Ybarra and Dillon scrape for campaign dollars

With less than four months to go before the Republican primary, the state superintendent’s race is shaping up to be the election that money forgot.

For the second half of 2017, incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra raised a meager $3,400 for her re-election bid.

Her challenger, Wilder school Superintendent Jeff Dillon, fared only slightly better. He raised $5,200 for his campaign.

The latest sunshine reports, which are due Jan. 31, cover the fundraising period from July 1 through Dec. 31.

The snapshots suggest both campaigns are running on a shoestring, heading into the May 15 GOP primary:

  • Ybarra didn’t reach out very far in her quest for cash. She personally donated $2,000, and received an additional $600 from three senior staffers at the State Department of Education: Pete Koehler, Tim McMurtrey and Chuck Zimmerly. Ybarra also received $100 from Madison district Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas. Her campaign enters 2018 with $2,846 on hand.
  • Dillon’s campaign money also came from a small pool of supporters: his report lists itemized contributions from only 15 donors. The largest contribution came from an out-of-state supporter, Terry Thoren of Encino, Calif., who contributed $2,500. The Dillon campaign had only $374 on hand at the end of the year.

For Ybarra, bare-bones fundraising is a modus operandi of sorts. She badly trailed her GOP rivals in fundraising heading into the 2014 primary, then was outspent in the 2014 general election by nearly a 5-to-1 margin. She won both times.

But this time, Ybarra and Dillon are digging for dollars in what figures to be a tight market. With three big-name GOP candidates in an open governor’s primary, five prominent Republicans vying for lieutenant governor and six Republicans in the 1st Congressional District race, there is no shortage of candidates competing for money.

Even in the open race for state treasurer, Tom Kealey of Nampa reported $97,696 in contributions this month. Treasurer’s candidate Vicky McIntyre of Boise raised $8,636 — nearly identical to what Ybarra and Dillon raised between them.

But as the superintendent’s primary continues on its slow pace, it’s unclear whether other candidates will jump in. Notably, no Democrat has filed for the race.

While the GOP sunshine reports suggest “no enthusiasm” for the announced superintendent’s candidates, Democratic Party spokeswoman Shelby Scott conceded her party is still searching for a candidate of its own.

“We’ve had a number of people look at the position closely and they’ve decided that it’s not their time,” Scott said Wednesday. “Some continue to weigh the decision, but we are still actively recruiting.”

State superintendent is the last statewide race won by a Democrat, when incumbent Marilyn Howard held off challenger Tom Luna in 2002. In 2014, Ybarra defeated Democrat Jana Jones by 5,566 votes, out of more than 428,000 votes cast.

More reading: What are the candidates saying about the money race? Not much.


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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