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Meridian real estate broker Russ Fulcher took an early 44 percent lead in the seven-way Republican race for the 1st Congressional District seat given up by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador.

David Leroy, the former attorney general and lieutenant governor was in second with 23 percent in early results. They led former prosecutor and state Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene; gun shop owner and state Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa; conservative author and blogger Michael Snyder of Bonners Ferry; Nick Henderson, an Army combat veteran and businessman from Post Falls; and Alex Gallegos, a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Nampa.

Fulcher started out running for governor, following on his strong showing in the 2014 GOP primary against Gov. Butch Otter. In June, he pulled out after Labrador announced a bid for the governor’s post. Fulcher then said he would run for Labrador’s seat instead.

Fulcher said Tuesday night that his earlier run for governor put him in a strong position from the beginning.

“The friendships and the relationships were in place,” Fulcher said. “I’m deeply honored people remembered me. I’m not going to let them down.”

“We feel like things are going to go our way,” he said at 10:15 p.m.

Leroy counted on most of the electorate in the GOP primary to be old enough to remember when he was attorney general, lieutenant governor and even acting governor (the latter for 254 days) back in the early 1980s.

History suggests anywhere from 63,000 to 72,000 voters will have participated in the closed Republican primary.

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If so, one of the candidates will need 15,000 to 20,000 votes to win.

Republican Bill Sali garnered 18,985 votes, or 25.8 percent, in 2006, the last time there was an open field this crowded.

Malek campaigned as a problem-solver who took tough stands on health care and other issues. He was the only one of the seven to support Congress’ recent omnibus budget bill with huge increases for the military and domestic programs.

Perry sought to appeal to women because of her record on family issues and health. But she also used her gun shop experience to push herself as the toughest candidate on the Second Amendment and on sportsman issues like protecting public land.

Snyder said he would get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve, and would close the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management.

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