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Boise State political expert sets scene for Idaho's November general election

As millions of dollars pour into Idaho races, the statewide race for Attorney General is shaping up to be a unique contest.

BOISE, Idaho — Ahead of the November 8th general election, millions and millions of dollars are flowing into political campaigns through donations. As of Friday afternoon, 54,648 Donors have given $43,837,132 to 1,093 Candidates and 236 PACs.

 Attention expands far beyond the top race on the ticket, the race for Idaho’s Governor, that is according to Boise State political expert Dr. Charles Hunt.

“Particularly, these lower tier statewide races tend to be kind of sleeper races. They're not ones that people tend to pay a lot of attention to. Governor and Lieutenant Governor tend to get the, you know, the lion's share of the attention. But we have seen a ton of fundraising in the AG's race, in particular, and a lot of this is a sign of voter enthusiasm right on either side and voter attention to issues like abortion that are good at garnering a lot of voter attention in ways that you might not have seen otherwise,” Dr. Hunt said.

The Idaho AGs race has seen about a million dollars contributed to top candidates, Republican Raul Labrador and Democrat Tom Arkoosh. The Arkoosh campaign reports more than $200,000 in donations since joining the race in late July. Labrador reports close to a little more than $775,000. 

In a state where Republicans win a large majority of statewide races, Dr. Hunt says the race for AG is unique.

“Back in May, pretty much all of the farther right, Trump-aligned statewide Republican candidates went down to the more establishment candidates. You had Brad Little winning, you had Phil McGrane winning, you had Scott Bedke winning. But the AG's race is one where that did not happen,” Hunt said.

The AG’s race saw former Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador win the GOP primary, something worth noting Hunt explains.

“Although in some ways he's a conventional politician, he used to be a member of the House, he has gone much more in this far-right direction. And so, it is possible that Democrats, or that outside groups more affiliated with the left, see this as a more winnable statewide race. I would question whether it is actually a winnable statewide race, this is Idaho. But if Democrats see that there are enough Republicans and independents who see some of the things that Labrador has said, around whatever it is, around COVID, or vaccines, or election denial, or these other things and think, 'you know, that's a bridge too far. I'll vote for Little, I'll vote for Medicaid, but I'm either going to sit this one out or maybe I'll even vote for the Democrat', I would question how winnable it actually is, but if there is a winnable statewide race, I would say it's that one for the Democrats,” Hunt said. 

Dr. Hunt added that a close race, even if it is a Republican win, is also telling. There is a nationwide trend of political activation following the reversal of Roe v Wade.

 “If these races are closer than they would have otherwise been, that sends them a message that maybe some of the moderates, the independents or more moderate Republicans maybe wouldn't be so on board with more extreme abortion bans like we've been seeing in some other states that have no exception for the health or life of the mother, that do not have exceptions for rape and incest,” Hunt said. “That's true about abortion. And I think it's true about other issues as well.”

So, what does political fundraising in a unique race, like for Idaho AG, mean in terms of correlation between donations and winning the race?

“It's always difficult to disentangle these things because of how much these competitive races attract money. Voters and interest groups send money to races that they already think are competitive. So, did the race become competitive because the money went there or did the money go there because the race is close? It's always hard to know. But money can go a long way, especially in small states with smaller electorates. And so especially because a lot of times you have these more underfunded Democratic candidates in Idaho, just like you might have more underfunded Republican candidates in, you know, blue states like California or Oregon and so that money can go a long way, especially if a race is already close,” Hunt said.

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