The multi-million dollar, bare-knuckle primary for the Republican nomination for governor is almost at an end.

From what I’m hearing about the state of the race, any of the big three – Tommy Ahlquist, Raul Labrador or Brad Little – has a shot at winning on May 15.

All three clashed sharply in the Idaho Public Television debate last week.  Labrador lunged at Ahlquist for his aggressive negative ads, essentially calling him a liar and trying to hold him accountable for the actions of his supportive political action committee. Ahlquist himself was no shrinking violet. He held his ground pretty well. Little stayed mostly above the fray but still threw a few elbows.

Overall, I stand by some of my earlier observations.  Little is clearly the policy wonk.  He knows the ins and outs of every program and every issue.  Ahlquist is the newcomer.  He is a bit rough around the edges but has charisma.  Labrador is the most articulate, polished and persuasive.

All three are madly scrambling to hit as many parts of Idaho as possible over the next two weeks. That kind of one-on-one contact with voters is critical.

The television battle seems to be shifting. I’m seeing somewhat less aggressive ads and more positive appeals. 

Direct mail from both the Little and Ahlquist camps is at the highest level I’ve ever seen in a statewide race.  His week I think I got two from Ahlquist and three from Little. Ahlquist’s mail seems to be heavily focused on Little. Little’s pieces are turning positive.

Third party groups are heavily engaged.  Raul Labrador is being backed by Keep Idaho Strong PAC.  I am seeing lots of online display ads trumpeting his backing of Trump in 2016 (and pointing out Ahlquist’s and Little’s reluctance to do the same) and saying he can be trusted to lower taxes, restore local control for education and “promote freedom”.

The Idaho Association of REALTORS, with the biggest piggybank of all the industry groups, is all-in for Brad Little.  I am seeing lots of display ads and direct mail.  Their membership is large and influential.

The pro-Ahlquist PAC has been running many of the television ads eviscerating Labrador and Little.

My biggest question is whether any of the candidates have taken a substantial hit from the attack/contrast ads of their opponents and their opponents’ allies?  Or, have any of the candidates been tarred in the public eye as being “too negative”?  I heard some chatter that Ahlquist is overly negative.  Labrador tried to reinforce that theme during the Idaho Public Television debate.  But, the others have also thrown hard punches.  My guess is that no one has been excessively harmed or helped by the attacks.

The forthcoming financial reports will be insightful. Does Labrador have the financial resources to compete down the stretch? 

Now is the time for all the candidates to shift fully to getting their voters to the polls.  That will involve lots of mail, phone and online contact and extensive door-to-door efforts. Which campaign or campaigns will excel or fall short?

Also, listen carefully to the final messages from each candidate. Undecided voters are key to each. What messages will resonate with those who have not yet settled on a candidate?

Finally, will there be any last-minute snafus by the candidates? Labrador took the first crack at that when he said he would consider disregarding Idaho voters’ preference if they approved Medicaid expansion in November. 

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (  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..