By the numbers: The spendy state superintendent’s primary

This year’s state superintendent’s primary is the spendiest in at least two decades.

And it isn’t even close.

Much of that can be fairly described as the Debbie Critchfield effect. The former State Board of Education president has raised nearly $320,000 ahead of Tuesday’s primary. That is at least a sixfold increase from the biggest fundraising haul we’ve seen for a state superintendent’s primary (in 2014, when Democrat Jana Jones was running unopposed, and gearing up for the general election).

Of course, we don’t have final numbers in this year’s primary — so Critchfield’s fundraising figure will only go up from here.

The rest of the fundraising story also deserves a closer look.

  • Branden Durst, the former Democratic legislator running a hardline conservative campaign, has collected nearly $68,000 in contributions. This is considerably more than any superintendent’s candidate — Republican or Democrat — collected ahead of the previous five primaries.
  • Sherri Ybarra, a two-term incumbent with a history of campaigning on a shoestring budget, has upped her fundraising game. She has collected more than $34,000 ahead of the primary, a figure more in line with her successful (albeit underfunded) general election victories in 2014 and 2018.

As Ybarra has shown, winning the fundraising race doesn’t automatically equate to winning an election.

By the numbers

Here’s how much money state superintendent’s candidates have raised and spent for primary elections over the past two decades. (Party nominees in bold face.)

May 2002

Candidate Money raised Money spent
Marilyn Howard, Dem $22,725 $3,366
Tom Luna, GOP $22,450 $16,751

May 2006

Candidate Money raised Money spent
Steve Casey, GOP $17,732 $15,357
Luna $50,073 $32,704
Steve Smylie, GOP $49,048 $39,214
Jana Jones, Dem $23,150 $23,071
Bert Marley, Dem $41,418 $22,141

May 2010

Candidate Money raised Money spent
Luna $24,265 $12,405
Stan Olson, Dem $17,544 $6,903

May 2014

Candidate Money raised Money spent
John Eynon, GOP $14,784 $10,047
Andy Grover, GOP $37,854 $24,350
Randy Jensen, GOP $7,124 $4,248
Sherri Ybarra, GOP $2,850 $2,480
Jones $51,404 $33,609

May 2018

Candidate Money raised Money spent
Jeff Dillon, GOP $5,739 $4,349
Ybarra $11,805 $6,935
Allen Humble, Dem $1,101 $51
Cindy Wilson, Dem $26,721 $3,151

May 2022

Candidate Money raised Money spent
Debbie Critchfield, GOP $319,559 $157,357
Branden Durst, GOP $67,745 $43,638
Ybarra $34,469 $28,939
Terry Gilbert, Dem $4,744 $921


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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