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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: All told, far more raised, spent on ballot measures than governor’s race

Instant horse racing terminals at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Spending on one ballot initiative alone – the unsuccessful measure to legalize instant betting machines at Idaho horse racetracks – was nearly two-and-a-half times as much as that spent in the governor’s race. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Instant horse racing terminals at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Spending on one ballot initiative alone – the unsuccessful measure to legalize instant betting machines at Idaho horse racetracks – was nearly two-and-a-half times as much as that spent in the governor’s race. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The final numbers are in, and campaign fundraising and spending on two ballot measures this fall far exceeded the amounts spent by both leading candidates for governor.

In fact, the more than $12 million raised and spent by both sides on one ballot initiative alone – the unsuccessful measure to legalize instant betting machines at Idaho horse racetracks – was nearly 2 1/2 times as much as Republican Brad Little and Democrat Paulette Jordan combined spent on their campaigns for governor, even going back to the start of their campaigns, which for Little began in 2016.

Here’s how the final numbers break down:

Backers of Proposition 1, the racetrack betting measure, raised and spent nearly $6 million, all of it from Treasure Valley Racing LLC, former operators of the Les Bois Park racetrack. Opponents of that measure raised and spent $6.4 million, almost all from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, with some contributions from other tribes and from Idaho individuals.

On Proposition 2, the successful Medicaid expansion initiative, Idahoans for Healthcare raised $1.7 million, spent $1.6 million, and ended the post-election reporting period with $91,998 in the bank. The Work Not Obamacare PAC, which opposed the measure, raised just under $60,000, and spent all but $16 of it.

Little, who will take office as Idaho’s 33rd governor in January, raised $3,756,874 over the nearly three years he spent campaigning for governor, spent $3,561,642, and ended the post-election reporting period with $638,949 in the bank and $800,000 in debt to himself from the hard-fought, three-way GOP primary campaign.

Jordan, who lost to Little by 130,580 votes, raised a total of $1,211,647 for her campaign, spent $1,205,250, and ended the reporting period with $39,193 in the bank and $12,994 in debt.

Other statewide races

In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican victor Janice McGeachin raised $307,346 over the course of her campaign, spent $274,213, and ended with $34,132 in the bank and $123,088 in debt to herself. Her Democratic opponent, Kristin Collum, raised $137,136, spent $133,323, and closed the reporting period with $3,813 in the bank.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney raised $44,499 for his re-election campaign this year, spent $35,748, and closed the period with $16,780 in the bank and $36,716 in debt to himself and his wife, Donna. His Democratic challenger, Jill Humble, raised $32,210, spent $22,705, and ended with $9,505 in the bank and debt of $4,000.

State Controller Brandon Woolf, who was unopposed, raised $26,111 this year on top of $74,247 carried over from previous years, spent $79,975, and ended with $20,384 in the bank and no debt.

Julie Ellsworth, who was unopposed this fall after winning a three-way GOP primary for state treasurer in the spring, raised $25,260 over the course of the year, spent $18,289, and ended with $6,971 and $23,000 in debt.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden raised $58,638 this year on top of $45,334 carried over from past years; he spent $53,874 and closed the reporting period with $51,098 in the bank and $2,303 in debt. His Democratic challenger, Bruce Bistline, reported no campaign fundraising and $200 in debt.

State schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra reported raising just over $50,000, spending $50,987, and closing with $335 in the bank and no debt. Her Democratic challenger, Cindy Wilson, reported raising $142,698, spending $138,766, and ending with $3,933 in the bank and no debt.

About that hemp provision…

Three of the four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the new farm billin Congress last week and touted various provisions in it, but didn’t mention the provision that legalizes the production of industrial hemp nationwide, by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. Hemp production already is legal in 41 states, but Idaho forbids it; hemp is a cousin of marijuana, but has very low levels of THC, the intoxicant in marijuana.

Asked about the provision, Sen. Mike Crapo’s press secretary, Robert Sumner, said, “Senator Crapo supported the Farm Bill, which gives the states the opportunity to be the primary overseers of hemp production, and therefore trusts the work of Idaho’s state regulators in their decision-making processes.”

Kaylin Minton, press secretary for Sen. Jim Risch, said, “The bill removes the federal prohibition but doesn’t preempt state law. The state appropriately has the right to decide how to proceed in the best interest of Idahoans. If the hemp provisions had been a stand-alone bill he would have voted no, but given the farm bill’s totality of benefits for farmers and ranchers he supported it.”

Second District Rep. Mike Simpson’s press secretary, Nikki Wallace, said, “Congressman Mike Simpson strongly supported the farm billwhich included many provisions that greatly benefit Idaho. The bill does allows for states to regulate industrial hemp production, and that process will be determined by our state regulators.”

First District Rep. Raul Labrador didn’t vote on the Farm Bill, and his office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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