May 9 update: Critchfield continues fundraising dominance in state superintendent’s race


Former State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield has outraised her opponents more than five to one in her pursuit of the state’s top education office.

This story was originally published April 11. Scroll down for weekly updates. 

GOP challenger Debbie Critchfield continues to hold a drastic fundraising edge with five weeks to go until the Idaho state superintendent’s primary.

The former State Board of Education president has outraised challenger Branden Durst more than five to one and has outraised incumbent Sherri Ybarra nearly 10 to one. Critchfield has led the fundraising race since May, when she announced she would run.

Durst, a former Democratic legislator, announced he’d run as a conservative Republican in January 2021. Ybarra didn’t publicize her plans to seek a third term as state superintendent of public instruction until February, and she has received and spent the fewest dollars on her campaign of any candidate in the three-person GOP field.

Branden Durst

Powered by a race-leading number of donations, and the largest average donation size ($661), Critchfield reported raising around $268,000 as of April 11, secretary of state’s office reports show.

Durst has amassed $47,000 with, on average, the lowest-dollar donations ($234) in the race.

Ybarra sits at $28,000 raised with donors chipping in an average of $410 each. But a relatively small campaign war chest hasn’t spelled failure for Idaho’s schools chief in the past. Despite being outraised by her opponents in 2014 and 2018, she’s scored consecutive election day victories and is in her eighth year in office.

The gulf between the GOP contenders is slimmer when it comes to spending. Still, Critchfield has topped her opponents by that measure too, spending $61,000 to Durst’s $37,000 and Ybarra’s $26,000.

Notable donors

Critchfield’s dominance comes with financial backing from a mix of lawmakers, charter school proponents and education officials:

  • Alan Reed, Idaho Public Charter School Commission chairman ($2,000).
  • School board trustees Angie Redford ($25) and Lori Frasure ($255) of the West Ada School District and Karen Pyron ($100) of the Butte County School District.
  • Kelly Brady ($200), who received a $150,000 settlement after alleging that her firing from Ybarra’s State Department of Education was related to her status as a whistleblower.
  • Decoding Dyslexia ($100), a group that worked on dyslexia legislation that passed the Legislature this year.
  • Current Republican lawmakers, reflecting a slate of legislative endorsements: state Sen. Julie VanOrden, Pingree ($2,000, via donation with her husband Garth VanOrden), and a batch of current state representatives: House Speaker Scott Bedke ($1,000), who is running for lieutenant governor; Caroline Nilsson Troy, Genesee, ($500, via donation with her husband David Troy); Julie Yamamoto, Caldwell, ($1,000); and Lori McCann, Lewiston, ($200).
  • Former state Republican lawmakers: House Speaker Bruce Newcomb ($250) and state Sen. John Goedde ($1,000).
  • Idaho Charter School Network, ($1,500).
  • Push Back Idaho ($5,000), a conservative Blaine County-based group that has endorsed several candidates from the GOP’s right wing.
  • Idaho Land Fund ($5,000); Of note, the state superintendent sits on the Idaho Land Board.
  • Ahlquist Development ($5,000), named for moderate and 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist.

Durst’s donors reflect the way he’s aligned himself with the GOP’s right wing:

  • Donors with ties to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, including President Wayne Hoffman ($500); board member Doyle Beck ($2,555); and Chairman Brent Regan ($1,000).
  • The lieutenant governor’s campaign for state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird ($250).
  • Republican Ada County Commissioner Ryan Davidson ($350).
  • Hometown Idaho Political Action Committee, an interest group that has endorsed candidates, including Durst, from the Republican party’s more conservative bloc ($250).
  • Ryan Spoon ($500), a member of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s anti-critical race theory task force.
  • Bruce D. and Debra L. Skaug Family Trust ($250). Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, sits in the Idaho Legislature. He, individually, donated $200 to Critchfield.

Durst netted his biggest donation, a legal max of $5,000 from the Bonneville County GOP last month. That controversial donation, one in a slate of the county central committee’s payouts in contested primaries, put local party officials and state GOP Chairman Tom Luna at odds.

Ybarra has some past elected officials and interest groups in her corner financially:

Superintendent Sherri Ybarra
  • Republican and former Idaho attorney general and Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy ($175).
  • Former state Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton ($1,000).
  • A pair of logging groups: The Idaho Forest Group, a lumber producer ($2,500) and the Idaho Loggers PAC ($5,000).

The majority of all three candidates' donations have come from in state. Critchfield's fundraising is buoyed slightly by $5,000 in personal loans. Durst has taken out $2,500, while Ybarra hasn't taken out any.

Democratic candidate Terry Gilbert, who entered the race days before the filing deadline last month, has raised $744. His primary is uncontested.

April 18 update: Critchfield extends her lead

Critchfield reported raising another $13,000 since April 11, while her opponents' numbers stayed flat.

That money came from some notable sources:

  • $5,000 from OtterPac, which is associated with former Gov. Butch Otter, who endorsed Critchfield in the race 10 days after the donation came in.
  • $2,500 from John Otter, Butch Otter's son.
  • $1,500 from Idaho Chooses Life PAC, an anti-abortion group.

April 25 update: Ybarra edges Critchfield

Ybarra gained some ground this week, reporting $2,500 in donations to Critchfield's $2,000.

Critchfield's two, $1,000 donations came from the Idaho Association of General Contractors and Blackfoot Republican state Sen. Steven Bair's campaign. All of Ybarra's gains came from Riley Stegnar and Associates, and environmental policy group.

Candidates haven't reported any more spending since April 11, though Critchfield told EdNews last week that her campaign is ready to dig into its reserves in the final weeks of the race. Here's how the numbers look, with fundraising adds factored in:

May 2 update: Durst gets a bump

Durst picked up a pair of $5,000 donations, extending his lead over Ybarra. Ybarra, meanwhile, pulled $3,880 in newly reported donations over the last two weeks.

Here's how the candidates stores look now:

  • Critchfield: $295,600
  • Durst: $57,400
  • Ybarra: $31,800

May 9 update: Critchfield surpasses $300,000

Four new donations totaling $5,000 helped Critchfield surpass $300,000. Another $1,000 from former Idaho attorney general and Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy helped bring Ybarra's total to over $34,000. Durst saw a similar bump, bringing him past $60,000.

The latest donation tally, as of May 9:

  • Critchfield: 301,619.
  • Durst: $60,368.
  • Ybarra: $34,469.

Idaho Education News reporter Devin Bodkin contributed to this story. 

Disclosure: J.B. Scott — the founding chairman of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, which funds Idaho Education News — is affiliated with the Idaho Land Fund.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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