Governor’s race: Sunshine reports shine a light on GOP divisions

The three major Republican gubernatorial candidates raised nearly $1.5 million in the first half of 2017.

The fundraising blitz illustrates divisions within the GOP, 10 months before Republicans nominate a would-be successor to retiring Gov. Butch Otter.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Otter’s preferred nominee, enjoys support from the GOP establishment and Otter’s inner circle. U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador draws from support from the Republicans’ right wing. Boise developer and physician Tommy Ahlquist raised more than Little and Labrador combined — and supplemented his campaign with nearly $400,000 of his own money.

The candidates’ campaign finance reports, due Monday, covered a six-month period ending June 30. Here are summaries from the reports.

Brad Little: Raised $229,501; cash on hand, $449,258

Little actually lagged in fundraising the first half of 2017. But since Little filed his campaign paperwork in mid-2016, he was able to get a jump on fundraising — to the tune of $393,000 in the second half of 2016.

Brad Little

The 2017 fundraising includes contributions from a couple of the state’s corporate heavy hitters, CenturyLink and Idaho Power, which each kicked in maximum donations of $5,000.

As lieutenant governor, Little is the Senate’s presiding officer — and Little received money from several prominent Senate Republicans, including Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee co-chair Shawn Keough and Senate State Affairs Committee chair Jeff Siddoway.

Little also taps heavily into the GOP establishment, securing donations from former Govs. Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne, former U.S. Sens. Larry Craig and Steve Symms, and several current or former Otter staffers. Little has endorsements from Otter and three former governors: Batt, Kempthorne and Jim Risch.

Raul Labrador: Raised $309,046; cash on hand, $287,822

Labrador filed his campaign paperwork in early May, which means his report reflects only seven weeks of fundraising. The campaign was quick to point out this fact.

Raul Labrador

“The high level of support I’ve received in such a short period of time is humbling,” Labrador said in a news release.

Labrador tapped into his connections at the Statehouse, securing support from Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane and five other legislators. The 1st District congressman also drew on his Capitol Hill ties, securing $5,000 donations from U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Justin Amash of Michigan.

Other notable $5,000 donations came from Bryan Smith, the Idaho Falls attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Republican 2nd Congressional District Rep. Mike Simpson; and Syringa Networks, the Boise vendor that successfully sued the state over the Idaho Education Network broadband contract.

Tommy Ahlquist: Raised $952,531; cash on hand, $156,171

Even taking his personal contributions out of the equation, Ahlquist raised more during the filing period than Little and Labrador, combined.

Tommy Ahlquist

All told, Ahlquist put $378,271 into his campaign.

Ahlquist received a few notable donations: $5,000 from Scentsy, a Meridian-based warmer company; $5,000 from Idaho philanthropist Harry Bettis; and $3,000 from Ryan DeLuca, founder of in Boise.

Ahlquist received no donations from sitting legislators or other statewide elected officials.

Disclosure: Ahlquist received $5,000 from the Idaho Land Fund in Boise. J.B. Scott is affiliated with the Idaho Land Fund. Scott is board chairman of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, which funds Idaho Education News.

More reading: Fundraising in the state superintendent’s race gets off to a slow start.

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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