- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Democratic Party is criticizing Gov. Butch Otter and other Republican leaders for sending out letters asking lobbyists for campaign donations to seven legislative races where the GOP thinks the party is vulnerable.

According to the letter dated Sept. 16, first-time Republican candidate Greg Chaney of Caldwell is included in the request for support.

“These five incumbents and two newcomers are all facing very tough elections in their respective districts, and they need your help if they are to be successful in November,” wrote Otter, with signatures also from Lt. Gov. Brad Little and House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley. “If we hope to sustain our majority in the House, or even increase it, we must take action now to help these seven candidates with their legislative races.”

Bedke, who verified the letter, said he decided to send it after plans to organize a fundraising event for the seven candidates fell through.

It’s not uncommon for Republican leaders to help other GOP candidates’ raise campaign funds during election years, but Idaho Democratic Party spokesman Dean Ferguson said Otter, Little and Bedke should not support a candidate whose criminal history was made public early in the campaign.

Ferguson added that Otter was betraying Idaho families by endorsing Chaney. He pointed out that Chaney was charged with domestic battery in 2009 after being accused of shoving his then-wife. Police also reported he threatened to kill himself in front of his family. Chaney later pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and malicious injury to property.

“It is troubling to see the inclusion of Caldwell Republican candidate Greg Chaney in this letter,” Ferguson said. “His criminal record has been widely published.”

Otter’s campaign did not return calls from The Associated Press.

Chaney’s legal issues were first reported nearly a month before the May primary election. Despite calls to withdraw, Chaney refused and went on to win the election against two last-minute write-in candidates.

“This election is about vision for the future, not one isolated incident that happened six years ago,” Chaney said Monday, adding that he hasn’t consumed alcohol since 2009 and now has custody of his two children. “The fact of the matter is, that’s not part of my behavior at all.”

Chaney now faces Democratic opponent Leif Skyving in the Nov. 4 general election.

Along with Chaney, the letter also seeks to rally support for five GOP incumbents, Lynn Luker of Boise, Brandon Hixon of Caldwell, Steve Miller of Fairfield, Thrya Stevenson of Lewiston and Cindy Agidius of Moscow.

The seventh candidate is first-time Republican candidate Caroline Troy, who is running against Democrat Gary Osburn in northern Idaho’s Moscow.

“They are reliable and hard-working Republicans and we need to do everything we can to assure their re-election,” the letter said.

Campaign finance reports show that soon after the letter was sent out, lobbyists groups such as Idaho Loggers PAC, Hecla Mining Co., Clearwater Paper contributed $300 to $500 donations to several of the seven candidates.

Bedke has also contributed $500 to each of the candidates.

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