TWIN FALLS • Tuesday was the deadline for candidates and political groups to file campaign finance reports ahead of the May 17 primary.

The reports cover fundraising and campaign spending from Jan. 1 to May 1. So what do the reports filed by our area’s state legislative candidates show? Here are four takeaways:

Incumbents in GOP Primaries Raised More

Reps. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, and Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, both of whom are facing contested primaries from more right-wing challengers, are ahead of their opponents Mary Bello and Reggy Sternes in fundraising.

Hartgen has raised $12,250 this year and had $7,230 left on May 1. He loaned $7,000 to his campaign, and his biggest financial backers other than that were House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and the Idaho Farm Bureau’s Agra-PAC, each of whom contributed $1,000. Bello raised $2,770.48 from a mix of contributions, the biggest donations being $700 from Byrd Golay of Kimberly and $500 from a group called Republican Women registered to a Buhl address, and has $621.78 on hand.

Bell has raised $11,700 this year, with the biggest single contributions being $1,000 each from Bedke, Simplot, and the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers PAC, and has $7,627.53 on hand. Her opponent Sternes raised $2,842.18 — all but $200 of which he loaned to his campaign — and had $2,195.50 on May 1.

Bell and Hartgen’s expenditure reports also show more campaign-related spending than their opponents, such as taking out newspaper and radio advertising and printing and mailing costs (which are usually for campaign mailers), and Hartgen has even paid for some TV ads. Bello’s and Sternes’ finance reports do show spending on brochures and postage and Facebook advertisements.

Unopposed Lawmakers Helping Their Colleagues

Bedke and Reps. Fred Wood, R-Burley, and Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, all three of whom are running for re-election unopposed, have been using their campaign funds to help out Hartgen, Bell and other colleagues of theirs across the state who are facing primary challenges from the right.

Including Bell and Hartgen, Bedke donated a total of $14,000 to 21 of his colleagues during the filing period in increments of $500 or $1,000. And Kauffman donated $500 in late April to district-mate Bell and $300 each to 11 other of his colleagues who are facing right-wing challenges, including Reps. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, Merrill Beyeler, R-Leadore, Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.

Wood, who is chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, donated $1,000 each to Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, Beyeler, Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, Eric Redman, R-Athol, and Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, who are all facing challenges and are on the committee with him, plus $500 each to Bell and Wills.

General Election Match-ups

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All the seats in districts 24 and 26 will have both Democratic and Republican candidates running in November, as will two of the three seats in District 25. So far, the incumbents are ahead, although some of the challengers have been busy raising money too.

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, who will face Democrat Dale Varney in November, raised $3,030 so far this year and had $4,539.63 on May 1, which puts him ahead of Varney, who didn’t report any fundraising activity or money in his campaign account. As for the District 24 Senate race, Republican incumbent Lee Heider rasied $1,050 this year and has $28,575 in the bank, while Democratic challenger Deborah Silver took in $6,138 in contributions and closed with $11,814.35 in the bank. Catherine Talkington, the Democrat who ran against Hartgen in 2014 and will take on the winner of the Hartgen-Bello primary, took in $2,480 in contributions this year and had $6,037.41 in her campaign’s account on May 1.

In District 26, the only one in the area that isn’t represented entirely by Republicans in Boise (two of its three lawmakers are Democrats), Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, is starting off with a lead over GOP challenger Dale Ewersen, $18,075.84 to $4,051.35. Incumbent Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield has $15,747 on hand, compared with $1,369.36 for Democratic challenger Kathleen Eder. For the district’s other House seat, which will open since incumbent Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, isn’t running for another term, Democratic candidate Sally Toone was ahead of Republican Alex Sutter as of May 1, $4,084.42 to $2,157.40.

In District 25, Rudy Cordova, who will take on the winner of the Bell-Sternes primary, hasn’t raised any money yet, and Democrat Scott McClure, who is running against incumbent Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Filer, has taken in $115 in unitemized contributions of under $50 each.

Not Much Independent Spending

Some GOP legislative primaries elsewhere in the state have drawn a lot of spending by outside groups seeking to influence the results, but so far, our local ones are not among them. None of the outside groups reporting electioneering spending to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office said they were spending on the Hartgen-Bello or Bell-Sternes races.

But the left-leaning Idaho Opportunity Project did report spending $27,705.38 on campaign materials that reference, among other lawmakers across the state, Pence, Miller and Stennett. The money was donated by the Idaho Education Association on May 2 and spent on mailers at a media firm in Brooklyn the same day, according to the disclosure.


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