Coeur d’Alene software entrepreneur Tony Paquin dropped his primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth on Wednesday, saying he’s decided he can’t win.
Paquin said he’s throwing his support to Chenoweth in the interest of keeping the congressional seat in Republican hands.
“We underestimated the depth and breadth of the support that is in the Republican ranks for Helen,” Paquin said. “It made it very difficult to raise money and catch up.”
Paquin, 39, said he spent $50,000 of his own money in his yearlong campaign. Although he had estimated he’d raise as much as $400,000 for the run, he was able to raise only about $15,000.
Paquin refused to accept political action committee contributions, but he said Wednesday that taking PAC money would have brought him only another $10,000 or so. “I don’t think it would have kept me in the race.”
A conservative Republican, Paquin said he worried that continuing an unsuccessful challenge to Chenoweth could divide Republicans and lead to a Democratic win. Dan Williams, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Chenoweth two years ago, is planning to run again.
“Given the closeness of the last general election, the risk is too great,” Paquin said.
He also said he discovered that he and Chenoweth really aren’t very far apart.
“My disagreements with Helen were very minor,” he said. “As we progressed through the campaign, it became clear that ideologically, we were very close.”
Chenoweth welcomed the news. “The Idaho Republican Party stands strong, together and of one purpose - to continue providing responsive representation to the people of the 1st District of Idaho,” she said in a statement.
She added, “I thank Tony for his decision, and wish him well. … Now, we turn our full focus to the general election. We will give the voters of the 1st District a clear choice.”
Williams, who plans a formal announcement of his candidacy next week, said, “My reaction is Tony Paquin has been right all these many months - Helen Chenoweth is out of touch with most voters and did not get the message from the last election.”
“But it’s a very different thing to try to beat her in a low-turnout Republican primary. And if Tony was going to beat her, he was going to have to spend a lot of his own money to do it. My read on his decision is he was simply not willing to do that.”
Paquin said he shared his decision with Chenoweth on Tuesday, and she was “very gracious.”
He said he’ll support her re-election efforts, and also may be involved in other Republican campaigns.
For the next two years, Paquin said he’ll focus his efforts on his new software company, Netivation. The firm will unveil a new product in the coming weeks that will track congressional votes on a user’s selected topics and deliver them to the user over the Internet.
In the year 2000, Paquin said he’ll consider running again. That’s the year Chenoweth has pledged to leave office as a result of her self-imposed limit of three terms.
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