown will rout Bonham and Shumway in more rural parts of the district, especially those outside of Summit County.

"It isn’t like I wouldn’t have spent the money last time around if I was able to raise the money," Bonham says, acknowledging that is has been easier in 2006 to garner campaign donations.

She says that contributors display a "level of frustration" with Republicans holding federal offices and the overwhelming majority that the GOP holds at the Statehouse.

According to financial reports submitted to state elections officers, Bonham through Sept. 15 had received $16,960.95 in contributions and had spent $13,855.14.

The numbers midway through the campaign are larger than the final figures from her 2004 and 2002 campaigns. At the end of her 2004 bid for the Statehouse, Bonham had raised $7602.62 and spent $7530.02. In the 2002 campaign, Bonham raised and spent $2,300.56. She financed much of her 2002 campaign herself.

Bonham, who lives in Coalville and has a general-contracting business with her husband, says that she hopes to raise $27,000 by Election Day.

"I have found, on my side of the aisle, very upset and very motivated voters," Bonham says, adding that Brown might be "underestimating" her campaign.

Through the same period, Brown reported raising $8,100, lots of it from industry sources, and spending $4,276.88. Shumway spent $5,495.96 and raised $5,698.52.

Rob Weyher, the embattled chief of the Summit County Democratic Party, has donated heavily to Bonham through his business interests, giving more than $11,000 in cash and services, and she has received donations from prominent Democrats like Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott and Barbara Kresser, the Democratic Summit County assessor. She has also received union and abortion-rights money.

Bonham continues to defend an unusual arrangement between herself and Weyher, who purchased livestock at the Morgan County Fair and donated the animals to Bonham’s campaign. The campaign then donated the meat from the livestock to three senior-citizen centers in Summit County. The arrangement has spurred questions but Bonham maintains that it is appropriate.

Todd Taylor, who leads the Utah Democratic Party, says Bonham is "certainly not out of the realm" of spending for a contested House contest. He expects to donate $100 and says that part of Bonham’s support in 2006 comes from people who backed Ure in 2004.

He says that House candidates in competitive races in 2006 are typically raising about $14,000.

The state Democrats are putting money into the campaign, says Craig Axford, a state party official who works with county level Democrats. Through Sept. 15, the Utah State Democratic Committee had donated $50, on Aug. 16, to Bonham. Axford says a Democratic political-action committee has given "a significant amount" that Bonham will report on in a later disclosure.

"I think people see Democrats have a real chance of picking this seat up," Axford says.

Bonham says she does not expect more money from the state Democrats but that the party has provided her access to a voter database and a computer program that maps voter trends.

Brown, the Republican opponent, shrugs off the disparity between Bonham’s financials and those of the other candidates. He says he is not worried and that he will not change his fundraising strategy to match Bonham. Brown says he is unsure how much more he will spend on the campaign.

"I’m not gauging anything I do based on what she does," Brown says.


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