CHEYENNE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Mead has the fattest campaign war chest of all the candidates for governor this year, virtually all of the money contributed by himself and his family.
Mead, a rancher-farmer and former chief federal prosecutor for Wyoming who resides in Cheyenne, reported $1.1 million in total contributions, including $897,000 contributed by himself and his immediate family.
Individual contributions totaled $199,000 while Mead received $6,025 from political action committees, according to his financial report filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Mead’s contributions total is twice the amount raised by his three main opponents for Tuesday’s Republican primary election.
Mead said Wednesday afternoon that he doesn’t believe voters will think he’s trying to buy the election.
“Wyoming people are not going to be bought, number one, and, number two, I think what people are concerned about who is going to be the best governor and that’s what’s on their minds,” Mead said.
“I’m competing against people who have been in politics for a long time and have had the benefit of getting around the state in their official capacities.” he added. “My wife and I knew we had to make a substantial commitment, and we’ve certainly done that in money and in time. We think Wyoming is worth it.”
He said his three major opponents all have name recognition. Rita Meyer has been state auditor for nearly four years, Colin Simpson is the outgoing speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, and Ron Micheli served in the Legislature for 16 years and is a former director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
Micheli, of Fort Bridger, had total contributions of $539,746, including $68,813 in personal and immediate family donations and $463,052 from individuals.
Micheli received $7,025 from Wyoming political action committees.
Meyer reported total contributions of $450,909, including $1,150 from immediate family and the candidate, and $285,134 from individual donors.
She received $161,525 from Wyoming political action committees, and $2,900 from out-of-state political action committees.
Meyer had a beginning balance of $40,000 transferred from her campaign account as state auditor.
Simpson reported $457,987 in total contributions, including $117,260 in personal and immediate family donations, and $270,000 from individuals.
Simpson received $65,025 from Wyoming political action committees and $3,500 from an out-of-state political action committee.
“We’re really happy,” said Bill Cubin, Micheli’s campaign manager. “We’ve raised more money from individuals than any other campaign.”
Those donations came from every county in Wyoming.
“We believe that shows a depth of support for Ron,” Cubin said.
It is Mead’s decision to spend as much money as he wants, Cubin said. But he added that Wyoming people pay attention to issues and not so much on the amount of money spent by candidates.
“There are two ways to get name recognition. You can earn it or you can buy it,” said Joe Milczewski, Simpson’s campaign press secretary.
He pointed out that Meyer’s campaign received $160,000 from the Neil McMurry Building a Better Wyoming Political Action Committee when all the separate donations were added.
“That’s an awful lot of influence for one person over an election like this,” Milczewski said. “She’s not getting that kind of money just for fun.”
“We’re tickled with where we are,” he added. “We only started on March 18 and to raise what we did in that time frame is pretty impressive, I think.”
Travis Deti, Meyer’s campaign manager, said, “Campaigns are expensive and when you don’t come from family money, you take what people offer you.”
Political action committees, he said, are made up of people who want a voice in the process. “These are Wyoming people,” he said of the McMurry PAC.
“Rita Meyer is thankful for the support she’s got.”
The three other Republican gubernatorial candidates trailed the front-runners in campaign contributions.
Alan Kousoulos, of Cody, reported $4,038 in donations, including $3,110 in personal and immediate family contributions, and $928 from individuals.
John Self, of Sheridan, reported $707 in contributions while Tom Ubben, of Laramie, reported $100 in contributions.
The two leading Democratic candidates for governor also trailed the Republicans in campaign fundraising.
Leslie Petersen reported $78,676 in total contributions, including $68,626 from individuals and $5,025 from Wyoming political action committees.
Petersen said the contributions include about $7,000 in travel and meal costs that she is paying for personally.
“I don’t want people paying for that,” Petersen said.
As for Mead’s campaign donations, Petersen said he will spend plenty more if he gets the nomination.
“He has more money than God, and he’s going to spend it on this race,” she said.
Pete Gosar, of Laramie, reported $32,840 in contributions, including $15,025 in personal and immediate family donations, and $17,607 from individuals.
Gosar said he is shocked at the campaign reports of Mead and the other GOP candidates.
“It indicates the average person can’t run for governor in Wyoming,” Gosar said. “I think it screams for some reform.”
He said he looks at the campaign contribution numbers and wonders how much it could have helped people by investing the money in scholarships or other things.
“It seems to me the money could be better spent,” Gosar added.
Other Democratic candidates for governor include Rex Wilde, who reported $200 in contributions, and Chris Zachary, who reported $136. Both are from Cheyenne.
Another candidate, Al Hamburg, of Torrington, had not filed his report by Wednesday.