Republican candidates for governor plan ad blitz leading up to primary

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 23:40:49-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jonathan Johnson launched another ad blitz this week, targeting Utah Governor Gary Herbert ahead of the June 28th primary election.

The ads, which air on television and radio, hit the governor for his tape-recorded comments in which he refers to himself as "Available Jones" to campaign donors.

"Those are his own words and what he said and his own voice," Johnson campaign manager Dave Hansen told FOX 13 on Friday.

The governor has been running his own ads, which ignore Johnson and focus on Herbert's successes while in office.

"We want to go out and run an issue-oriented positive campaign," Herbert campaign manager Marty Carpenter said.

The Herbert campaign has leveled its own criticism against Johnson, criticizing the Overstock board chairman for taking $850,000 from Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock. Johnson has insisted he made no promises to Byrne for the donations.

The ads are the latest push by both gubenatorial campaigns as they try to persuade voters who have just received their ballots in the mail. Most of Utah's 29 counties are participating in "Vote by Mail" elections. It is new territory for many political campaigns.

"It's kind of like the movie 'Groundhog Day,'" Hansen said. "Every day you wake up is Election Day."

County clerks have said vote by mail elections increase participation. But it has also changed the dynamics of how political campaigns are run. With ballots going out earlier, campaigns are having to advertise earlier and do more to encourage voters to mail it in. Both Herbert and Johnson campaigns have been running ads, sending out mailers and staging meet-and-greets.

"I don't think there's a hamburger stand or a place to buy a chocolate malt in the state that's safe from Gary Herbert right now," joked Carpenter.

Johnson beat Herbert at the Utah GOP convention, but the most recent polls still show the governor with a strong lead in the statewide race.

"We've been getting the message out about what Jonathan will do as governor of this state," Hansen said.

Carpenter said the governor is focusing on his record and his goals for the next four years.

"We'd rather talk about the issues that are important: the economy, education," he said.

The winner of the June 28 primary will face Democrat Mike Weinholtz in the November general election.