Walter Minnick may be running uphill to oust Republican Sen. Larry Craig, but his entry into Idaho politics has meant a major cash infusion for the state’s struggling Democratic Party.
And party Chairman Bill Mauk said the money comes at a time when the party can make the most of it as it tries to make the transformation from the individualized politics of Democrats like Frank Church and Cecil Andrus to the solid party structure that has been the source of so much Republican success in the state.
In tapping business and other associates across the country for some $500,000 in support so far, Minnick has already raised and spent more than Craig’s 1990 opponent, Ron Twilegar, did during that entire campaign.
But at the same time he has cajoled a score of his supporters, all but two from out of state, to pump $230,000 more into the state Democratic Party. His mother, Dorothy, of Walla Walla, Wash., and his aunt, Helen Lamb of Lake Oswego, Ore., have each given the party $50,000. A Texas executive gave $25,000 and a New York investor another $20,000.
Those first-time Minnick-linked donations essentially doubled the cash the party otherwise collected over the past 18 months. At $463,000 in receipts so far during the 1996 campaign cycle, Democrats have raised 45 percent more than during the entire 1994 campaign.
And while still short of the richer GOP by nearly $200,000 at mid-year, the party was still likely to close the gap on the Republicans’ traditional three-to-one spending advantage for get-out-the-vote and other coordinated campaign programs.
Minnick spokesman Bill Broadhead said the one-time Republican who once described himself as an independent running for the Democratic nomination for Senate has been urging his supporters to back the party as well “to level the playing field a little bit.”
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may have taken the limits off direct party financial support for its candidates although national Democratic officials are still trying to find out exactly how the ruling will affect day-to-day campaign activities.
And at least some of the state party’s new benefactors want their money to directly benefit Minnick.
“They have a good man, … and it’s a very important position, and we’re being washed down the river with the representation we have,” said Nelle Tobias, the retired operator of McCall’s Edgewater Cottages.
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