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Democratic leader bankrolls campaign

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Rob Weyher, the chief of the Summit County Democratic Party, is largely bankrolling the campaign of Laura Bonham, the party’s state House of Representatives candidate in one of the county’s districts, financial reports submitted to the state election office show.

Meanwhile Mel Brown, the Republican candidate in the district, is amassing industry money in his bid for the House, according to the reports.

Campaign-finance statements submitted by the two major-party candidates in the 53rd District show that Brown and Bonham have different fundraising strategies as they try to replace Rep. David Ure, the Kamas Republican who vacated the seat for an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate.

Through Weyher’s donations, Bonham is linked to a local party leader whose erratic behavior has distanced himself from rank-and-file Democrats, including leading party members who attempted to oust him in the summer after it was disclosed that he had given thousands of dollars to Republicans, including President George W. Bush.

For Brown, however, the donations from industry sources play into the Democrats’ attempts to portray him as an insider who, they say, is unfit to be elected because of an ethics probe when he previously served in the House.

According to the filings submitted to the State Elections Office, through Sept. 15, Bonham had amassed $16,960.95 in contributions and spent $13,855.14. Brown, meanwhile, had brought in $8,100 in donations and spent $4,276.88. Gary Shumway, a Libertarian in the contest, reported taking in $5,698.52 in contributions, mostly from himself or his family, and spending $5,495.96.

Weyher, a construction magnate, has, through his businesses, given Bonham $11,401.95 in donations, some of it in what is known as in-kind giving, like providing services rather than cash.

Weyher this week refused to indicate how much he plans to give Bonham through Election Day and declined to comment about the specifics of the donations.

"I’m giving her what she needs to get elected," he said. "Laura’s wonderful. She’s pure as the driven snow."

Bonham said Weyher’s donations do not make her his candidate. She said she continues to raise money and is approaching others.

"He’s just one of many people I’ve reached out to," she said. "He’s been more responsive than the others."

According to Bonham, Weyher’s in-kind donations have included yard signs, stickers and campaign materials. In a non-traditional campaign arrangement, she said Weyher purchased steer and lamb at the Morgan County Fair and donated the livestock to her campaign. The campaign then donated the meat from the animals to the three senior-citizen centers in Summit County, Bonham said.

Other prominent Democrats who have given include Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, Barbara Kresser, who is the Summit County assessor, and Ross and Cecilia Romero. Ross Romero is a state representative who serves parts of Summit County and is seeking a spot in the state Senate.

Bonham has also received money from unions and abortion-rights activists.

Brown’s contributors include ATK Aerospace Inc., ATK Thiokol, the Utah Association of Realtors and banking interests, including a Zions Bank political-action committee.

Brown said he is committed to the free market, which attracts industry donors, but said he would not be a puppet for big business if elected.

"I don’t believe I’d be beholden to anybody," Brown said, adding he would introduce legislation for the people, "not for my donors."

Brown said the real-estate agents like him because he supports private-property rights and said EnergySolutions, the firm once known as Envirocare, is a player in sectors outside its polarizing radioactive-waste division. He said he did not seek the donations.

"I just usually take what comes," Brown said.

On Election Day, Brown is expected to easily beat Bonham and Shumway. The 53rd District stretches over parts of five counties and mostly encompasses conservative rural areas. North Summit, South Summit and Park City are within the district.

Without Ure on the ballot, the Democrats are coveting the district, though, and see the Bonham-Brown campaign as a chance to pick up a rare seat in the House, which is overwhelmingly Republican.


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