After millions of dollars spent by a host of candidates, this year’s mega Idaho primary election season is – finally – coming to an end.
Here are my predictions for the results, based on everything I know as of Friday, May 11. A couple of caveats: 1) I cannot take into account last minute events and campaign efforts and 2) I am doing this without any direct access to polling, which would provide considerable insight. These are solely based on my gut feelings. Could I be wrong? Absolutely!
Republican Primary for Governor. This is the marque Idaho race with millions of dollars spent, much of it in attacking the other candidates. Tommy Ahlquist has spent the largest amount, much of it from his own pocket. Brad Little has had a smaller bankroll but has the significant financial support of numerous allies like the Idaho REALTORS who are freely engaged in boosting his campaign. Labrador has been vastly outspent, particularly on television, but has a strong grassroots presence and has deployed some competent end game mail and television.
Who will win on Tuesday? My gut tells me it will be the candidate with the best final appeal to undecided voters. Overall, I think that Ahlquist has had the best close of the three. His final television pitches are excellent, and he has effectively linked his being an outsider with what he claims he will do. But, this race appears to be close. Any of the three can still win. Last minute shifts will be critical. SLIGHT NOD TO AHLQUIST.
Democratic Primary for Governor. Paulette Jordan looked like a good bet to upset 2014 Democratic nominee A.J. Balukoff. She is an appealing young, native American and who drew national attention when she was backed by Cher. But, she never really got off the ground. Her fundraising has been significant but she has been outspent 6-1 by Balukoff. Her staff is in chaos. And, she failed to seriously contest the airwaves. BALUKOFF WINS.
Republican Primary for Lieutenant Governor. This is a five-way race that has been rocked by some last minute sparks. Idaho Falls businessman Doyle Beck and Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith tried to go after GOP chair Steve Yates through a mailing that used an email taken from the private account of revered former Republican leader Sheila Olsen and implied Yates was tied to the Chinese (when, in fact, his connection is to people with ties to U.S. ally Taiwan). The backlash has been considerable.
Of the other candidates, only former Idaho Falls state Rep. Janice McGeachin has a statewide presence (supported by conservative activists). But, Yates has run a disciplined, well-funded and well-organized campaign with very solid direct mail. YATES WINS.
Republican Primary for State Treasurer. Boise businessman and CPA Tom Kealey is the class of the field. He has a strong background in finance. Ada County Clerk Vicky McIntyre was knee-capped by the Ada County Commissioner who yanked her credit card. Julie Ellsworth, a former state legislator with little financial background, was aggressive in the Idaho Public Television debate. But, Kealey has far outraised the other two and has deployed a strong direct mail effort. KEALEY WINS.
Republican Primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction. State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra won in 2014 despite being outspent in both the primary and general election. This year, she had – on paper – a strong challenger in Wilder school superintendent Jeff Dillon. But Dillon has only raised roughly $6,000 for this statewide race as of the last campaign report and has lacked the resources to raise his profile sufficiently to beat a moderately visible incumbent. YBARRA WINS.
Democratic Primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Only Boise government teacher Cindy Wilson is running a serious campaign. Her opponent, retiree Allen Humble, has raised little and campaigned minimally. WILSON WINS.
Republican Primary for 1st Congressional District. An open congressional seat nearly always attracts a wide array of candidates. Labrador’s run for governor opened the door wide here and the candidates poured in to offer a variety of ideological and regional choices. From the beginning, Russ Fulcher has been the candidate to beat. He ran a strong primary campaign against Gov. Butch Otter four years ago. He has raised a reasonable war chest and is heavily backed financially by the Club for Growth. Still, he faced a strong field with former Idaho Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy and North Idaho state representative Luke Malek as the standouts. But, Fulcher’s initial momentum has never been seriously derailed over the course of the campaign. FULCHER WINS.