The intricate cash flow in Senate races can, at times, be maze-like.
But UtahPolicy has found, and state sources say, that a few GOP Senate incumbents are taking sides in the Republican primary battle between Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, in the newly-drawn Senate District 28; and in the battle between Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, and Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, in Senate District 24.
For example, on April 30 of this year – just a few days ago – The Utah County Legislative PAC, created and run by Sens. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Curt Bramble, R-Provo, donated $1,500 to Vickers campaign account. (Valentine says he’s not been involved in recent PAC decisions and didn’t sit in on decisions to give Vickers a donation.)
This came after Anderson was unable to eliminate Vickers in the state Republican Convention on April 21.
The two men now face each other in a closed GOP primary on June 26.
And Lockhart herself, through her Speaker’s Victory Fund PAC, also gave Vickers $1,000 late last month.
Lockhart told UtahPolicy last week that she is not giving to House Republican candidates this year, breaking with the tradition of top GOP House leaders donating considerable money to their party colleagues.
However, Lockhart did tell UtahPolicy that she is supporting financially several House members who are running for the Senate this year, believing that they are good lawmakers and would make good senators.
Bramble told UtahPolicy that he’s worked with both Vickers and Painter – co-sponsoring bills – and has found them fine legislators.
He added that he’s pleased that there are four fairly good candidates running for those two Senate seats.
Bramble said the Utah County Legislative PAC made donations to the two representatives because they requested donations. He added that both Anderson and Okerlund, fellow GOP senators, had not requested any monies from the Utah County Legislative PAC.
Historically, it is difficult to raise money in party primary races, since many traditional givers to incumbents want to wait until the party nominee is picked before donating cash.
Thus, those who give in primary races are considered by candidates valued and stalwart supporters.
Between the speaker’s donations, the Utah County Legislative PAC (Lockhart sits on that PAC’s board) and other donations to Vickers, it gives the appearance that Vickers is being backed, in part, in anticipation of close leadership battles in the GOP-controlled Senate coming later this year.
Senate sources tell UtahPolicy that Okerlund is looking to run for majority leader after the 2012 November elections. Bramble is also considered a good bet to run for that or another high leadership post this coming year, several sources said.
Asked if he was going to run for majority leader later this year, Bramble said he anticipates that a number of GOP senators will be looking at leadership races.
A bit of history here to give perspective.
In 2008 Valentine was the president of the Senate, Bramble the majority leader.
In what was then considered an upset, current Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, defeated Valentine for the top post. In the same leadership election, Bramble, too, was defeated in his re-election bid to be majority leader.
A new group of Senate Republicans took over leadership.
Two years ago Waddoups faced a challenge by then-freshman Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, in the president’s race.
Bramble ran again for majority leader, this time against current Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.<
They were brief, but tough battles.
At one point, Jenkins posted on the unofficial GOP Senate web site a letter warning registered lobbyists to stay out of the leadership races. It’s illegal for lobbyists to get involved in leadership contests; they could lose their lobbyist license if they do so.
While the challengers to Waddoups et al. were not running as a bloc, clearly the leaders were being challenged as a group of incumbent leaders.
Waddoups, Jenkins and Senate Majority Assistant Whip Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, all survived and won new leadership terms – to the surprise of a few Senate-watchers.
Indeed, in a press conference just after the leadership elections, Knudson said that if one listened to the rumors running through Capitol Hill hallways just a week before, all the incumbent leaders were headed for the scrap heap.
The leadership votes are by secret ballot. And the vote totals among the 22 Republicans weren’t announced.
But Senate sources say that recent top leadership races have been decided by one or two votes.
And it’s safe to say in such a small body that members know who support whom in those sometimes very personal contests.
Six months after that leadership race, Waddoups appointed Okerlund as Senate chair of the Redistricting Committee, which conducted the hard work of redrawing state House and Senate districts following the 2000 Census.
That was a very powerful position, and likely Waddoups wouldn’t have named Okerlund if Okerlund hadn’t supported Waddoups et al. in the 2010 leadership challenges.
Anderson didn’t participate in those leadership elections, however, having been appointed to his post in 2011 after then-Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, passed away from cancer.
Now, Waddoups is retiring as Senate president this year.
After the November elections, the newly-elected GOP senators – along with mid-term Republican colleagues – will pick a new president.
Jenkins, the current majority leader, has said he wants to step up and be president.
Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, may also be interested in the top post.
And other current and past leaders may try to run for a high leadership post, as well.
Thus, internally there could be large shifts in GOP Senate leadership coming into the 2013 Legislature.
Both Jenkins and Niederhauser have been down in Iron County supporting Anderson’s re-election bid, sources tell UtahPolicy.
If Anderson and Okerlund are “yea” votes for Jenkins and other current leaders, and if Vickers and Painter replace those two sitting senators and support challengers to the current leaders, the balance of power in the Senate may hinge on those two GOP primary races.
(It’s unlikely Anderson or Vickers would lose their final election to Democrat Geoffrey Chestnut in Senate District 28, and there’s no Democrat running in Senate District 24.)
Of course, there could be other newly-elected GOP senators, as well, coming into the mix.
There’s a history of the Utah County Legislative PAC being used to support GOP Senate candidates (some incumbents, some challengers) who live outside of Utah County.
In 2008, when Valentine and Bramble were running for re-election to president and majority leader, respectively, the PAC gave $35,000 to GOP Senate candidates.
You can see the contributions and expenditures from the Utah County Legislative PAC here. The last filing required was year-end 2011.
Vickers’ campaign account is here.
PACs and primary candidates don’t report again until seven days before the primary election, which is June 26. Candidates must report contributions when those checks are cashed. Vickers has, thus, reported recent contributions made to his campaign, which include the donations by the Speaker’s Victory Fund and the Utah County Legislative PAC.