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Regional News

Big changes coming to Idaho legislature after primary election

Idaho House chambers
Courtesy Idaho House of Representatives
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More than half of the faces in the Senate will be new next year.

Tuesday’s primary election in Idaho is bringing huge changes to the top rungs of Idaho’s elected leadership. The Gem State will have a new lieutenant governor, Secretary of State, attorney general and school superintendent next year. It will also have significant turnover in the legislature.

When the Idaho state Senate convenes in January, at least 19 of its 35 members will be new. Nine senators, all Republicans, lost to challengers in the primary. They include Jim Woodward from Sagle, Peter Riggs from Post Falls, Robert Blair from Lewiston and Carl Crabtree from Grangeville. Those four are considered among the Senate’s most moderate Republicans. Another 10 members are voluntarily leaving, including Steve Vick and Mary Souza from Coeur d’Alene. Souza gave up her seat to run for Secretary of State. Democratic Sen. David Nelson from Moscow will move on to the November election, but he’ll have a tough race against Republican Dan Foreman, a former senator from Moscow

The turnover in the state House will be not quite as drastic, but still significant with at least 26 of the 70 seats changing hands. They include the Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, who is a finalist for lieutenant governor.

They also include some of the most vocal activists in the Republican Party, including Priscilla Giddings, who lost to Bedke for lieutenant governor. Giddings was one of a group of a dozen or so House members who prodded leadership (often unsuccessfully) to take action on issues such as repealing the state grocery tax, abolishing abortion (with no exceptions) and banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Others from that group not returning include Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), Rep. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton), Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley), Rep. Karen Hanks (R-St. Anthony) and Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Iona). Nichols was elected to the Senate. Moon ran for Secretary of State and is losing a close race against Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane. The others lost in the primary.

Big change is also coming to the north Idaho delegation. Nine of the 15 legislators representing the five northernmost counties will be new. Republican Reps. Paul Amador and Jim Addis from Coeur d’Alene are among those who lost close races. Rep. Doug Okuniewicz (R-Hayden) is leaving the House for a seat in the Senate. Only Reps. Sage Dixon (R-Sandpoint), Heather Scott (R-Blanchard), Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), Ron Mendive (R-Coeur d’Alene), Tony Wisniewski (R-Post Falls) and Okuniewicz are carryovers. Sen.-elect Phil Hart (R-Shoshone County) has previous experience in the House, but isn’t a current legislator.