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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Oct 30 - Nov 5, 2002

Election 2002

Contributions offer clues to District 25 campaigns

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Legislature District 25 incumbents are out-fund-raising their challengers by a significant margin this fall, but a Boise-based expert said money alone doesnít indicate a strong campaign.

The moneyís origins is one of the most telling indicators of a strong campaign, said Jim Hansen, executive director of United Vision for Idaho, a nonpartisan and nonprofit public interest research group.

"Most incumbents kick back and look on as they watch political action committee (PAC) money come in," he said.

Hansen said incumbent Rep. Tim Ridinger, R-Shoshone, appears to be doing exactly that, while incumbent Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, has sought financial support from many individuals, "which is really rare."

"Typically, the incumbent doesnít do much fundraising," Hansen said. "Clint looks like an exception. It looks like he took his challenge seriously and had a hefty individual campaign."

In campaign disclosure reports filed with the secretary of state Tuesday, Stennett out fund-raised his Republican opponent, Gooding County Commissioner Tom Faulkner, more than 3-to-1. Stennett raised $37,174.91 to Faulknerís $11,370.25.

Both candidates received money from PACs, and Stennett raised more in individual contributions. Also, Hansen pointed out, Faulkner received money from "more traditional Republican PACs."

"Historically, the big PACs in Boise are reluctant to bet on a challenger," Hansen said. "And when they do, they will do it en masse, and usually itís to take out a Democrat."

By Tuesday Ridinger had raised $12,654.91 to the $8,443.66 his challenger, Donna Pence, D-Gooding, had raised.

Hansen said the number of individual contributions Pence has amassed means "Tim Ridinger has a race on his hands."

"It looks like he could have raised more. Heís just gone after the Boise PACs, which could indicate a weakness on the ground."

Pence, Hansen observed, "is somebody who at least knows how to raise money. If she has organization on the ground to at least match that, she is in a position to give him a run for his money.

"His incumbency is something he probably shouldnít take for granted, like his Republican counterparts in the rest of the state."

Though Hansen said the District 25 senate raceís combined price tag of $48,519.91 is average for a competitive race, Faulkner said he was surprised at the amount of money his opponent raised.

Faulkner said he thought a normal campaign would cost $10,000 to $20,000.

"From my standpoint, I guess maybe I was a little naÔve," he said, "but I still believe that the citizens of Idaho are smart enough to vote for the candidate and not some slick ads and big money.

"Iím feeling pretty optimistic. Thereís good support for me at the grass roots level, and Iím feeling pretty good."

For his part, Stennett said he believes his successful fundraising efforts are both a reflection of widespread support in the district and an indicator that he worked hard hosting a lot of fundraising events.

He added that, despite considerable contributions from PACs, "Iím going to vote my conscience."



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