- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A top state election official apologized on Tuesday for wrongly stating a Republican gubernatorial candidate was under investigation.

Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst says he did not have all the facts when he incorrectly said that Tommy Ahlquist’s campaign was facing an in-depth investigation by the attorney general’s office.

“I was wrong and I apologize. I should not have said what I said,” Hurst said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I wasn’t at those meetings and didn’t have all the information.”

Hurst had originally stated the attorney general had been asked to investigate possible campaign finance violations when in fact the attorney general’s office had been asked to help get information and no investigation existed.

The office had received a complaint in February alleging Ahlquist had wrongly aggregated donations that exceeded Idaho’s campaign contribution limits in 2017.

“Although it appears from the annual campaign finance report filed by Mr. Ahlquist that there might have been a problem, we have found no clear evidence that a violation exists,” Hurst said in a later emailed statement. “There has been some communication problems between our office and the Ahlquist campaign and due to turnover in the Office of the Secretary of State and the resulting lack of resources, we have asked the Attorney General to help in getting the information needed to make a determination.”

Hurst not only told reporters that the investigation existed, but also told Taso Kinnas, the person who filed the complaint, in an email sent earlier Tuesday which incorrectly suggested that Ahlquist would face possible fines for the alleged violations. No fines have been issued.

Ahlquist is running against top candidates Lt. Gov. Brad Little and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador in the May 15 primary. The open seat has become one of the most contested races in the upcoming primary due to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter deciding not to run for a fourth consecutive term.

“We appreciate the SOS quickly correcting the inaccurate record,” said David Johnston, Ahlquist’s campaign manager, in an emailed statement. “Our campaign remains focused on sharing that Tommy is a conservative political outsider who will shake up the status quo and is the clear choice to be our next Governor.”

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