- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - New fundraising reports show only a handful of Idaho’s Democratic candidates are outraising their Republican opponents in the 105 races for Idaho’s predominantly Republican state Legislature.

Just two Democratic candidates have raised more campaign cash than Republicans running in 15 open seats. Both positions were previously held by Democrats.

A few more Democrats have come close to raising the same amount of money where an incumbent GOP is running for re-election. This includes Steve Berch, who outraised five-term Republican Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise - a seat the Idaho Democratic Party has been vying for several years to claim to secure total control over the more left-leaning city.

Berch - who has unsuccessfully been running for a legislative seat since 2010 - raised more than $41,000 so far this year, according to campaign finance reports released this week. Meanwhile, Luker has raised roughly $18,000 this year, but he also had $13,000 of cash on hand from prior elections.

Up north, Bob Blakey has raised about $26,000 while running for an open House seat in District 6. Republican Thyra Stevenson, who lost the same seat two years ago and is now running to reclaim it, has raised $19,580 this year.

Over in eastern Idaho, Democratic hopeful Mike Saville has raised more in contributions this year than Sen. Jim Guthrie of Inkom - though the two-term lawmaker has more cash on hand. Saville raised about $22,000 over the past 10 months, while Guthrie has raised $4,850 but has $27,000 from prior elections.

Guthrie is one of the few incumbents to receive nothing from his fellow Republican caucus. Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill launched an investigation into his travel reimbursements when a far right blogger posted this summer that the lawmaker had used state resources while having an alleged extramarital affair with Rep. Christy Perry.

Auditors cleared Perry, but the investigation found a $121 discrepancy for Guthrie. Both have denied they engaged in an ongoing affair.

Hill, who gave to 15 other contested Senate races, says he forgot to give Guthrie a contribution. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he would call Guthrie and donate to his campaign soon.

Idaho’s general election is typically considered not as competitive because of the GOP stronghold inside the Statehouse. More than 40 candidates are running unopposed or only face a third-party challenger.

That makes it all that much more difficult for Democrats to outpace their Republican opponents in both cash and in-kind donations. It’s not unusual for unopposed candidates to chip in to competitive races.

For example, campaign finance reports show that unopposed House Speaker Scott Bedke gave $500 donations to each of the 34 House Republicans facing Democratic challengers.

Bedke gave $1,000 to Rep. Steve Miller, who is fighting to hold onto his seat in one of Idaho’s rare swing districts. He also gave $750 to first-time candidate Tabby Jolley, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Sue Chew of Boise.

“I am cautiously optimistic we’ll hold onto seats this year,” Bedke said. “Turnout is always better in presidential elections.”

Both Chew and Miller’s opponent, Kathleen Eder, have raised more cash than their Republican challengers.

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