As expected, Idaho's 2018 gubernatorial primary was one for the financial record books, with the 10 Republican and Democratic contenders spending nearly $11 million in total over the course of the 2017-18 election cycle.
The top spender was Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist, who listed $4.47 million in expenditures in his 2017 annual and 2018 post-primary campaign finance reports.
Ahlquist, who received 51,008 votes — or 26.2 percent — in the May 15 Republican primary, had total contributions of $4.5 million. That includes $2.57 million out of his own pocket, according to the reports, as well as another $550,000 he loaned his campaign.
By comparison, candidates spent less than $7 million combined during the 2014 gubernatorial primary.
Like Ahlquist, fellow Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff contributed heavily to his own campaign. His finance reports list $2.35 million in personal contributions; that equals the $2.35 million in total expenditures.
Balukoff spent another $3.66 million on his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
His total contributions of $2.47 million in 2017-18 included nearly 600 individuals who gave less than $50, along with another 300 or so supporters who gave more than that amount. Nearly two dozen past and present Democratic officials contributed to his campaign as well, including former Lewiston representatives John Rusche and Liz Chavez, and former Idaho Congressman Larry LaRocco.
Balukoff received 26,423 votes — or 40.1 percent — in the Democratic primary.
Congressman Raul Labrador, who placed second in the Republican primary with 63,478 votes (32.6 percent), also received financial support from a number of Idaho legislators, as well as several of his congressional colleagues.
Labrador reported total contributions of $1.1 million to go along with expenditures of $1.03 million. That includes $730,010 spent between Jan. 1 and May 25, the cutoff date for the post-primary finance report.
Former state Rep. Paulette Jordan, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary with 38,505 votes (58.4 percent), ran the most frugal campaign. Her finance reports list $395,000 in expenditures against $533,000 in contributions over the two-year period.
Jordan, who would be the first American Indian elected governor in the United States if she wins in November, received at least $1,000 in contributions from nearly two dozen tribes across the country, including some as far away as Alabama and Florida.
The greater part of her contributions, however, came from thousands of smaller donors — including hundreds, possibly thousands, who live outside of Idaho.
Jordan ended the primary campaign with $139,000 cash on hand. That was more than double the $61,300 reported by Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
Little won the Republican primary with 72,548 votes — or 37.3 percent. He reported thousands of financial supporters as well, although they tended to donate larger amounts. His contributions in 2017 and '18 were nearly $2.2 million, more than five times what Jordan received; however, that amount includes $800,000 that Little loaned his campaign. Little also carried over more than $334,000 in cash from the 2016 election cycle.
The other five gubernatorial candidates in the Republican and Democratic primaries collectively spent about $189,000 in 2018. The majority of that came from Twin Falls Republican Steve Pankey, who contributed at least $175,000 to his own campaign.
Self-financing also was a notable factor in the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor. Loans from three of the five candidates accounted for more than a quarter of the $920,000 in 2017-18 expenditures reported for that race.
Former state Rep. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls, for example, loaned her campaign $68,400. That accounted for slightly more than half of the $133,700 in expenditures she reported. As of Monday, however, McGeachin's post-primary report hadn't been posted on the Secretary of State's campaign finance website.
McGeachin won the 2018 primary with 28.9 percent of the vote.
Former Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, who came in second with 27.3 percent of the vote, received more than $570,000 in contributions, including $1,000 from himself. He spent a total of $429,000 on the race and reported no debt.
Sens. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, relied on personal loans for much of their campaign financing. Hagedorn reported nearly $108,000 in loans, compared to about $80,000 for Nonini.
By comparison, the 105 state legislative races were a bargain. Despite a number of open seats, only a handful of primary races in the state exceeded $50,000 in total spending.
The most expensive race in north central Idaho was the 5th Legislative District Republican primary contest between Sen. Dan Foreman of Moscow and former Moscow Mayor Marshall Comstock.
Foreman won by 109 votes in what turned out to be the third-closest primary contest in the state. He reported $5,671 in expenditures this year, compared to $19,355 for Comstock.
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