Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Eye on Boise: Funds suggest re-election on Labrador’s radar

BOISE – Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador is sitting on the second-biggest wad of campaign cash he has stockpiled since he has been in office, with more than $277,000 in the bank. That suggests that Labrador is gearing up for a re-election bid for a third term, not for a long-shot primary challenge against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter in 2014.

Labrador is being coy; neither he nor his staffers returned calls from reporters all week on this question. But he has been hinting for months that he might run for governor – or might not.

“Politicians enjoy the attention of people speculating about what office they’re going to run for next,” said Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby. “He’s certainly benefited from a lot of that kind of speculation, and why wouldn’t he want to continue it for as long as he could?”

Labrador’s latest campaign finance report, filed last week, shows he has nearly triple the amount he had at this time two years ago. He’s only had more once before – in October 2012 at the height of the campaign season just weeks before he was re-elected.

He raised $65,680 this quarter – an unremarkable amount but for the fact that two-thirds of it came from political action committees. That’s a departure for Labrador, who typically has raised more of his campaign funds from individuals than from PACs.

According to FEC records, in 2009-10, Labrador raised more than three times as much for his campaign from individuals as from PACs. In 2011-12, the split was 60 percent from individuals, 40 percent from PACs.

Among the PACs handing over the money now: Microsoft, Google, eBay, Northrop Grumman Employees, Alliant Techsystems, Darigold, Arizona Dairymen, Michigan Milk Producers, the National Roofing Contractors and the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. Those groups, Weatherby noted, certainly don’t “have a big stake in who’s the next governor of Idaho.”

The only way to transfer federal campaign funds to a state campaign is to do what Secretary of State Ben Ysursa terms “reattributing” them – getting a written statement from each original donor, saying it wants its money transferred from the congressional campaign to the state gubernatorial campaign. Then, the amounts count against the state’s contribution limits for each donor.

“It’s convoluted, but it can be done,” Ysursa said, most notably by Dirk Kempthorne when he decided to run for governor in 1998 rather than seek another term in the Senate. Kempthorne reattributed more than $50,000.

Labrador’s July quarterly campaign finance report also shows he received $10,000 in contributions from Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s Freedom Fund PAC, with two $5,000 checks, one tabbed for the primary and one for the general election, both coming in June 3.

Weatherby said, “It certainly looks like he’s not going to take a run at governor.”

Farris mulls options

Jimmy Farris, the former NFL football player and Idaho native who took 30.8 percent of the vote against Labrador last year as his Democratic challenger, says he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll run for the seat again next year. But Farris said he has decided one thing: He will run for office. “I will be running in 2014,” Farris said. “I’m just not positive for what office or what seat.”

Farris filed a termination with the Federal Election Commission of his campaign finances from the last election, closing out the books, but said he made that move largely because his campaign treasurer, a CPA, was retiring from her practice. If he decides to run for Congress again, he noted, he can refile.

“I’m not actively out raising money or campaigning, but I’ve been meeting with a lot of people, having a lot of lunch and coffee meetings and kind of laying the groundwork for some things,” Farris said. “I’m kind of considering all the options now. … My desire to be in public service in Idaho and do what I can to make a difference in Idaho is as strong as it’s ever been.”

One challenger in

No one has filed with the Federal Election Commission yet to run against Labrador in 2014, but a GOP opponent stepped forward last week: BSU political science student Michael Greenway, 23. Greenway said his interest in politics was sparked after the 9/11 attacks when, as a young person, he was impressed with how GOP leaders responded to the war on terror. He said he started thinking about a run against Labrador after the second-term representative abstained from voting to re-elect House Speaker John Boehner in January, a move Greenway called “childish.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at (208) 336-2854 or

More from this author