BOISE — The primary to pick the candidates for Idaho’s next governor isn’t until May 2018, but the race for the Republican nomination is already shaping up to be a pricey one.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, Lt. Gov. Brad Little had raised almost $230,000 in his bid to succeed Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, spent more than $114,000 and ended the filing period with $449,258.03 in his campaign coffers.
U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, also running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, had raised $309,000, spent a little more than $21,000 and closed with $287,821.97 in the bank.
And Treasure Valley businessman Tommy Ahlquist raised more than $952,500, spent more than $796,000 and closed with $156,171.10.
Independent John Thomas Wiechec and Republican Lisa Marie, who have also filed to run for governor, reported no fundraising activity. The only Democrat to file so far, Boise homeless man Troy Minton, hadn’t filed his report as of Tuesday.
All three major Republican candidates put out news releases touting their fundraising hauls. Little said he has received donations from 800 contributors during the first half of this year, and from more than 1,400 donors since declaring last summer. He highlighted that 90 percent of his donations came from inside the state.
“The support from Idahoans is humbling and exciting for Teresa and me,” Little said. “People don’t want to hear talk about being a conservative leader, they want to see it in action. Idahoans have entrusted me to do a job and that’s what I have been doing. Here in Idaho, we have near record low unemployment, wage growth that is double the national average, and a state that is consistently recognized as one of the best places to raise a family and start a small business.”
Ahlquist said his haul — $378,000 of his own money, $575,000 in contributions — is “the largest mid-year fundraising total for a governor’s race in Idaho history.” More than half of his contributions, he said, were for less than $100.
“Collectively our opponents have held elected office in Idaho for a total of 27 years and have raised and spent millions of dollars campaigning for public office,” said Ahlquist senior adviser Travis Hawkes. “Going up against career politicians has required Tommy to invest personally along with the tremendous support from fellow Idahoans — a necessity at this early stage of the race in order to share his message with voters of building an even better Idaho.”
Labrador highlighted that he had raised so much in a little more than a month — he filed to run in May — outraising his opponents during the same period of time. Fifty-two percent of his donations, he said, came in increments of $100 or less.
“The high level of support I’ve received in such a short period of time is humbling,” Labrador said. “The people of Idaho are excited for new leadership, and our first campaign finance report shows that. Idahoans are tired of the status quo and politicians picking winners and losers. They want proven conservative leadership. That’s what I’ve delivered throughout my time in public service and that’s what I will deliver as governor.”
Both Little and Labrador, who have extensive experience in state politics, have drawn the support of a number of state legislators. Little’s contributors this year include Magic Valley lawmakers Sens. Jim Patrick and Bert Brackett and Reps. Maxine Bell and Clark Kauffman, as well as Sens. Patti Anne Lodge, Chuck Winder, Shawn Keough, Jeff Siddoway and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, and Reps. Dell Raybould, Thyra Stevenson, Greg Chaney and Patrick McDonald. Labrador, meanwhile, has gotten donations from Sens. Clifford Bayer and Dean Mortimer and Reps. Lynn Luker, Sage Dixon, Joe Palmer and Judy Boyle and House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane.
Other prominent Idaho political figures to have contributed to Little include former Republican governors Dirk Kempthorne and Phil Batt (both of whom backed Labrador’s congressional primary opponent Vaughn Ward in 2010), former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, former Magic Valley Sen. Laird Noh and Phil Hardy, a Republican strategist with experience working as an aide to both Little and Labrador — Labrador fired him in 2013 after Hardy sent a tweet commenting on a racy Super Bowl commercial that appeared on Labrador’s official account.
Prominent Labrador contributors include Doyle Beck, chairman of the Bonneville County Republicans; Bryan Smith, who ran against U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, with whom Labrador has had an often publicly rocky relationship, in the 2014 Republican primary; state Treasurer Ron Crane, who co-chaired Labrador’s 2010 campaign; and former Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko. Labrador has also gotten donations from many of his colleagues in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, including U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Justin Amash, R-Mich., Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., Scott Perry, R-Penn., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Andy Harris, R-Md.
Political newcomer Ahlquist’s campaign finance report doesn’t show any support yet from prominent Idaho politicos. His 70 or so biggest contributors — the ones who gave the $5,000 maximum — are a mix of individuals and business-affiliated accounts, mostly in the Treasure Valley and some from Utah.