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Idaho 1st, revised

Full wiki report to follow, but with campaign finance reports in hand (all but one, anyway), there’s no reason not to revise our running order estimate. Consider this latest a half-fudge, since we’re not ranking the Republicans as numbers one through six. But we do feel comfortable in placing them in two tiers: Top tier and lower tier.

The top tier is the “S” candidates: (in alphabetical) Bill Sali, Norm Semanko, Sheila Sorensen.

The lower tier: The other three (in alphabetical) Keith Johnson, Skipper Brandt and Robert Vasquez.

Mostly, this shouldn’t be controversial.

Sali, who was the big money leader when the last reports were released in October, is way out in front again – at $243,907 raised, nearly double his nearest challenger (Sorensen). He also has far more cash still on hand than anyone else. (How will he spend her marketing dollars – direct mail? TV – and if so, what will that look like?) He also may – repeat may – have the firm support of a large grass roots organization, a group with a conservative Christian base. He could not win a serious two-way primary. A primary split this deep? Could do.

Sorensen has good funding and organization, and (with Sali) the most logical base. And has been running as hard as any of the candidates – harder, surely, than Sali. She could do well in the urban areas – in much of Ada County, and in the Nampa area at least of Canyon she should do well, and other places too. A Sorensen win looks entirely credible too.

Semanko as well. He’s not on top for fundraising, but he has a decent bankroll (and more cash on hand than Sorensen right now). He also probably has the best depth in the Republican rank-and-file organization, and a fine support system through the old-line Craig organization (including such top-flight names as Goller and Henderson). He has a fine base in a number of rural areas, and can claim to be the only Panhandle candidate – useful in populous Kootenai County. And he has been working hard as well – has been all over the district, repeatedly. The central conservative base could gravitate to him – only a possibility, but it could happen, and that would give him the win.

The other three cannot be written off – a winning case can be made for any of the six – though while all have pluses, they have bigger minuses.

Some figure Vasquez, who has snagged more headline space than any of the others (maybe more than the others put together), belongs in the top rank. We still doubt it. He has but one big issue, immigration, and it hasn’t been enough to vault a campaign over the top yet. Okay, true, can’t rule it out either. But his fundraising has lagged far behind the three S candidates – a real indicator of mass support pickup – and he is not as natural a candidate as the others. He has no district-wide organization on a par with the S candidates. He is unlikely to wear well in the months remaining.

Brandt is a very likable guy, but the organization and the money aren’t there; he’s raised less than $20,000 from others (and contributed more than that from himself). His natural voter constituency, outside the smaller towns of northern Idaho, isn’t at all clear.

And Keith Johnson has problems. This is a change: He once seemed like a prospect to pick up the mainstream conservative vote and sweep the downtown Boise money and organization. That possibility was there because he was a relative blank slate on the hot-button issues; everyone could simply project “conservative Republican” on him. Now, having started later than most of the others, most Republican organizers and money people have signed on with others, and Johnson is scrambling for an identity – Who is he exactly, and how is he distinct from the other candidates, in a good way? His one clear identifying point is his religion (LDS – Mormon, and he may get some support through that network), and there’s been some speculation he’s trying to go after the conservative religious constituency that Sali may have. If so, it’s not likely to work. One other thing: Several people point out how Johnson’s one political credential – winning the Republican primary for state controller in 2002, which led to winning the office – cuts two ways. Yes, they note, he won the statewide primary – but he lost that race in the part of the state making up the 1st congressional district. (One further note here: Johnson’s current fundraising level is unknown, since – in contrast to the other five – it hasn’t been filed yet.)

So – the current roster. All of which is subject to change, and probably will be changed again, as this thing moves on ahead . . .

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