BOISE – Candidates vying to replace Idaho Sen. Larry Craig are gearing up for a fight, with one bringing on two dozen campaign workers and another piling up a million-dollar war chest.
A third candidate, independent Rex Rammell, who’s put in more than $250,000 of his own money and focused on piloting an advertising-emblazoned “Conservative Express” RV up and down the state, said, “I want to win – and it takes money.”
He’s facing Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco in the race for the open Senate seat. Also in the race are Libertarian Kent Marmon and independent Pro-Life, the candidate formerly known as Marvin Richardson.
But campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show a three-way contest developing among LaRocco, Risch and Rammell. Neither Marmon nor Richardson filed reports.
Risch is the money leader in the race, with $1.02 million on hand at the close of the latest reporting period July 1. He’s raised $1.25 million since the start of the campaign – including $500,000 in the most recent quarter – plus loaned his campaign $480,000.
“We keep hearing that national money is going to come in here to bail out the other side,” Risch said. “If that happens, we will meet fire with fire and do what we have to do.”
LaRocco has raised more than $780,000 since the start of the campaign, including $193,336 in the latest quarter, and has $250,000 in the bank.
“I’ve been investing campaign contributions into developing the strongest grass-roots organization that Idaho has ever seen,” LaRocco said. “I will soon have five field offices, and we will expand that. … My cash on hand could’ve been higher if I had not invested in building an organization.”
LaRocco, who launched his campaign a year and a half before the November election, has been working shifts at various jobs around the state to get in touch with voters. He’s done 30 so far, including stints as a roofer, garbage hauler and nurse’s aide. He and Rammell have challenged Risch to join them in a series of debates across the state; Risch has agreed to two fall debates so far.
The size of the campaign staff LaRocco is building is unusual: 25 people, including 16 full-time employees, seven part-timers and two paid interns. He’s offering health insurance to all the full-timers and spent nearly $3,000 on that coverage during the last reporting period.
Risch, by contrast, has three full-time campaign staffers and one part-timer, and runs his campaign out of his Boise law office. But Risch outspent LaRocco, $420,764 to $154,189, during the last reporting period.
“This campaign crew, together with a number of other people who are strategy people, have put together a battle plan that I think gets us to where we want to be on Nov. 4,” said Risch, the lieutenant governor and longtime state senator. Risch’s spending included more than $136,000 for radio and TV advertising and more than $146,000 for fundraising expenses. He spent less than $50,000 on salaries and office expenses, a little more than $15,000 on travel and $23,750 for a poll in April conducted by Moore Information, of Portland.
LaRocco’s spending during the quarter was topped by the $60,000 he spent on salaries and office expenses. He had $25,000 in fundraising expenses and spent nearly $10,000 on travel, more than $12,000 on printing and postage, and $21,801 on polling.
LaRocco, a former two-term 1st District congressman, said, “I’ve always felt that for $3 to $4 million I could communicate my message.” But his goal is to raise $1 million by the end of August; he’s not speculating about whether he’ll get a boost from the national party. “A lot of things break late in the campaign with hot races,” he said. “It’s true the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raised far more than the Republicans, and the Republicans are defending 24 seats and the Democrats are defending 12.”
Rammell, a former elk farm operator and veterinarian, has loaned his campaign $310,000, with $250,000 of that during the most recent reporting period. Most of his campaign expenses during the quarter were for travel, with his single largest expense $6,900 for the “advertising wrap” of his motor home.
“I don’t know that I’m going to put any more of my own money in – I don’t want to live in the motor home permanently,” Rammell said. “If I can start polling decent and people think I’ve got a shot at it, I think I’ll get the money.”