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Odds & Ends: Romney & Alhquist, LG’s race & campaign finance

A few thoughts on a few, somewhat random, topics...

Ahlquist & Romney in Idaho Falls. Last Thursday, Boise area physician and businessman Tommy Ahlquist held a major rally at Snake River Landing’s Waterfront building in Idaho Falls. The headline was that Mitt Romney announced his endorsement of Ahlquist for Idaho governor in 2018.

But, there was more going on than just that. Overall, it was an impressive event.  Great staging. A crowd of at least 200 or more.  An array of GOP officials. 


Romney gave a great, tight speech.  And, Ahlquist then picked up the baton with a solid address focused on growing Idaho’s economy, bolstering health care and ending the “great state of Ada”.  It was a good speech and got an enthusiastic response.

What was even more interesting to me was the number of volunteers on hand.  Ahlquist is clearly building a solid base of enthusiasts for next year’s primary. It will give him a significant advantage if he can figure out how to deploy his people to harvest votes.

How big is Romney’s endorsement in the grand scheme of things?  He is still very popular in East Idaho. But, will his endorsement translate into actual votes for Ahlquist?  I suspect that Ahlquist will be testing that in a variety of upcoming media initiatives.

GOP Lieutenant Governor’s Race is Chaotic. With Coeur d’Alene State Sen. Bob Nonini now joining the race, there are now five GOP candidates for lieutenant governor:  Nonini, former state Rep. Janice McGeachin (Idaho Falls), Sen. Marv Hagedorn (Meridian), Rep. Kelley Packer (McCammon), and former Idaho Republican Party Chair Steve Yates (Idaho Falls). Who among this crowd has the upper hand for next May’s primary? 

If you look at which candidate has the most populated home turf that would be Hagedorn as he lives in Treasure Valley. Nonini is second with his based located in Northern Idaho. The other three all hail from East Idaho.  But, regional bases rarely play a decisive role in major Idaho races.

What about ideological niches?  Nonini and McGeachin are both trying to occupy the hyper-conservative niche. The other three seem to be trying to reach more towards the mainstream conservative wing.  No clear advantage here.

Money . . Yates is clearly setting the pace. Can the others compete? Unknown at this point.

This race is still fluid on the Republican side. I wonder who will carry the banner for Idaho Democrats?

Campaign Finance. A legislative working group is settling in on several proposals to revise Idaho’s current campaign reporting laws. That includes requiring campaign reporting for all Idaho races (many smaller races are now exempt) and requiring monthly campaign reports (the current system is generally before and after the election for many races and issues).

The provision I am intrigued with would boost the top financial penalty for violations from $250 to $25,000. That is important.  Right now the potential remedy is so low that prosecutors have little incentive to pursue a case. That was undoubtedly a factor in the Idaho Attorney General’s fairly limited approach to its pursuit of Idaho Falls businessman Doyle Beck for campaign funding issues in 2016.

I have one suggestion for the committee. Set the penalty at a minimum of 2x the amount at issue and up to 5x if willful.  Doing so would get the attention of significant potential violators of campaign finance law and, as such, would serve as a powerful deterrent.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..