TWIN FALLS • The pre-primary campaign finance reports aren’t due for a week, but a few are in already, and Fred Wood’s shows he has spent $6,000 to help shore up colleagues who are facing right-wing primary challengers.
Rep. Wood, R-Burley, who is running unopposed for re-election both in the May 17 primary and the November general election, is one of two local incumbents who has filed his report already as of Wednesday. Wood had almost $24,000 in his campaign account on May 1, and he donated $1,000 each to Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, Merrill Beyeler, R-Leadore, Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, Eric Redman, R-Athol, and Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, and $500 each to Reps. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.
The first five who got $1,000 are colleagues of Wood’s on the House Health and Welfare Committee, which Wood is the chairman of, and all seven are facing primary challenges from more conservative Republicans. The complete picture won’t be available until May 10, the deadline for everyone to get their reports in, but Wood isn’t the only local lawmaker who has been donating money to help his threatened colleagues — Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, who is being challenged by David Esplin, got $300 from Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, and $500 from House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, in the last filing period, according to Anderson’s report.
A handful of political action committees have also gotten their paperwork in early, including a few business-affiliated lobbying groups that are also giving money to shore up establishment Republican incumbents facing right-wing challenges. The Idaho Building Contractors Association Home Builders PAC, for example, contributed to all the same candidates as Wood plus others whose races fit the same pattern, including, locally, giving $150 to Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, who is facing a primary challenge from Mary Bello.
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, who is unopposed in the primary and is facing Democrat Dale Varney in the general, has raised $3,030 this year — mostly from Twin Falls residents but also from a couple of political action committees including the Idaho Association of General Contractors and CenturyLink’s — and closed with $4,539.63.
The only other local candidate to have filed his report so far is Alex Sutter, of Richfield, a Republican who is running for the House seat held by Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, now. Sutter raised $3,417 from Jan. 1 to May 1 — much of it from the Blaine County Republican Committee, the rest mostly from a few other district residents — and closed with $2,157.40 in the bank.
Pence is not running for re-election; Sutter is unopposed in the primary and faces Gooding Democrat Sally Toone, who is also unopposed on May 17, in the general. District 26, which combines mostly liberal Blaine County with mostly conservative Camas, Gooding and Lincoln, is the only district in the area that has sent both Democrats and Republicans to Boise in recent years; Sutter got 45 percent of the vote when he ran against Pence in 2010.