Big number from the gubernatorial money race: $6.6 million

Idaho’s gubernatorial candidates combined to raise more than $6.6 million during the reporting period that ended Tuesday.

And that’s not all.

First off, it doesn’t account for the $3.8 million the candidates raised in 2016 and 2017 — bringing the running tab for the wide-open and hotly contested race to more than $10,443,961, and counting. The latest reports cover the reporting period beginning Jan. 1.

And the latest $6.6 million figure number doesn’t count third-party contributions. One group supporting Boise developer and physician Tommy Ahlquist raised $1 million, putting much of the money into ads criticizing Ahlquist’s leading opponents, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

Ahlquist, Labrador and Little are the leading Republican contenders in the race to succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter. Former legislator Paulette Jordan of Plummer and longtime Boise School Board member A.J. Balukoff are the leading candidates in the Democratic primary.

But before the May 15 primaries, Tuesday represented a key deadline day, as candidates filed their final sunshine reports before election day.

Here is the rundown in the governor’s race (click on the candidate’s name to access the reports).

Tommy Ahlquist, Republican: Contributions, $2,198,762; expenditures, $2,166,153; cash on hand, $100,954.

Ahlquist is his biggest campaign donor, putting nearly $1.9 million into his coffers. His notable outside donors include former state superintendent Tom Luna, who contributed $2,500; retiring Boise State University President Bob Kustra, who contributed $250; and the Meridian-based Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, which contributed $1,000. Ahlquist received money from one sitting legislator, $500 from Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls.

Fundraising total, 2017 and 2018: $3,928,240.

Raul Labrador, Republican: Contributions, $366,114; expenditures, $471,296; cash on hand, $269,308.

Labrador’s prominent supporters include a cadre of conservative lawmakers: Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls; Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; Sen. Clifford Bayer, R-Boise; Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston; Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston; and Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale. Labrador also received $2,500 from Idaho Chooses Life.

Fundraising total, 2017 and 2018: $1,039,407.

Brad Little, Republican: Contributions, $1,254,840; expenditures, $1,406,339; cash on hand, $487,449.

Little’s camp also includes at least a dozen legislators, including Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, the retiring co-chairs of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise; Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston; Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa; Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls; Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield; retiring Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol; retiring Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg; Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth; Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Little’s supporter list also includes some big names from recent Idaho political history: Dirk Kempthorne, a former interior secretary, governor and U.S. senator; former U.S. Sen. Steve Symms; former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb; and former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

One sidelight: Little also received $2,500 from the Zions Bank PAC in Provo, Utah. Zions’ Downtown Boise base of operated in the 8th and Main street project Ahlquist developed. (Ahlquist received a matching $2,500 donation from Zions Bank in December 2017.)

Little also loaned $800,000 to his campaign.

Fundraising total, 2016-18: $2,391,451.

Steve Pankey, Republican: Contributions, $159,200; expenditures, $171,179; cash on hand, $783.

The Twin Falls candidate is entirely self-financing his campaign.

Fundraising total, 2017 and 2018: $253,644.

A.J. Balukoff, Democrat: Contributions, $2,255,511; expenditures, $1,780,904; cash on hand, $512,180.

The Boise accountant is once again largely self-financing his bid for the Statehouse. He contributed more than $2 million to his campaign in the latest reporting cycle. Balukoff also secured contributions from at least two sitting legislators, Boise Democrats Phylis King and Janie Ward-Engelking, as well as former Democratic congressmen Walt Minnick and Richard Stallings.

Fundraising total, 2017 and 2018: $2,436,782.

Paulette Jordan, Democrat: Contributions, $367,886; expenditures, $308,527; cash on hand $64,666.

Jordan — a member of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe, who is seeking to become the first Native American governor in American history — drew some of her largest contributions from Indian tribes. She received $5,000 from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and contributions from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in eastern Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe in Lapwai, the Kootenai Tribe in Bonners Ferry. She also received support from tribes in Alabama, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Washington state.

Fundraising total, 2017 and 2018: $374,283.

Peter Dill, Democrat: Contributions, $20,154; expenditures, $14,737; cash on hand, $5,417.

