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National GOP Group Drops $500K Into Idaho Governor's Race

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

New campaign finance reports show a national Republican group has spent more than $500,000 trying to re-elect Gov. Butch Otter in Idaho.

Much of that money has gone to television ads. The spending suggests the Republican governor faces a tougher-than-expected challenge this year from his wealthy Democratic opponent.

Democrat A.J. Balukoff has been running as a centrist businessman focused on education who backed Mitt Romney for president. It's an image the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association seeks to shatter in its just-unveiled political ad.

“He's the liberal Democrat running for governor … you know, the guy who agrees with Obama on virtually everything,” a voice says in the ad.

Campaign finance reports show the Republican Governors Association Idaho PAC and a connected political action committee called the American Comeback Committee Idaho PAC have spent at least $576,600 so far on the gubernatorial race in Idaho.

Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network
Northwest News Network
Idaho Governor Butch Otter makes a campaign stop at Buck Knives in Post Falls.

Political analyst Jim Weatherby noted the Otter campaign also just released an ad. And for the first time, it attacks Balukoff directly.

“And this kind of direct response would indicate the Otter campaign may feel this is a more competitive race than one or two polls have indicated,” Weatherby explained.

Weatherby said divisions in the Idaho Republican Party and a Libertarian challenger make it unclear whether the governor can depend on far-right voters on election day.

The multi-millionaire Democrat Balukoff, meanwhile, has put at least $2.1 million of his own money toward his campaign. That's more than Otter's entire contribution flow, according to the latest filings.