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News / Northwest

US Rep. Mike Simpson takes early lead in GOP primary as initial election results for Idaho reported

By Kevin Fixler, The Idaho Statesman
Published: May 22, 2024, 9:03am

Based on early returns, Republican voters in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District appear to be leaning toward handing incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson a victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary election, which would grant him a chance to defend his seat in November’s general election.

Simpson, 73, of Idaho Falls, seeks his 14th term dating to his first congressional election win in 1998. He faced GOP challengers Scott Cleveland, 62, of Garden City, and Sean Higgins, 40, of Boise, for the right to represent the Republican Party for the federal district that includes East Idaho and part of Boise.

With 4.5% of precincts reporting at least partial results in Idaho’s 44 counties, Simpson was ahead with 56.2% of votes counted, shortly after polls closed. Cleveland was in second with 33.6%, and Higgins in third with 10.3% of votes.

Polls in the 26 Idaho counties that make up the 2nd Congressional District closed at 8 p.m. Mountain time. Results are expected later into the evening.

Simpson, a retired dentist by trade, had a wide advantage in campaign fundraising and spending, according to his latest federal election filings.

Simpson reported more than $1 million in fundraising from January 2023 through April and spending of about $572,000. He had about $611,000 of cash still on hand for the general election, the election reports showed.

Among Simpson’s largest donors, he counts the Dairy Farmers of America, the sugar and mining industries, several American Indian tribes and a handful of political action committees for health care and dental-related groups.

Cleveland, who was endorsed by the Bonneville County Republican Party over Simpson on the incumbent’s home turf, was second in fundraising. He reported more than $100,000 in contributions, including $50,000 in personal donations to his campaign, and about $84,000 in spending, the federal election reports showed.

Higgins reported about $5,400 in fundraising through April, including a $5,000 personal loan to his campaign. He spent $1,000 on his campaign over that time.

The winner of Tuesday night’s Republican primary will advance to November’s general election to face David Roth, 43, of Idaho Falls, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. In early returns, he had received about 8,700 Democratic votes.

Roth reported about $61,000 in fundraising toward the race from January 2023 through this April, according to federal election filings.

Libertarian candidate Todd Corsetti counted a few dozen votes in early returns, and perennial Idaho candidates Idaho Law-Carta Sierra and Pro-Life, formerly known as Marvin Richardson, were duking it out for the Constitution Party nomination.

Meanwhile, polls in half of the 19 counties that make up Idaho’s 1st Congressional District don’t close until 9 p.m. Mountain time. But Tuesday’s winners aren’t in question.

Three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, 62, of Meridian, ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary. As a result, he automatically advanced to November’s general election for the seat that represents western and North Idaho and the remainder of Ada County.

Fulcher, who remained in Washington, D.C., for the primary, sent along a video for attendees at a Republican Party watch night event held Tuesday night in Garden City. In the message, he maligned the Democratic Party and its leader, President Joe Biden, and called for unity within the GOP.

“There’s never been a more stark distinction between the two major parties,” Fulcher said. “This is a fight, the fight of our lives, and we need each other.”

Fulcher’s leading opponent in November will be Democrat Kaylee Peterson, 34, of Eagle, who also ran unopposed Tuesday. Their head-to-head race is a rematch of the same congressional race in 2022. Last general election, Fulcher received 71% of votes to resoundingly defeat Peterson.

Fulcher had about 25,400 votes to Peterson’s 6,100 in their separate primaries. Libertarian candidate Matt Loesby and Constitution Party candidate Brendan Gomez each received dozens of votes in early returns.

Fulcher reported nearly $400,000 in campaign fundraising from January 2023 through April and spending of about $276,000, according to his latest federal election filings.

Peterson raised about $83,000 and spent $63,000 on her campaign over the same period, she reported in her federal election filings.

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