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Eye On Boise

Primary takes out three N. Idaho lawmakers, independent campaign may have backfired

Jon Larson votes in the Idaho Primary Election at St. Thomas Center in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Jon Larson votes in the Idaho Primary Election at St. Thomas Center in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Here's my full day-after election story from Spokesman.com on the final results and fallout:

Primary takes out three North Idaho lawmakers

By Betsy Z. Russell

Three North Idaho lawmakers lost their seats in Tuesday’s primary election.

The three – Reps. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood – have something in common: They’re all among the top 10 scorers in the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “Freedom Index.” The conservative lobbying group launched a new campaigning arm this year, Idaho Freedom Action, and pushed hard to boost lawmakers like these three and take out other Republicans it deemed too moderate. But the push largely failed.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, a top IFA target, defeated his primary challenger with 58.4 percent of the vote. “Their messaging was consistent, persistent and false, and the voters saw right through it,” Malek said.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, another top target of the group, said the numerous negative mailers against her appeared to backfire. “It acted as a motivator,” she said. “I had dozens of phone calls and emails after those mailers hit. I knew when a mailer hit people’s mailboxes, because people would call and say, ‘How can we help? We’re tired of this negativity, we’re tired of the lies. We want to … put this negativity to rest.’”

Though turnout was low across the state – just 15 percent in Idaho’s most-populated county, Ada County – it was nearly 50 percent in Boundary County, 33 percent in Bonner County, and 22.6 percent in Kootenai County.

“I appreciate all the voters that turned out and all the voters that supported my re-election campaign,” said Keough, who is seeking her 11th term and co-chairs the Legislature’s powerful joint budget committee. “I’m very honored.”

Meanwhile, in the nonpartisan race for an opening on the Idaho Supreme Court, two candidates are headed to a runoff in November: Rupert attorney Robyn Brody, who led all evening as returns came in Tuesday night; and state Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, who pulled out of the crowd of the other three to finish second in late returns, besting rivals Clive Strong and Sergio Gutierrez.

“I would say there was four good candidates that were very closely matched in the voter turnout,” McKenzie said, “and I think we’re going on because of the history of public service I’ve had, the diverse legal practice that I’ve had, and the strong academic foundation.”

Here’s the final outcome of North Idaho’s contested legislative races:

DISTRICT 1: Keough defeated challenger Glenn Rohrer with 55.7 percent of the vote; she faces Steve Tanner, a tea party conservative who filed as a Democrat, in November. Write-in candidate Stephen Howlett, a Bonners Ferry building contractor, defeated Bob Vickaryous in the Democratic primary for the chance to challenge Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, in November. Vickaryous is a conservative known locally for manning the John Birch Society booth each year at the Boundary County Fair.       

DISTRICT 2: Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and Eric Redman, R-Post Falls, easily defeated their GOP primary challengers. Barbieri will face Democrat Kathy Kahn in November. Richard Kohles defeated Cooper Coyle in the Democratic primary for the chance to face Redman.

DISTRICT 3: Freshman Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, defeated challenger Peter Riggs by just 64 votes; no Democrat is running, so Cheatham wins a second term.

DISTRICT 4: Malek easily defeated Coeur d’Alene Attorney Art Macomber in the GOP primary; he’ll face Democrat Patrick Mitchell in November, who defeated a primary rival named “Turns to the East.”

Sims lost to local University of Idaho official Paul Amador, who will face Democrat Tom Hearn in November.

DISTRICT 5:  Carl Berglund of Kendrick defeated Bill Goesling of Moscow in the GOP primary for a chance to challenge Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer.

DISTRICT 7: Nuxoll lost to rancher Carl Crabtree, and McMillan lost big to challenger Priscilla Giddings. Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, was the lone incumbent in the district to win his primary, easily defeating Kris Steneck of Elk City.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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