Poll numbers released last week shed an interesting light on Idaho’s two congressional races, suggesting one may be much closer than the other.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll from June 22 to July 9 for Idaho Politics Weekly, which published the results Sept. 3. In the 1st Congressional District, the sample was 315 adults, for a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent; in the 2nd Congressional District, it was 285 adults, with a margin or error of plus or minus 5.8 percent. That’s 600 respondents statewide.

The poll found GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson leading his Democratic challenger, Aaron Swisher, by 59 percent to 23 percent. But the Republican candidate for the 1st District seat, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian, led his Democratic opponent, Cristina McNeil, by a much smaller margin, 35 percent to 27 percent.

A full 20 percent of respondents in the 1st District said they were undecided, compared to 9 percent in the 2nd District.

McNeil is a real estate agent and chairwoman of the Idaho Democratic Latino Caucus, and though she raised less than $5,000 in the primary, she defeated Democratic primary rivals James Vandermaas and Michael Smith with a whopping 69.7 percent of the vote.

Fulcher won a seven-way Republican primary with 43.1 percent of the vote.

In addition to McNeil and Fulcher, the 1st District race has five other candidates on the ballot: Independents Gordon Counsil of Caldwell, Paul Farmer of Meridian, and Natalie Fleming of Fruitland; Libertarian W. Scott Howard of Post Falls; and Constitution Party candidate Pro-Life, who was known as Marvin Richardson before the Letha organic strawberry farmer legally changed his name.

In the poll, 10 percent of 1st District respondents favored Howard, the Libertarian; Pro-Life got 6 percent; and the rest split the remaining 2 percent.

The 1st District seat is open because current GOP Rep. Raul Labrador opted to run for governor in the primary, which he lost, rather than seek re-election. In the 2nd District, Simpson is a 10-term incumbent who serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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