The Emmett Democrat is largely self-financing his campaign.

The governor’s race: the PACs

Idaho First PAC: This pro-Ahlquist group raised exactly $1 million in the last reporting period, and spent $1,181,385, largely on ads supporting Ahlquist and opposing Labrador and Little.

Key donors include John T. Ahlquist Jr., of Eagle, Tommy Ahlquist’s father, who contributed $300,000; K.C. Gardner Co., of Salt Lake City, which contributed $250,000; and Joe B. Scott of Boise, chairman of the board of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, who contributed $150,000.

Keep Idaho Strong PAC: This pro-Labrador PAC raised $77,636 and spent $31,130.

Its donors include Idaho Falls businessman Doyle Beck, who contributed $30,000; and Milford Terrell, the Boise businessman and former State Board of Education member who serves as Labrador’s campaign treasurer. Terrell contributed $5,000.

OTTERPAC: This pro-Little PAC raised $129,848 and put the bulk of the money behind Little, Otter’s choice in the GOP primary. The PAC put slightly more than $100,000 into supporting Little, and contributed $5,000 to state Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, a candidate for lieutenant governor.

State superintendent’s race

Cindy Wilson, the last candidate to jump into the state superintendent’s race, has outraised her three Republican and Democratic opponents — combined.

Wilson, a Meridian Democrat and government teacher at Boise’s Capital High School, raised nearly $27,000 in the first few weeks of her campaign. She tapped into some contacts in the teaching profession — including some colleagues at Capital — and received one of her largest donations from the state’s teachers’ union.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra stuck to her modus operandi, raising little in the first few months of the election year. And her biggest donations appeared to have less to do with her job running the State Department of Education than the state superintendent’s seat on the Land Board, which sets policies for Idaho endowment lands.

Ybarra was outraised — by large margins — before winning both the 2014 GOP primary and general election. However, Ybarra enjoys a fundraising edge over Republican challenger Jeff Dillon.

The Republicans and Democrats both have contested superintendent’s primaries on May 15.

All told, the four candidates put $45,392 into their statewide race in the latest filing period —  or $1 for every $145.90 raised by the gubernatorial candidates.

Here are the summaries from the latest reports (click on the candidate’s name to read the reports in full:

Sherri Ybarra, Republican: Contributions, $11,805; expenditures, $6,935; cash on hand, $7,356.

Contributors include Idaho Loggers PAC, $3,500; the Idaho Potato Industry PAC, $2,500; and the Idaho Cattle Association, $1,000. Ybarra also received $1,000 from Winning for Idaho, a pro-gaming PAC; and contributions from top SDE aides Pete Koehler and Chuck Zimmerly.

However, one of Ybarra’s contributions is harder to pin down. She received $1,000 from KHSE LLC, a Republican-leaning Fairfax County, Va., PAC with no clear connection to Idaho politics or education policy. A 2016 Washington Post article described KHSE as one “ghost corporation” spending heavily in the presidential race. The Ybarra campaign has said nothing about the KHSE money. (Click here for more about the KHSE contribution.)

Jeff Dillon, Republican: Contributions, $5,735; expenditures, $4,349; cash on hand, $1,764.

The Wilder school superintendent’s largest contribution was M2 Automation, a Boise-based fire and security system company, which gave the challenger $2,000. M2 had given Dillon an additional $2,000 in 2017.

No Republican legislators contributed to Dillon’s campaign — or Ybarra’s.

Cindy Wilson, Democrat: Contributions, $26,721; expenditures, $3,151; cash on hand, $23,570.

Contributors include the Idaho Education Association’s Political Action Committee for Education, which gave $5,000, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff, who contributed $5,000.

Wilson also received $100 from her boss, Boise school Superintendent Don Coberly, and $1,000 from Marilyn Howard, the last Democrat to hold the state superintendent’s post.

Wilson made a late entry into the superintendent’s race, announcing her run on Feb. 26.

Allen Humble, Democrat: Contributions, $1,131; expenditures, $101; cash on hand, $1,030.

The Boise retiree is self-financing his campaign, largely through a $1,000 loan.

Disclosure: The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation also funds Idaho Education News. 


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]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday