Eye On Boise

Big bucks in 1st District congressional race

Talk about big bucks – and this is a primary election. But it’s also a hotly contested race for an open congressional seat. So here are the latest numbers from the FEC on campaign finances in the 1st District race:

Bill Sali: $401,699
Sheila Sorensen: $360,143
Robert Vasquez: $239,369
Norm Semanko: $202,917
Keith Johnson: $133,536
Skip Brandt: $83,629
Larry Grant: $134,619

Grant, of course, is a Democrat, and his primary opponent, Cecil Kelly, hasn’t raised enough to file reports.

On the Republican side, that $400,000-plus figure for Bill Sali doesn’t even count the cost of his extensive television advertising campaign, which has been done entirely as an independent expenditure by the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth. That same organization has now come out with another TV ad attacking both Sorensen and Vasquez as alleged tax-raisers, this time without mentioning Sali.

Meanwhile, other ads are starting to show up, including a positive one from Sorensen touting her history in Idaho.

The pre-primary FEC reports showed some interesting things: 82 percent of Sali’s contributions in the final fundraising period were from out-of-state individuals whose contributions were bundled together by the Club for Growth. During the same period, from April 1 to early May, Vasquez drew 91 percent of his contributions from out-of-state individuals. Ninety-five percent of Sorensen’s fundraising during the same period was from inside Idaho, but that included a large loan of her own funds.

Semanko’s final fundraising push was mostly from in-state, with the 17 percent from out of state coming mainly from people in the water and irrigation business. Johnson’s fundraising during the period included 35 percent from out of state, but with his smaller numbers, that consisted of just a few PAC donations. Brandt’s fundraising during the period of just under $20,000 was 72 percent from in-state, but that included an $8,000 loan from the candidate.

Boise State University political scientist and election expert Gary Moncrief said many congressional races around the country aren’t competitive, so that may be helping draw out-of-state money to Idaho, where there truly is a competitive race. “The House has been so gerrymandered that we’re talking about maybe 40 competitive races these days out of 435,” Moncrief said. All told, he said, “I can’t imagine there’s ever been more than this spent in a congressional primary in Idaho.”

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