SCOTT MCINTOSH AND BRYAN CLARK Idaho Statesman
With a few notable exceptions, Idahoans can breathe a sigh of relief after most mainstream Republicans scored statewide victories over more extreme far-right challengers in the primary. Tuesday Republican.
Among the statewide races, incumbent Governor Brad Little easily and expectedly withstood the challenge of Donald Trump-backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was increasingly courting the far-right fringe and the white nationalist crowd. Political newcomer Ed Humphreys, who ran on a platform of conspiracy theories and far-right platitudes, got a surprisingly good result with 11% of the vote.
Even if voters from all of Little’s challengers combined had voted for just one candidate, it still wouldn’t have been enough to defeat Little, who received 53% of the total. Little received 148,214 votes, while all other candidates combined, including McGeachin, Humphreys and five other candidates, received a total of 132,685 votes.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, clearly the most qualified election expert in the race for Secretary of State, fended off election conspiracy theorist and ‘big lie’ adept Dorothy Moon in a race much tighter than it should have been.
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Importantly in this race, Moon and the state’s third-placed Senator Mary Souza, another “big lie” follower, split the anti-establishment vote, paving the way for McGrane’s narrow victory. .
McGrane received 113,894 votes, only 4,000 more votes than Moon. If Souza’s 41,057 votes had gone to Moon, Moon would have easily won.
In another race too close for comfort, for Idaho Lieutenant Governor, House Speaker Scott Bedke beat Priscilla Giddings, who has been the sweetheart of the Idaho Freedom Foundation in the House and has doxxed a rape victim to defend a now-convicted rapist.
Idahoans can also breathe a sigh of relief in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction, as former State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield garnered more votes than branden Durst, a combative politician. which promotes school vouchers. It was surprising, however, that Durst received more votes than incumbent Sherri Ybarra.
Even though some of those races were daunting because they were so close and far-right candidates received relatively high vote counts, as they say in sports, a “W” is a “W.”
The big exception was Raúl Labrador’s victory over longtime incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Wasden has been a voice of reason and a constitutional officer who calls balls and strikes, sticking to the rule of law and a straightforward reading of the constitution.
Most Republican voters, however, apparently wanted someone who would throw a curve ball, as one state lawmaker put it, and they likely found it in Labrador, who has vowed to be “a voice for the Conservatives” as Attorney General.
As Wasden sought to remove politics from the position, Labrador promises to inject politics into his position.
With the Idaho Senate likely moving sharply to the right and the House moderating only slightly, this could spell trouble for the Idaho Constitutional Defense Fund and the taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
To highlight Labrador’s victory, his total of 140,159 votes was the second highest vote total among statewide candidates with challengers – second only to Little’s landslide victory and higher than the total vote by Bedke.
There was speculation that Labrador and third-placed Art Macomber might split the votes, but clearly Labrador didn’t need Macomber’s 28,630 votes for victory. Macomber also ran an anti-Wasden campaign, which likely means Labrador’s margin could have been even higher had Macomber not been in the running.
All of these Republican candidates will face Democratic opponents in November: Stephen Heidt for Governor, Terri Pickens Manweiler for Lieutenant Governor, Shawn Keenan for Secretary of State and Terry Gilbert for Superintendent of Public Instruction. For attorney general, Labrador will face Democrat Steven Scanlin, who doesn’t even have a campaign website.
Democrats have a bad history in statewide races, leaving many observers that the real race for those statewide offices is the Republican primary.
House moderates win
There have been mixed results in legislative races around the state.
For one thing, many far-right incumbents in the House appear to have been beaten by more moderate challengers, especially in eastern Idaho.
There Rep. Karey Hanks was ousted by former Rep. Jerald Raymond’s efforts to reclaim his seat, and the same appears to have happened in former Rep. Britt Raybould’s attempt to reclaim his seat from Rep. Ron Nate (although that result is extremely close and likely to be recounted). Moderate Josh Wheeler also appears to have ousted Rep. Chad Christensen, an oath-keeper and one of the most extreme members of the House.
House moderates even saw gains in northern Idaho, with Mark Sauter winning for an open seat.
Before Tuesday’s election, the median member of the House — the member who might be most likely to vote for a deciding vote — was someone like Rep. Mike Moyle. But our best guess is that in the next term it will be someone more like Rep. John Vander Woude, or if the Democrats do particularly well in the general election, even someone as moderate as Rep. Lance Clown.
The Senate turns redder
However, the exact opposite happened in the Senate, with several relatively moderate Republicans ousted by far-right challengers.
Scott Herndon beat Sen. Jim Woodward, former Rep. Codi Galloway beat Sen. Fred Martin and longtime Sen. Jim Patrick, just 40 votes behind, appears to have been beaten by hardliner Glenneda Zuiderveld.
With nearly a third of the Senate having retired, much of the void has also been filled by far-right candidates. Tax resister Phil Hart got an open seat, Chris Trakel beat former Rep. Greg Chaney and Ben Toews beat Tara Malek.
The change in the Senate will be dramatic and destabilizing. In the last session, the median senator was someone like Woodward. Unless the Democrats score big, unexpected primary victories, someone more like Senator Lori Den Hartog is likely to be close to the ideological center of the Senate.
The Senate has been a gatekeeper in holding back far-right politics. It probably ends with this election.
Scott McIntosh is the Opinion Editor of the Idaho Statesman. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcIntosh12.