Among old TV show titles that could describe this year’s Idaho legislative elections: “All in the Family” and “Family Ties.” That’s because at least four candidates running for the Legislature are close relatives of current or former state lawmakers. That’s not counting the two serving lawmakers who are father and daughter, both of whom are running for re-election; or the two family members of a U.S. Senate candidate who both are running for legislative seats.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, is leaving the Senate to run for the Idaho Supreme Court, and his dad, Ray McKenzie of Nampa, has filed for his seat. The elder McKenzie faces GOP opponent Jeff Agenbroad of Nampa, and the winner will face Democrat Carl Davis in November.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to run for the court until fairly late in the process,” the current Sen. McKenzie explained. He said he was worried that if he put out the word and recruited others to run for his seat, then decided not to seek the court post, “We would have had a contested race for the Senate seat. And I find that once people have filed, they like to run.”
So he asked his dad, a retired Idaho National Laboratory scientist, “if he would consider putting his name in, and he did.” The elder McKenzie has been a GOP precinct committeeman and a legislative district chairman. Then Agenbroad filed as well. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen with that,” McKenzie said.
In District 14, House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, announced that he wasn’t going to seek re-election, and instead was returning to his private business work. Then his wife, Gayann DeMordaunt, filed for his seat. She’s now facing former longtime state Rep. Doug Jones, formerly of Filer, in the GOP primary in May.
In District 3, freshman Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, faces a GOP primary challenge from Peter Riggs, who is the son of former GOP state senator and Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs.
And in District 34, freshman Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, has drawn a primary challenge from Doug Ricks, the son of longtime state senator and Lt. Gov. Mark Ricks. The younger Ricks, who like Nate works at BYU-Idaho, said, “I’ve always had an interest in politics over the years. I’ve conversed with my father about a lot of things.” Doug Ricks is currently the Madison County GOP chairman.
Asked why he decided to challenge Nate, Ricks said, “I think I can represent the people of our district a little better. I’m more of a conservative Republican. I kind of think Ron Nate is tied in a little too closely to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, and votes almost straight down with their recommendations.” The district is the same one that Ricks’ father long represented in the Senate, from 1979 to 1994.
The two sitting lawmakers who are father and daughter: Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Meridian, who is unopposed for re-election; and freshman Sen. Lori DenHartog, R-Meridian, who faces two challengers in the GOP primary, Charles “Pratt” Porter and Robert “Ernie” Terrell, both of Kuna.
Other family ties: “Pro-Life,” who previously was known as Marvin Richardson before his legal name-change, is running as a Constitution Party candidate against Sen. Mike Crapo; his wife, Kirsten Faith Richardson, is running as a Constitution Party candidate against Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett; and his son, Ammon Emanuel Pro-Life, is running as a Constitution Party candidate against Rep. Merrill Beyeler, R-Leadore, who also faces GOP primary challenger Dorothy Moon of Stanley. "Pro-Life" faces Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz in May for the chance to challenge Crapo in November.
And Rep. Shannon McMillan’s GOP primary challenger, Air Force fighter pilot Priscilla Giddings, is the daughter of Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings.
There was a David D. Packer from Pocatello who filed for the open House seat in District 28, the same district in which Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, holds the other House seat. But David Packer withdrew his candidacy; there are four other Republicans who have filed for the open seat, plus one Democrat. It turns out he is related to Rep. Packer, but only very distantly. “His dad and my husband’s dad were like second or third cousins,” she said, “so it’s not close, but I do know there’s some relationship there.”
Noting that Robert Winder of Boise has filed for a House seat in District 21, running against Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, I asked Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, who represents District 20, if there was a family relationship. “It could be way, way back there, but I don’t know who it is,” Sen. Winder responded. “And,” he joked, “he’s a Democrat, so it can’t be.”