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Incumbent legislators in Idaho races have the advantage of a cash stash for campaigns

The rotunda at the Idaho Capitol on January 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
The rotunda at the Idaho Capitol on January 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Candidate filing period for May 17 primary opens in less than two weeks

Few candidates in House and Senate legislative races across Idaho have large sums of cash on hand, but the ones who do are in competitive districts or have troves of cash leftover from prior races.

Idaho has 35 legislative districts, with two state representatives and one senator for each district. Redistricting has blurred those lines during this transition period, as some representatives and senators have decided not to run for re-election and others are leaving their seats as representatives to run for senator in the newly drawn district.

Candidates were required to file a monthly report with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office by Feb. 10, which includes all donations of any amount, in-kind contributions and loans, as well as expenditures and other financial activity from the month of January. The individual maximum contribution for a single election in legislative races is $1,000.

Many candidates have already announced their intentions to run for office, while some have not publicly announced but have started to fundraise or appointed a treasurer for a campaign. Candidates won’t be on the ballot unless they officially file for office. The filing period begins Feb. 28 for county and statewide candidates and continues until March 11.

Idaho’s primary election will take place May 17, and the general election will be held Nov. 8.

The Idaho Capital Sun has compiled the donations for legislative candidates into searchable tables and a visualization of the fundraising totals, expenditures and cash on hand for each candidate. The districts could change in the coming weeks as candidates officially file and updates are made to the Secretary of State’s system, but these districts, totals and candidates are listed according to current records. Candidates who have officially announced they will not seek re-election have been removed from the tables.

These totals will be updated as candidates file monthly reports and contributions larger than $1,000.

Idaho House leadership incumbents have a cash advantage

At least 91 candidates are running for Idaho’s House representative seats — 22 of them are Democrats, one is unaffiliated, and one belongs to the Constitution party. The rest are Republicans who will go head-to-head in the upcoming primary. Donations to incumbents are largely a mix of business donations and individuals, including fellow legislators and political operatives. Challengers tend to receive more support from individuals only, in and outside of Idaho.

Incumbents across Idaho are often well funded, which can make unseating them more difficult for primary challengers. The three incumbent House candidates with the most cash on hand are Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise; House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; and House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. Combined, they represent nearly $300,000 of the $1.15 million in cash on hand among all candidates.

Berch has no Democratic primary challenger yet, but he has won close elections against Republicans in District 15 in the past, including a three-point win over former Rep. Patrick McDonald. Berch has spent more than $17,000 so far in 2021 and the beginning of 2022, primarily on campaign literature, but still has more than $113,000 in cash on hand.

Moyle has run unopposed in most of the Republican primaries he has participated in since he was first elected in 1998, and he has easily defeated Democratic challengers in the general election. That could have helped him amass nearly $100,000 in cash on hand while only raising about $7,300 in the past year. Rubel has also run unopposed in Democratic primaries and easily won over Republicans in the general election.

More competitive areas include District 21, where Reps. Greg Ferch, R-Boise, and Steven Harris, R-Boise, are the incumbents. Ferch has about $6,800 in cash on hand and recently loaned $25,000 to his campaign from his own funds. Harris has more than $19,000 in cash on hand, and one potential Republican primary challenger so far in James Petzke, who has raised more than $5,000 so far.

There is one Democratic challenger in the race for Ferch’s seat in Natalie MacLachlan, who has raised close to $35,000 so far with more than $25,000 left in cash.

At least two House lawmakers will vie for Idaho Senate seats instead this year

For Senate races, at least 54 candidates have raised more than $926,000, eight of which are Democrats, and the rest are Republicans.

The race for District 1’s Senate seat in North Idaho is one of the competitive areas, where incumbent Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, has more than $42,000 in cash on hand compared to Republican challenger Scott Herndon’s $52,336. Woodward has spent about $2,000 of his cash, while Herndon has spent more than $9,600 on campaign efforts.

Another hot spot is District 15, where Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, has one Republican challenger in Rep. Codi Galloway, R-Boise, who was elected to her House seat in 2020. Democrat James Rick Just is also fundraising for the district seat, with about $32,000 raised and more than $25,000 in cash on hand.

But Martin has built up a war chest of $101,000 in cash on hand, with close to $82,000 raised just in the past year, including $47,000 in loans from his own funds. Martin is chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and Galloway released anofficial campaign announcement Monday saying she would seek the Senate seat because the House has passed vaccine-related bills that were never considered by the Senate.

Changes in redistricting maps have also shifted District 26, which is currently represented by Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. Stennett announced she would not seek re-election in 2022, and Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, said she would vie for the Senate seat instead of seeking re-election in her House post. Her challenger so far in the Republican primary is Eric Parker, who is the founder and president of the Real 3%ers militia group in Idaho and is known as the “Bundy Ranch sniper” for pointing a rifle at federal authorities in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. Parker has spent more than $4,300 of the $10,300 he has raised, leaving about $7,500 in cash on hand, while Lickley has more than $11,400 in cash.

For access to the tables, visit:
Incumbent legislators in Idaho races have the advantage of a cash stash for campaigns - Idaho Capital Sun

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.