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Idaho Panhandle voters buck many trends, boot many legislative incumbents

Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks at a "Capital for a Day" event in 2019 in Bonners Ferry.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks at a "Capital for a Day" event in 2019 in Bonners Ferry.

Notes from Idaho's primary election

Idaho voters gave mixed signals during Tuesday’s primary election. They generally chose the establishment candidates for statewide office, but turned out many veteran state legislators. North Idaho voters diverged from the rest of the Gem State in many races.

At the top of the ticket, Governor Brad Little has apparently won the Republican nomination for a second term, defeating Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin by a 53-32 margin as of Wednesday morning. It appears he will face Democrat Stephen Heidt in November’s general election. Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad ran a write-in campaign in a bid to win the Democratic nomination, but it appears he has fallen short.

For the state’s number two post, House Speaker Scott Bedke has a solid lead for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. He’s about nine percentage points ahead of Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird).

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane has a narrow lead for secretary of state in the closest race for statewide office. McGrane leads by fewer than two points over Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) with ballots still to be counted. The secretary of state’s office administers state elections.

The state’s school superintendent will not get a chance to do the job for four more years. Sherri Ybarra is running third in a three-Republican race. Debbie Critchfield, the former head of the state Board of Education is leading with former legislator Branden Durst claiming second place.

It appears Idaho will have a new attorney general. Former Congressman Raul Labrador is defeating the incumbent, Lawrence Wasden, in the Republican primary with Coeur d’Alene’s Art Macomber in third place.

Voters in north Idaho often diverged from the rest of the state when choosing candidates for statewide office.

Though Little easily won the statewide vote for governor over Janice McGeachin, he leads in only one of the northernmost counties, Shoshone, and that by only three points. He also won in Latah, Nez Perce, Clearwater and Idaho counties.

Bedke is ahead in only two north Idaho counties, Latah and Nez Perce. Giddings, his opponent for lieutenant governor, is throttling him by two-to-one margins and more in several Panhandle counties.

McGrane, the county clerk in Boise, has a two-point lead statewide, but Moon is ahead in eight of the nine north Idaho counties.

Critchfield, with a six-point lead for state school superintendent, leads in only three north Idaho counties. Durst is ahead in the other six.

The only contested race where north Idaho mirrored the rest of the Gem State was for attorney general. Labrador leads by huge margins in most north Idaho counties. Wasden won only in Nez Perce County.

In the state legislature, many veteran incumbents were defeated in their respective primary races. In north Idaho, Sen. Jim Woodward (R-Sagle), seen as an establishment Republican, lost his race to an activist candidate, Scott Herndon.

Two Coeur d’Alene area legislators, Republicans Jim Addis and Paul Amador, are behind in close races. Post Falls Sen. Peter Riggs has lost his race to Republican Carl Bjerke and Lewiston Sen. Robert Blair, who served as a fill-in during the 2022 session, lost to former Senator Dan Foreman.

Former state Representative Phil Hart, who was voted out in 2012 after troubles about his federal tax debt became known, has won the Republican nomination for the Senate in District 2. Former firefighter Mark Sauter of Bonner County won the GOP nomination for a state House seat in District 1.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.