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GOP gov. candidates spend millions on campaigns

By Ramsey Scott

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — There’s nothing like some contentious primary races to be a boon for the local economy. 

Candidates have filed their spending reports for the 2018 primary election cycle, and there were some serious dollars spent, especially in the race to replace current Gov. Matt Mead. More than $7.99 million was spent on the race, including $7.87 million from the top four vote-getters. 

The biggest spender was runner-up Foster Friess, who spent $2,683,209.10 on his campaign, with more than $2.4 million coming from his own checkbook. Almost half the money Friess spent in the race – $1.28 million – went toward television advertising, including ad buys of $291,836.70 on May 22, $352,680 on June 26 and $247,216 on July 31. Another big outlet for Friess’ money was the Georgia-based consulting firm Trafalgar Group. Friess cut four checks worth a total of $98,000 to Trafalgar between June and August for consulting work. Trafalgar also released a poll close to the primary election showing Friess had a 1-point lead in the primary race. The Friess campaign told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle at the time that they had not paid for that poll.

The next two highest spenders were Cheyenne executive Sam Galeotos and the eventual winner, current state Treasurer Mark Gordon. Galeotos spent $2,096,149.16 on his campaign, with a vast majority spent on television ad buys. Through two different media companies based in Virginia, Galeotos spent $625,539 of his campaign’s $675,568.50 advertising budget in July and August on television. That doesn’t include the six-figure television ad buys the campaign made before July 1

Gordon spent $2,038,222.06 on his campaign, with half of that being spent in the closing months on various forms of advertising. He shelled out $872,764.41 in July and August alone. Throughout the course of the campaign, Gordon spent more than $156,539 to procure the services of The Voyageur Company, a Minnesota group that provides direct fundraising mail to conservatives. 

The amount of money Gordon spent to win in the crowded Republican gubernatorial primary field means his general election war chest is down to $182,366.64. 

Gordon’s opponent in the general election race is Mary Throne of Cheyenne, the former state representative for House District 11 and House minority leader. So far, Throne has spent $112,298.12 on her campaign and has a slight advantage over Gordon in campaign dollars with $210,088.39 left in the bank for the general. 

Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman came in third in voting and fourth in spending. Hageman spent $1,052,493.60 in her bid for the nomination. All the other candidates in the Republican race spent less than six figures, and Throne’s two Democratic opponents, Kenneth Casner and Michael Allen Green, didn’t raise or spend a cent on their campaigns. 

– U.S. House 

Rep. Liz Cheney is in a good financial position heading into the general election race against Democratic opponent Laramie businessman Greg Hunter. The incumbent has spent $232,447.95 since Jan. 1 and still has $244,548.03 on hand to spend before the November election. The Federal Election Commission didn’t have any data on Hunter’s cash on hand or how much he had spent so far in the campaign. 

– U.S. Senate 

Sen. John Barrasso is the most well-funded candidate in Wyoming, with $5,388,593 cash on hand to win the general election. That’s after he’s spent $3,990,405 since the beginning of 2017.

Barrasso’s main primary opponent, David Dodson, spent heavily in his bid to unseat the senator. Dodson, a Jackson businessman, spent $1,437,239 to try and break through in his campaign against Wyoming’s junior senator but lost by about a 3-to-1 margin in the vote total to Barrasso. 

Barrasso now turns his attention to the general race, where he will face Democrat Gary Trauner, who ran unopposed in the primary. Trauner has only $264,633 on hand, having spent $366,798 since opening up his campaign. 

– State treasurer 

State Sen. Curt Meier spent heavily in his bid to win the Republican nomination for state treasurer. Meier spent $190,713.54 to defeat fellow state Sen. Leland Christensen, who only spent $4,775 out of the $29,151 he had raised. Cheyenne resident Ron Redo, who was the third Republican opponent in the race, spent the entire $1,213.30 he raised in his unsuccessful attempt to win the primary. 

Meier was set to run unopposed in the general race but picked up a Democratic opponent at the last moment when analytical chemist Chris Lowry qualified as a write-in candidate for the general election. As of the Friday filing deadline, Lowry hadn’t raised or spent any money. 

– State auditor

Kristi Racines, the chief financial officer for the Wyoming Supreme Court Office of Court Administration, spent $61,654.82 to win the Republican nomination for auditor. Her primary opponent, state Rep. Nathan Winters, spent $28,696.46 in his primary race, and still has $16,288.54 leftover. 

The general election race will pit Racines against Democrat Jeff Dockter, who has $162.75 on hand after spending $5,066.25 of the money he raised before the primary.

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