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The money, followed: Retzlaff, Clifford lead fundraising in Ada Co. election races

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The statewide races aren’t the only hotly contested seats on Republicans’ ballots this month. 

In Ada County, four local races have multiple candidates vying for their party’s nomination to face off with Democrats in November. Or, in two cases, the Democrats have not put up an opponent and the winner of the Republican primary will go on to become the de facto winner after next week’s primary. 

Ahead of the primary, BoiseDev took a look at the campaign finance reports to see which candidates were spending and fundraising big to try and pull ahead of their rivals. The races for Coronor and Assessor have been mostly dominated by self-funded candidates, but the Sheriff’s race and one candidate for County Commissioner have been attracting attention from donors. 

Sheriff’s race hotly contested

The race for Ada County Sheriff is one of the most high-profile races in Ada County this year and it shows in the candidates’ fundraising totals.

Sheriff Matt Clifford, who was nominated for the position by a vote of 2-1 by the Ada County Commissioners last summer, raise far and away the highest total with roughly $38,000. His rival in the nomination process last summer, Doug Traubel, raised just shy of $15,000 to challenge Clifford and take the seat. 

By the end of April, Clifford spent roughly $18,000 and has $20,000 in cash in the bank. He raked in donations from the Fraternal Order of Police and former Ada County Sheriffs Steve Bartlett and Gary Ramey. Clifford also received donations from County Commissioner candidate Dawn Retzlaff as well as current Ada County Commissioner Rod Beck, Ada County Clerk (and Secretary of State candidate Phil McGrane), and Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade. Developers Tommy Ahlquist and Avimor Principal Dan Richter also donated to Clifford’s campaign. 

Ada County Sheriff Matt Clifford. Courtesy of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office

Traubel also received a lot of donations, largely from private individuals. Two notable donors included Lynn Bradescu, one of the organizers of the failed effort to recall Mayor Lauren McLean and City Council Member Lisa Sánchez in 2020, and 2021 Meridian City Council Candidate Mike Hon. According to his April finance report, of his nearly $15,000 in donations raised, he spent roughly $12,600 and has $2,000 on hand. 

Retzlaff far ahead of competition in Commissioners race

Three Republicans are hoping to land the GOP nomination to face off with Democrat Tricia Nilsson for Commissioner Kendra Kenyon’s soon-to-be-vacated seat in November, but only one candidate has been significantly fundraising. 

Political newcomer Dawn Retzlaff has raked in thousands of private donations, bringing in a total of $23,160 in donations as of the end of April. Of that amount, $8,000 was a loan from herself, but the rest came from individuals throwing their support behind her. Donors include 2021 Boise City Council candidate Greg MacMillan, who fell short in his challenge against Sánchez. 

Dawn Retzlaff

In addition to spending on her own campaign, Retzlaff also made a small contribution to Janice McGeachin’s campaign for governor. She spent $9,619 by the end of April and was sitting on $13,500 in cash. 

Former Ada County Commissioner and prior candidate Sharon Ullman has the next highest total of contributions with $20,000 raised, but the vast majority of it comes from donations from herself. By the end of April she spent $18,579 and had $1,970 in cash on hand. 

Former Idaho state Representative Tom Dayley brought in $12,100 by the end of last month and spent nearly $7,000 of it on his campaign. Like Ullman, nearly all of his campaign funds came from personal loans. 

Arnold and Litster top spenders in Assessor’s race

Four candidates are hoping to become Ada County’s next Assessor, but two are topping the fundraising charts. 

Dave Litster was the top fundraiser by the end of April with $23,630 in contributions and $12,415 spent on his bid to replace outgoing McQuade. Of those funds, $10,000 came from a personal loan. Notable donors include Andy Scoggin, the Board President of Interfaith Sanctuary and a former Albertsons executive, and the Idaho Chooses Life PAC. Lister also spent nearly $9,400 on a credit card campaign, but the balance on the card has been paid off according to his April report. 

Dave Lister

Former Ada County Highway District Commissioner and 2019 Boise mayoral candidate Rebecca Arnold came in a few thousand short of Litster in fundraising with $19,600 raised as of the end of April. Of this amount, $11,200 came from a personal loan and she spent only $5,467 as of the end of April. She also earned donations from City Council Member Luci Willits and 2020 ACHD commissioner candidate Kara Veit. 

Bradley Bolicek and Ron DeRoest trailed behind with only a few thousand raised. DeRoest took in $2,660 and spent $1,291, leaving him roughly $1,360 in cash on hand. He largely funded his campaign with a $1,000 loan from himself, but he also recieved some donor support, including from developer Scott Schoenherr. 

Bolicek took in $2,575 and spent a little over $1,000 as of the end of April. Bolicek’s campaign also has run up $1,500 in debt on a credit card, which has not been paid off yet as of the latest filing. His donors include Raney and Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts. 

Little action in the coroner’s race

There are two candidates hoping for the Republican nomination for coroner, but neither have been spending big. 

Rich Riffle barely crossed the $500 threshold required to report campaign spending with $503 raised. All of the money was a donation from himself and it was all spent on campaigning, leaving him no cash on hand as of the end of April. 

His opponent Cheri Durst has not filed any paperwork with the Idaho Secretary of State. She told BoiseDev when reached by phone Thursday she has not been doing any fundraising for her campaign and has not spent more than $500, which is why she has not reported any campaign finance information. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of personal loans Rebecca Arnold made to her campaign. It has been corrected to reflect that she loaned her campaign $11,200 as of the end of April.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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