Ybarra entered 2017 with a $92.78 campaign war chest

(UPDATED, 4:15 p.m., to correct information about Ybarra’s treasurer.) 

Even in 2015, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra was talking about the 2018 election.

But in 2016, she received only a single $250 contribution for a re-election bid. And she ended the calendar year with a meager $92.78 in her campaign account.

In other words, Ybarra would enter a contested Republican primary with none of the financial advantages that normally come with incumbency.

Jeff Dillon

The Republican race for state superintendent became more of a race Friday, when Wilder School District Superintendent Jeff Dillon filed preliminary paperwork with the state. By naming a campaign treasurer, Dillon can begin raising funds for a race against Ybarra.

Ybarra already has a campaign treasurer — Tim McMurtrey, a Boise CPA. And in a December 2015 interview with Idaho Education News, Ybarra said she was already planning to seek re-election. “This is exactly where I belong,” Ybarra said at the time.

But Ybarra has followed up with no campaign fundraising, save for $250 received on April 27 from Hecla, a Coeur d’Alene-based mining company.

Certainly, all other Idaho political fundraising figures to be dwarfed by the open gubernatorial race.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little hauled in $393,051 in 2016, while a fellow Republican, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, raised $50,197.10. And the stakes are only going to climb in 2017. Boise developer and doctor Tommy Ahlquist joined the GOP race earlier this year, and has pledged to raise money aggressively. U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador could still join the GOP primary fray, but he hasn’t announced his 2018 plans.

Still, Ybarra has certainly been sluggish, compared to other statewide officials who are positioning to run for re-election next year.

Balance, Jan. 1, 2016 Contributions, 2016 Expenditures, 2016 Cash on hand, Dec. 31, 2016
Ybarra $454.51 $250 $611.73 $92.78
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden $24,549.15 $27,950 $17,304.65 $35,194.50
Controller Brandon Woolf $5,459.05 $15,276.43 $12,858.61 $7,876.87
Secretary of State Lawerence Denney $7,975.73 $6,777.18 $9,151,62 $5,601.29

Ybarra overcame fundraising disadvantages — twice — in her surprising election in 2014. Ybarra raised only $300 in the weeks leading up to her win in the four-way May GOP primary. Democrat Jana Jones outraised Ybarra by nearly a 5-to-1 margin, but Ybarra narrowly won the November election.

A quiet launch to the primary

Debbie Critchfield

Dillon filed his initial campaign paperwork with no advance notice. And he did not respond to interview requests Friday.

But leading up to Friday’s filing, Dillon was among several rumored candidates for the superintendent’s post.

  • State Board of Education member and Cassia County School District spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield is not considering a run. “About a year ago and as recently as several months ago, I had some folks approach me about considering a potential run,” she said in an email Monday. “I’m very happy where I am and consider it a great opportunity to
    Wendy Horman


  • Another rumored candidate, Rep. Wendy Horman, declined comment Monday. Horman, an Idaho Falls Republican and former Bonneville School District trustee, was one of Ybarra’s earliest financial supporters in 2014.
  • Heather Williams also declined comment Monday. Williams is an assistant professor with Boise State University’s College of Education and a former Gooding School District superintendent. She had considered running for superintendent on the GOP ticket in 2014.
Heather Williams

Ybarra reiterated her plans for 2018, but did not comment on Dillon’s entry into the race. “The superintendent is focused on supporting schools and students to achieve in her role as Idaho’s elected official, and has previously announced her intent to run for reelection,” spokesman Jeff Church said Monday.


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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