Demo Weinholtz calls Gov. Herbert’s funding tactics ‘despicable’


SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Weinholtz responded to Gov. Gary Herbert’s “pay-to-play” campaign tactics by promising not to accept funding from corporate donors.

Joel Campbell
Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mike Weinholtz says he will take no corporate campaign donations. (Joel Campbell)

At a press conference at the state Capitol on May 18, Weinholtz surprised the public by announcing that he will not be accepting any donations from corporations, lobbyists or other special interests.

“I am the people’s candidate and this is the people’s house, not the lobbyists’ house,” Weinholtz said. Instead, he will only accept funding from individuals. Weinholtz is also offering an open door to the public two days a month.

Weinholtz is challenging Herbert for his position in the upcoming November gubernatorial election, and initially self-funded his campaign by putting up $1 million of his own money. Herbert has turned to other sources to raise money — mainly lobbyists, corporations and citizens. “I wish I was a wealthy person. I wish I could self-fund,” Herbert told the Associated Press.

Recently, however, Herbert has received criticism for comments he made to lobbyists at a private social club. Days after his opponent Jonathan Johnson beat him at the state Republican convention, Herbert implied that he would be willing to meet the lobbyists in exchange for campaign donations. Herbert expressed regret for the way the issue was handled but then told the Associated Press, “When you’re an average guy like me that has average means, you have to go out and ask people for money.”

Weinholtz disagreed when he called out Herbert’s funding tactics. “I believe he is selling access to the highest office in the state and this is an abuse of power,” Weinholtz said. “Citizens should be irate.”

Likening Herbert’s funding tactic to putting a “For Sale” sign on the Capitol, Weinholtz noted that, “this is what happens when you’re one of only four states in the country that has no ethics reform or campaign finance limitations.”

Herbert told the Associated Press, “As far as the optics and what’s happened, I’m disappointed in myself and how we handled that.”

However, Weinholtz says Herbert’s apology is insincere.

“He doesn’t regret these tactics, he only regrets getting caught,” Weinholtz said.

Herbert’s campaign responded to the accusation.

“While his opponents are eager to sling mud and play D.C.-style politics, Gov. Herbert is focused on issues that make a real difference for the people of Utah like preparing our students to succeed and solidifying our position as the nation’s strongest economy for decades to come,” a Herbert campaign official said in a statement.

If Herbert wins the Republican nomination during a primary on June 28, he will go head to head with Weinholtz at the Utah gubernatorial election on Nov. 8.

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