Sali Primary Showing a Sign of Trouble for November?

Posted May 28, 2008 at 10:33am

In a potentially worrying sign for freshman Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho), he escaped Tuesday’s 1st district GOP primary against Iraq War veteran Matt Salisbury with just 57 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial election results posted by the Idaho secretary of state.

Salisbury closed the pre-primary fundraising period with just $3,500 on hand, spending a total of $43,000 on his campaign on contributions of $46,600. Considering that Salisbury ran a campaign bereft of a serious advertising effort, the outcome of this contest could signal trouble ahead for Sali in the general election.

Wealthy businessman Walt Minnick, who ran for Senate in 1996, ran unopposed in the 1st district Democratic primary.

He is trying to position himself as a libertarian-style Democrat — a move that could work considering that Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) secured 25 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in Idaho’s GOP presidential primary, also held Tuesday.

Sali reported $158,000 on hand and $135,700 in debt as of May 7, raising $517,500 since the election cycle began. Minnick closed the pre-primary fundraising period with $321,000 on hand and no debt, having raised $711,000 for the cycle.

Minnick is expected to be able to partially self-fund his bid, and considering Sali won his seat last cycle with just 50 percent of the vote despite Idaho’s heavy Republican lean, he could be in trouble again come November.

Meanwhile, Idaho voters set up a general election matchup between Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R) and ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco (D) for the seat of departing Sen. Larry Craig (R). This is a rematch of their 2006 battle for the lieutenant governor’s slot, which Risch won by 19 points.

— David M. Drucker