Recently, Michelle Tanner made an interesting post about the amount of money going into the St. George City Council race (found here). Someone had commented on the amount of money spent so far on this race (up through October 24, 2023). I couldn’t find the response, so I went through the disclosures and added it up.
That’s $61,317.03 for each of the three open seats.
That is staggering. I can’t help but ask why? For Brad and Paula, I know it’s to try and protect the city and us normal citizens’ rights and freedoms. For the rest I can only speculate.
While a good amount of the funding for this does come from the candidates themselves, more than half have come from private donors. The biggest single donor was Southern Utah Home Builders Association, which spent $9,000.00 between Jimmie Hughes, Steve Kemp, Danielle Larkin, Matthew Heaton and Wendi Bulkley. That’s not an inconsiderable amount of money. Why? What do they hope to get by backing these individuals to this extent? What favors will be expected?
The second highest single donor was Dimon and Darlene McFerson, donating $5,000 between Danielle Larkin, Steve Kemp and Jimmie Hughes. Dimon is a retired CEO of Nationwide Insurance, and is currently the chairman of the board for St. George Musical Theater. The theater recently made a land deal with the city to build a new theater for their group. The McFerson’s have personally donated at least $2 Million to this project, but the fact they donated this much to the incumbents raises eyebrows (or should).
The third highest donor is State Senator Don Ipson, donating $4,500 between the incumbents and Wendi Bulkley. While, as a private citizen who apparently has the means, he has every right to do this. I still can’t help but wonder why.
The fourth highest should be no surprise to anyone who’s been around local politics: Steven Wade. To the tune of $4,000.00. Jimmie did not gain from Mr. Wade, but Steve Kemp, Danielle Larken, Wendi Bulkley and Steve Jennings all did. Also, did I mention that Steven Wade’s Public Relations Director, Jamie Bahlmann, is also one of the key organizers of the St. George Quality of Life Coalition PAC (officially listed as SG Quality of Life Coalition PAC with the State of Utah, though I haven’t been able to find a listing with the Federal Election Commission). A little incestuous in my book.
The fifth highest donor is Rick Atkin. Rick has a background in technology, and most recently has built a company offering coaching to college students. I don’t know much about Rick. I do know he donated $3,500.00 to Steve Kemp and Danielle Larkin. I can’t speak to his motives at all.
Lastly is the Washington County Board of Realtors. They donated $3,350 between Steve Jennings, Danielle Larkin and Mathew Heaton. It’s funny how funding from the housing sector appears again and again.
I applaud anyone who is engaged enough to put their own capital behind candidates they feel will best serve their community, and drive it in a direction they would like to see. I question the appearance of trying to buy elections or candidates.