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Idaho voters re-elect governor, pick several new state officials

idaho elections.png

Idaho will have a new lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction in January.

Idaho voters have again elected a full slate of Republicans to serve in statewide and federal office for the next few years. Four of the seven state officials will be new to their jobs. The three federal elected representatives are all returnees.

At the top of the statewide ticket, Brad Little was re-elected governor for a second term with an easy win over four candidates, including Democrat Stephen Heidt and independent candidate Ammon Bundy. Little took 60% of the vote. Heidt was second with 21%, Bundy ran third with 16%.

Little had touted his record leading Idaho through the Covid pandemic, touting the state’s fiscal discipline and strong economy. He had defeated the departing lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, in the May primary election challenge.

There are changes in leadership in several statewide offices, beginning with lieutenant governor, where House Speaker Scott Bedke is leaving the legislature to take the state’s number two elected position. Bedke easily defeated two challengers, including Democrat Terry Pickens Manweiler. Bedke won 63% of the vote.

The rancher from Oakley had fended off a primary challenge from departing Rep. Priscilla Giddings.

Idaho will also have new faces serving as attorney general, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction.

Former U.S. Representative Raul Labrador will take over for Lawrence Wasden as the state’s top lawyer. Labrador defeated Democrat Tom Arkoosh with nearly 61% of the vote. He had defeated the five-term incumbent Wasden, who has served longer than any other attorney general in Idaho history, in the May primary.

Labrador vowed on his campaign website to “defend Idaho’s sovereignty, protect the individual rights of Idaho’s citizens, fight back against the Biden Administration’s destructive policies, and ensure conservative legislators have a true partner in the Attorney General’s office.”

He also vowed that the attorney general’s office should be a political office, whereas Arkoosh pledged to be “the people’s lawyer” and “stay above politics.”

Arkoosh touted that he had the support of 50 top Republican leaders in Idaho, including former Governor Phil Batt, former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, former First Lady Lori Otter, former state Treasurer Lydia Justice Edwards and departing Sen. Patti Anne Lodge.

Idaho’s new secretary of state will be Republican Phil McGrane, who has worked in elections since 2005, including most recently as the clerk of Idaho’s largest county, Ada. McGrane defeated Democrat Shawn Keenan, a mortgage broker from Coeur d’Alene, with nearly 72% of the vote. McGrane will replace Republican Lawerence Denney, who had served two four-year terms.

The Gem State’s new superintendent of public instruction will be Debbie Critchfield, who until 2021 was president of the state Board of Education. The Republican from Oakley has served as a school board member, public school teacher, GED teacher at the College of Southern Idaho and member of several state education-related committees. Critchfield defeated Democrat Terry Gilbert, who touted his 45-year career as an educator and service as former president of the Idaho Education Association. Critchfield won with nearly 69% of the vote. She had defeated the two-term incumbent, Sherri Ybarra, in the primary election.

Two Idaho state officeholders will return to their jobs for another four years. Treasurer Julie Ellsworth defeated Democrat Deborah Silver with 70% of the vote. Controller Brandon Woolf defeated two opponents, including Democrat Dianna David. He won 68% of the vote.

At the federal level, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo has been elected to a fifth six-year term. The Republican from Idaho Falls defeated four challengers, including Democrat David Roth, taking 59% of the vote. Roth gathered about 30%.

Rep. Russ Fulcher earned a third term as U.S. representative in the First District, including north Idaho. He won 70% of the vote in a three-way race that included Democrat Kaylee Peterson. Rep. Mike Simpson won election again to the Second District seat he has held since 1999. The Republican from Idaho Falls defeated Democrat Wendy Norman with nearly 64% of the vote.

Idaho voters also gave Republicans in the state legislature another overwhelming majority, though, if the current results are finalized, neither the margins in the House or Senate will change. The current results would give the GOP a 28-7 lead in the Senate and 58-12 in the House.

In north Idaho, many veteran legislators will apparently return for the 2023 session, including Republicans Heather Scott and Sage Dixon from Bonner County and Ron Mendive, Vito Barbieri and Doug Okuniewicz from Kootenai County. One former legislator will return, Republican Phil Hart, who served in the state House from 2004 to 2012, then lost two elections in subsequent years, in part because of a controversy involving his one-time refusal to pay federal and state income taxes. He was elected to the state Senate on Tuesday in the newly-aligned District 2. A few legislators, including Republican Senator Jim Woodward from Sandpoint and Representatives Paul Amador and Jim Addis from Coeur d’Alene, weren’t on the ballot after leaving their seats after losing their primary elections in May. Others, including Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene, are either retiring or left their seats to run unsuccessfully for other offices.

Idaho voters may also approve a Senate joint resolution that would allow the legislature to call itself into a special session under certain conditions. That measure has about 50.5% support after the first count of ballots. The resolution would require 60% of the members in each chamber to sign a petition and present it to the House Speaker and Senate pro tempore. Current law allows only the governor to recall legislators.