Home builders, Realtors spent nearly $100K on Meridian election in month before election

Joe Palmer, Anne Little Roberts, Shaun Wardle and Robert Simison are running for mayor in Meridian.
Joe Palmer, Anne Little Roberts, Shaun Wardle and Robert Simison are running for mayor in Meridian. ktalerico@idahostatesman.com

This story was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 5. It was originally published on Oct. 16 under the headline: “Simison got $100K. Palmer got $60K. Here’s who donated to Meridian mayoral candidates.”

Robert Simison, chief of staff to Mayor Tammy de Weerd, raised $106,840 in campaign donations — the most of any mayoral candidate in Meridian. He was followed by Idaho Rep. Joe Palmer, who raised $83,605.

Those candidates were also backed by political action committees, which raised thousands more in donations. Donors to PACs are also not limited by the $1,000 cap on individual contributions to candidates.

Palmer found the support of a PAC called Citizens for Responsible Growth, which raised $52,525 from a variety of home builders, including Todd Campbell Construction of Boise and Hammett Homes of Eagle. Of this PAC’s funds, $10,000 came from another PAC: the Building Contractors Association of Southwest Idaho’s political action committee.

Palmer also got about $2,000 from the Idaho Chooses Life PAC, which typically backs statewide Idaho candidates who support restrictions on abortions.

The Idaho Realtors PAC spent $44,867 to benefit Simison, as well as City Council candidates Brad Hoaglun, who is running for Seat 3, and Jessica Perreault, who is running for Seat 5.

Simison and Palmer far outstrip the other mayoral candidates in fundraising. City Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts raised $28,938, of which $21,448 came from personal loans. Shaun Wardle raised $18,390, of which $16,000 came from personal loans. Gina Johnson raised $53.

Donors to Simison’s campaign included numerous Meridian business leaders and developers, including several from board members of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce. Developer David Turnbull of Brighton Corp., and his wife, Kristin, each donated the maximum of $1,000, as did Jim Kissler, a real estate developer and CEO of Norco, a medical device firm.

Several current and former city elected officials and staff backed Simison. He received money from Brad Hoaglun, a former city councilman running again this year; former Councilman Charlie Rountree; the Meridian Development Corporation’s urban renewal administrator, Ashley Ford-Squyres; and De Weerd.

Simison also received donations from several people out of state, including connections from his days in Washington D.C., where he worked for the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1997 to 2007. Nearly 17% of his donations over $50 came from out of state.

Palmer, too, benefited from his political connections, mostly from the Idaho Legislature. Palmer received $1,000 donations from fellow Idaho Republicans like Sen. Jim Rice of Caldwell, Steve Harris of Meridian, Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, and Speaker of the House Scott Bedke of Oakley. He also received a donation from the political action committee Idaho Chooses Life.

The Conservation Voters for Idaho’s PAC did not endorse a mayoral candidate but did support Elizabeth Strader for Meridian City Council Seat 1. They gave her $250.

While Meridian candidates raised more than they have in past years, they raised less than half of what candidates in Boise did. There, Mayor David Bieter and City Council President Lauren McLean raised over $200,000 apiece. Both employ professional staff members for their campaigns.

An updated searchable database is featured below. Type in all or part of a candidate’s name to see who donated.

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Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.