Spending in governor’s primaries topped $11.4 million

The final numbers are in, and the price tag for the high-stakes Idaho gubernatorial primary came in at more than $11.4 million.

The five major Republican and Democratic candidates raised an additional $1 million during a filing period that ended May 25 — 10 days after the party primaries. That’s on top of the $10.4 million the candidates raised through late April.

But collectively, the candidates spent the money about as quickly as it came in, leaving the parties’ candidates with relatively depleted bank accounts as the race shifts to the general election. Democratic nominee Paulette Jordan starts the race to November at a financial advantage. She has $139,000 in hand. The GOP’s nominee, Lt. Gov. Brad Little has about $61,000 in hand.

Thursday was deadline day for candidates, whether they won in the May 15 primaries or not. Post-primary sunshine reports were due at the end of the day, and the secretary of state’s office posted reports from the major gubernatorial candidates late Thursday afternoon.

Here are the highlights from the homestretch in the gubernatorial race:

Little: Raised $195,000, spent $621,000.

A large — and perhaps surprising — donation came the day of the primary. The Political Action Committee for Education, the PAC representing the Idaho Education Association, gave Little the maximum $5,000 for his primary run. The PAC often supports Democratic nominees — such as Cindy Wilson, the Democrat opposing GOP state superintendent Sherri Ybarra — but it does not exclusively support Democrats.

Among other donations with education connections, Little received $300 from Marilyn Whitney, retiring Gov. Butch Otter’s aide on education topics, and $250 from Pete Koehler, Ybarra’s retiring chief deputy.

Jordan: Raised $160,000, spent $85,000.

Many of the former state representative’s largest donations came from Indian tribes in Washington, Florida and California. Jordan, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe, is hoping to become the nation’s first Native American governor. She has already received backing from several Idaho tribes, including the Coeur d’Alene tribe, which gave her $5,000 earlier in the campaign.

Another late $5,000 donation came from Jonathan Soros, the son of prominent political donor George Soros.

Raul Labrador, Republican: Raised $69,000, spent $259,000.

Labrador — who gave up a seat in Congress to run for Idaho’s highest office — received several donations from conservative legislators. He also received $500 from Judy Mortimer, the wife of Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.

Labrador also received support from Garry Lough, an Idaho representative for Education Networks of America, one vendor on the ill-fated Idaho Education Network broadband contract.

Another sidelight: Labrador received a late $3,500 donation from the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe.

Tommy Ahlquist, Republican: Raised $582,000, spent $644,000.

The Boise developer and physician infused $550,000 into his campaign, on top of the $1.9 million he had previously put into his campaign.

A.J. Balukoff, Democrat: Raised $31,000, spent $432,000.

The businessman and longtime Boise School Board member put a late $8,960 in-kind donation into his race.

Like Ahlquist, Balukoff had largely self-financed his run for the Statehouse, to the tune of more than $2 million.

Little won the hotly contested GOP primary with 37 percent of the vote. Jordan won on the Democratic side of the ticket with a 58 percent majority.

State superintendent’s race

As Wilson looks to unseat Ybarra, she starts the general election campaign with close to $37,000 in hand.

That isn’t a big sum of money — especially in the context of this year’s gubernatorial race. But it could give the retired high school government teacher a financial edge heading into the fall election.

By way of context, Ybarra, a political newcomer in 2014, spent less than $40,000 en route to victory in a four-way GOP primary and a tight general election.

Ybarra’s current fundraising status is unclear; as of Thursday evening, no up-to-date report was available on the secretary of state’s website.

After announcing her run in February, Wilson promptly outraised the field in the runup to the primaries. In her latest financial report, released Thursday, she reported raising an additional $19,000.

Wilson’s most recent donors include former House Minority Leader John Rusche, a Lewiston Democrat who is seeking to return to the Legislature this year, and Robin Nettinga, the retired executive director of the Idaho Education Association. Her largest single donation came from Anne Voilleque of Idaho Falls, who gave Wilson the maximum $5,000 donation.

Wilson spent less than $5,500 in the closing days of the primary election. She easily defeated Boise retiree Allen Humble, who ran a shoestring self-financed campaign. Wilson sailed to an easy primary victory, capturing 86 percent of the vote and carrying all 44 counties in Idaho.

Ybarra’s GOP primary challenger, Wilder School District superintendent Jeff Dillon, closed the books on his run Thursday. He reported raising only $250 in the waning days of the race — including $75 from Darrell Bolz, a former legislator from Caldwell — and spending slightly more than $400.

Ybarra won the GOP primary with nearly 59 percent of the vote, scoring a near sweep across the state. Dillon carried only Benewah and Latah counties.

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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