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Chenoweth Still Leads Despite Mistakes

The joke going around the Statehouse the last couple of weeks has been that Democratic congressional candidate Dan Williams should go on a long vacation. Like until after the Nov. 5 general election.

With GOP incumbent Helen Chenoweth getting into constant trouble with her campaign and personal financial disclosure mistakes, the feeling has been that all Williams would have to do is stay out of trouble and he’d win the election.

If he’s heard the rumors, he hasn’t heeded them. Williams continues to campaign full-time and isn’t likely to disappear before the election.

Polls have shown that Williams, a young Boise attorney, still isn’t well-known across the district yet is close to Chenoweth. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect support for Williams as much as disenchantment with Chenoweth.

Still, indications are that Chenoweth remains a favorite to win a second term.

A few weeks ago, a Republican poll reportedly showed Chenoweth trailing Williams by a few points.

But a recent poll sponsored by three media outlets showed her support virtually unchanged from mid-May. It showed Chenoweth with a lead of 7 percentage points over Williams, 42-35 with the rest undecided. With a margin of error plus or minus 5 percentage points, that’s a close race.

If Williams is to oust Chenoweth, he will need to pile up a lead of 10-15 percentage points heading into Election Day. That’s because Republicans traditionally have done a better job of getting out votes on election day.

Polls even in the final week of her election against Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco two years ago had her trailing by about 8 points, but she won going away.

Chenoweth held a news conference on recently to admit she had overlooked making a required report on a late 1994 $50,000 loan she used to buy a Washington, D.C., condo. She called that omission a mistake.

Less than 24 hours later she told a Boise radio station it wasn’t a mistake, she hadn’t overlooked the loan but had been advised that since it was for a personal residence, she didn’t have to report it.

A campaign aide said she saw no inconsistency. It remains to be seen whether voters will make anything of it.

State Republican Chairman Ron McMurray says he doesn’t think Chenoweth’s repeated problems with campaign finance and personal disclosure reports have damaged her election chances.

“In my circles, the people I talk to, they say it’s nothing,” he said, that “the press is just trying to make something out of it.”

McMurray said there doesn’t appear to be any slowdown in Chenoweth’s volunteer campaign activity in northern Idaho.

“I don’t think it will hurt her,” he said.

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