Idaho 1st: new numbers

All the campaigns in Idaho’s 1st congressional district contest have reported new numbers, and the net result is to make the contest look less scrutable than ever.

Front-runner status in money and, probably, organization as well remains Bill Sali, whose late-session Statehouse blowups probably did him no harm with the core of the 1st district electorate. That said, the new fundraising total, $290,202, ranks as less impressive than some of the heavy leads he had been racking up: His fundraising in the first quarter of this year was a lot less striking than it was in 2005. Is that a signal of impending weakness? Or just as a sense that in his sort of campaign, he’s already raised enough: Either it’s enough to win, or raising more wouldn’t have been enough to help. Sali isn’t really a broadband candidate anyway; he’s narrowcasting to a specific crowd. He still has more cash on hand than anyone else in the race.

But others are coming on, to a greater degree, as well.

Sheila Sorensen, with $246,133 raised ($101,055 from the candidate), is now playing in the same financial league – which she needs to. The figures do suggest that if Sali winds up unable to mobilize his hard corps in sufficient numbers, Sorensen could be the most likely of the other candidates to pick up a plurality. (The idea of any of these candidates winning a majority seems remote.) She too is reliant on a specific piece of the electorate, and turnout will be critical for her too. Will she try to use some of the money remaining to ensure it?

The big change in the list is the third-place money man, Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez, who didn’t raise a lot in 2005 but has zoomed up this year, especially as his key issue – immigration and illegal aliens – has moved to the front of the state’s, and nation’s, discourse. With $178,106 raised, his budget puts him just shy of the Sali and Sorensen level, but nto far from it – enough t0 run competitively if he spends wisely.

Attorney Norm Semanko comes in fourth with $154,967, again enough to run a serious campaign though on a somewhat smaller scale than Sali and Sorensen. Arguably, since he isn’t well-known around the district (and Vasquez has gotten piles of headlines), Semanko needs to paid media more than the others do. He’s hoping his organization, evidently strong and still growing, will see him through.

State Controller Keith Johnson, having raised $103,981, is on a distinctly lower level, but his fundraising picked up strikingly in the first quarter of 2006 – an indication of some momentum. He’s not at the front of the pack, but sometimes the candidate who’s really coming on just election day approaches takes some special advantages from the energy in the atmosphere. He’s not done yet, and his cash on hand is second only to Sali’s.

Finally, state Senator Skip Brandt, raiser of $64,499 (more than half of it from himself), seems stuck at sea without a breeze to move him along. He isn’t getting heavy contributions, can’t play in a big way in the media, hasn’t been getting headlines (not to match those of most of the others) and hasn’t got the organization several others can boast of. He’s in a tough spot.

For the moment, with the primary election about a month away, that ranking of money raised also serves roughly as a reasonably ranking of probability for election day. But it’s an uneasy ranking: Little distance separates the candidates from the top from those near the bottom. This race remains fluid.

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