- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah Gov. Gary Herbert received big donations from a national Republican governor’s group and the wealthy Huntsman family in his biggest fundraising year so far while his Democratic challenger relied heavily on his own money and hundreds of small donations, according to the final campaign finance reports filed before the election.

Herbert’s total haul so far this year is about $2.6 million, spurred in part by a tough primary challenge for the Republican nomination in a largely GOP state, campaign manager Marty Carpenter said Wednesday.

He also chalked up the donations to businesses recognizing the state’s healthy economy under Herbert, which is among the governor’s major talking points as he runs for a second full term.

Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz’s year-to-date total is about $3 million, the reports covering late September to late October show. He’s loaned his campaign about $2.7 million this year, including $270,000 last month.

A wealthy former CEO of a medical staffing company making his first run for public office, Weinholtz said he’s supporting himself because he’s refusing corporate money in favor of small donations that reflect grassroots support.

His campaign has seen a spike of interest, if not cash, since he made a strong stand for legalizing medical marijuana after his wife pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for having nearly two pounds of the pot she used to treat chronic pain, he said.

Weinholtz’s big donors last month included ski mogul John Cumming and his family, who gave a combined total of $12,200, according to the reports filed Tuesday.

He also participated in an online Democratic fundraising tool called Act Blue that brought hundreds of small donations, some worth a dollar or so.

Herbert, meanwhile, spent more than he raised during the last reporting period, primarily on expenses for his annual fundraising gala the month before.

The event raised about $1 million in previously reported donations, Carpenter said.

Among the businesspeople donating to the incumbent last month was the Huntsman family, whose company and political action committee gave a total of $25,000.

Herbert served under former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., whose brother Paul Huntsman now owns The Salt Lake Tribune.

Herbert’s other business donors included 1-800 Contacts and United Health Group, which each gave $10,000. The Republican Governor’s Association gave $100,000, marking its second six-figure donation to him during the race.

The governor’s fundraising generated controversy earlier this year when a recording emerged of him referring to himself as “Available Jones” when speaking to lobbyists and offering to meet in exchange for campaign donations. The governor later said he was disappointed in himself but that nothing unethical or illegal occurred.

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