A super PAC is jumping into the 3rd District special election to support Chris Herrod and oppose John Curtis.
The National Horizon PAC, which is loosely affiliated with the Club for Growth, is making a last-minute $123,500 expenditure in the race. Their 24-hour filing with the FEC notes that $96,000 will go toward a direct mail piece opposing Provo Mayor John Curtis, while the other $27,500 is for a radio commercial supporting former Rep. Chris Herrod.
The commercial, which is airing now in Utah, attacks Curtis for his dress, an untucked shirt, as well as his policies.
"(John Curtis) is one smooth politician," says the ad's narrator in a folksy, down-home voice. "He's perfectly posed. Shirt carefully untucked. Slick. But his record doesn't look nearly as good. Curtis pushed a 20% increase in the gas tax. Curtis dumped a $12 million sales tax hike on Provo."
National Horizon is not the only outside group trying to scuttle Curtis' candidacy. The Club for Growth reports spending more than $5,700 on a website hammering Curtis.
Herrod, who is prohibited from coordinating with National Horizon by FEC laws, says he's heard the ad and does not like the tone of the commercial.
"I think John dresses just fine and petty comments about how he dresses are uncalled for, so I'm not sure the ad helps me," said Herrod in an email to UtahPolicy.com. "The group, and I've never heard of them before, obviously has concerns with John's record and what he would do in Congress. I wish that Horizon would have simply focused on BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and the wasteful $190 million project that most in Provo don't want since it is destroying University Avenue. I wish they would have talked about Provo City saying that police won't work with ICE officials on immigration violations. All of that is not conservative, but don't go after someone's untucked shirt."
National Horizon also sent out a direct mail piece hitting Curtis for his "long and liberal record" of raising taxes. Curiously, the National Horizon mailer uses the same unflattering picture of Curtis you'll find on the Club for Growth website.
Curtis' spokesperson, Danny Laub, tells UtahPolicy.com that they hope Utahns won't be swayed by an outside group trying to "buy" the election.
"John Curtis is leading this race based on a positive campaign about bringing Utah results and Utah values to Washington DC. So, it's not surprising that he's being attacked. What is surprising is that Chris Herrod and the Washington DC special interests are spending 100k in false attacks on John Curtis' conservative record. Voters will show Chris Herrod that Utah's seat in Congress is not for sale to the highest Washington DC bidder," said Laub.
The primary battle is still up for grabs. A UtahPolicy.com survey found about half of Republican voters in the 3rd District were still undecided. Among those who had a preference, Curtis has a lead with 27% support. Herrod is at 12%, and Tanner Ainge was at 10%. Only registered Republicans can vote in the August 15 primary.
The super PAC jumping into the race will be good news for Herrod, who trails Curtis in the money race. According to the latest FEC disclosures, Curtis had more than $200,000 on hand, compared to Herrod who has about $77,000 in the bank.
The National Horizon PAC is allowed to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions or individuals, and may spend unlimited amounts either supporting or opposing political candidates. However, they may not donate directly to candidates, and they may not coordinate with a campaign.
Super PACs are required to report donors to the FEC.
In 2016, National Horizon spent a little over a million dollars on "unspecified media buys" according to the Open Secrets website.
The primary funders for National Horizon are the Club for Growth, which donated $500,000 in 2016, and Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder fortune, who gave $700,000 to the PAC last year. Lauder was a boyhood friend of President Donald Trump.
Ballots go out to voters in the 3rd District race on Tuesday.
The winner of the August 15 GOP primary will take on Democrat Kathie Allen and a handful of minor-party candidates.
A UtahPolicy.com survey found that in a hypothetical head to head match up all three Republicans would have a lead over Allen, but only Curtis wins a majority of support from 3rd District voters over Allen.