- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist outraised his Republican gubernatorial candidates last year by reporting more than $1.7 million in fundraising, but his opponent Lt. Gov. Brad Little closed out 2017 with a bigger bank balance of nearly $638,000.

End-of-year financial disclosure reports were filed Wednesday with the secretary of state’s office. The reports offer a snapshot into how the state’s most competitive political races are shaking out nearly four months before the May primary election.

In particular, the 2018 governor’s race has become the top race to watch because it will be the first in 12 years without an incumbent running. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced he will not run for a fourth term.

“Competing with career politicians who collectively have held elected office for 27 years, have raised and spent millions of dollars campaigning for public office, and are campaigning on taxpayer dollars requires significant resources and significant investment,” said Ahlquist’s senior advisor Travis Hawkes in a prepared statement. “Tommy is a political outsider who started with no established political or fundraising network - and these historic levels of support are a direct reflection of Idahoan’s desire for a fresh approach and new ideas in the governor’s office.”

According to the campaign, Ahlquist’s $1.7 million in fundraising is the most cash raised in a year for a governor’s race in Idaho history. That amount, however, was boosted with $700,000 coming directly from Ahlquist. The first-time candidate has also spent almost all of his campaign funds as of the end of December, having just $68,000 still on hand.

Meanwhile, Little’s campaign report shows he raised $734,000 in 2017 with no contributions coming directly from the candidate. Little’s team has spent roughly $438,000 of that amount and had $638,000 available in the bank at the end of the year.

“Our grassroots campaign continues to see surges from every corner of the state,” Little said in a prepared statement. “Idahoans elected me to do a job, and that’s what I’m doing to lead Idaho to near record low unemployment, wage growth that is double the national average, and a state that is consistently recognized as one of the best places to raise a family and start a small business”

Out of the top three GOP gubernatorial candidates, only U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s report hadn’t yet posted as of Wednesday evening. However, Labrador’s campaign manager China Gum says the congressman collected a total of $670,000 last year and still had $375,000 on hand.

It’s unknown if Labrador has contributed any of his own money to his campaign.

“I’m humbled by the support I’ve received so far in this campaign,” said Labrador in a statement provided by the campaign. “But the support is so much more than just the monetary contributions; it’s all the little things people are willing to do to make sure my campaign is a success.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff’s report shows he gave $175,000 of his own money to his campaign and raised roughly $6,200 in contributions from supporters. The Boise businessman launched his gubernatorial campaign in November.

The disclosure report for Democratic state Rep. Paulette Jordan, Balukoff’s opponent, was not yet posted Wednesday. Reports for candidates for lieutenant governor and political action committees were also not publicly available.

In comparison to the high-dollar gubernatorial race, the two candidates running to be Idaho’s next schools chief have been much more modest in their fundraising.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, currently the Republican incumbent, raised $3,400 during the second half of 2017.

In total, Ybarra collected $4,300 in contributions for all of 2017. She had roughly $2,400 still on hand as of the end of December.

Ybarra is running for a second term against GOP opponent Jeff Dillon, a Wilder School superintendent, who outraised Ybarra by raising an overall $8,000 for the entire year. He had $373 on hand as of December.

Unlike other races, having the most money in the school chief race hasn’t always indicated a clear winner. Ybarra won the 2014 primary against three other opponents after raising $2,800.

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