Eye On Boise

Stoking Idaho's conservative fire: A look at Idaho's legislative District 3

Idaho District 3 Rep. Vito Barbieri works in his concession stand along with his daughter Tina, 14, at Honeysuckle Beach in Hayden on Aug. 3. (Kathy Plonka)
Idaho District 3 Rep. Vito Barbieri works in his concession stand along with his daughter Tina, 14, at Honeysuckle Beach in Hayden on Aug. 3. (Kathy Plonka)

Conservatism is practically a religion in Idaho's legislative District 3, the district that's elected tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart four times and this year added two like-minded lawmakers he recruited to run.     "I was considered a radical to my friends in California, and then I got up here and found out I was a moderate," said Vito Barbieri, a first-term state representative and, like many district residents, a California transplant who moved north.

The district, which takes in Hayden, tony Hayden Lake, the once-agricultural but fast-developing Rathdrum Prairie and little towns like Spirit Lake and Athol, has seen massive development and population increase over the last decade, but its conservative nature is nothing new - no Democrat has even run for the Legislature here since 2002, and then there was just one candidate, who lost. The last one elected was in 1994. What's different, though, is the intensity of the conservative leanings. Former state Sen. Mike Jorgensen, who represented District 3 for six years but lost to Hart-backed Sen. Steve Vick in the primary in 2010, said, "These radical losers think that having legislation that requires contractors to register is communistic - any kind of reasonable government is too much government."

With the Republican Party's strong dominance in Idaho statewide, District 3 may offer something of a window into the future as conservatives within the party, some of them former third-party members, increasingly seek to steer it to the right and seize the reins from more moderate Republicans they deride as "Republicans in name only," or RINOs. You can read my full Sunday story here from today's Spokesman-Review.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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