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Posts tagged: 2014 Idaho election

Stevenson picks up one vote in recount, Election Night outcome unchanged

The recount has been completed in Nez Perce County in the District 6 House race, and the outcome was the same as it was on Election Night: Freshman Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, has lost to Democratic challenger Dan Rudolph. The final figures from the recount showed Rudolph beating Stevenson by 25 votes, down from the 26-vote margin in the final, unofficial count on Election Night; Stevenson gained one vote in the recount. The Lewiston Tribune covered the recount and has a full report here.

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said an audit of the vote-counting machine in the county came out “right on,” with a hand-count of random precincts exactly matching the machine count. “So I didn’t expect any great change in this thing, and there wasn’t,” he said. “And of course the other gentleman has not asked for a recount, and after seeing this, maybe saved his money.”

Unsuccessful GOP challenger Mike Kingsley had considered asking for a recount in the same county after his 48-vote loss to House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston in District 6, but Rusche reported on Facebook on Saturday that Kingsley told him he’d decided against it. “I got a phone call from Mike Kingsley this afternoon,” Rusche wrote. “He told me that he was not seeking to recount our race, and wished me the best for my term of service. Mike was gracious, and I have to admit that as close as the race was I might have considered a recount if things had been reversed. But the history of recounts is that they do not make a large difference in vote totals. Thanks to all who supported me. Congratulations to Mike Kingsley and the Republicans for a tight, well fought race.”

Idaho ranks middling for percent of legislative races contested in the general election

The National Institute on Money in Politics reports that 36 percent of state legislative races in this year’s general election, nationwide, were uncontested, up from an average of 31 percent from 2001 to 2012. And in some states, including Wyoming, a large majority of races went uncontested. The group examined the 46 states in which there were legislative elections this year; Idaho had the 25th-most contested races, putting us in the middle of the pack. Sixty percent of Idaho’s legislative races were contested in the general election this year, the group reported. That’s down a bit from Idaho’s average from 2001 to 2012 of 67 percent.

The states with the most contested races, Michigan and Hawaii, both came in at 100 percent, followed by California at 96 percent. The states with the fewest were Arkansas and Wyoming, both at 36 percent; South Carolina, 28 percent; and Georgia at just 20 percent. You can see the group’s full report here.

Recount requested in District 6 legislative race, set for next week

The Idaho Attorney General’s office has received a request for a recount of the Nez Perce County portion of a District 6 legislative race, from losing candidate Thyra Stevenson, a Republican. Stevenson lost to Democrat Dan Rudolph by 26 votes. Mike Kingsley, who lost to House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, by 48 votes, also is considering a recount request, but the Lewiston Tribune reported this week that he's waiting to see the outcome of Stevenson's. The district also includes Lewis County, but the recount was requested only for the 33 precincts in Nez Perce County. Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore and Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst will head north to do the recount early next week, to get it done before the Thanksgiving holiday; click below for more.

Idaho voter participation hits record low

As Idaho certified its official election results on Wednesday, a troubling distinction emerged: This year’s election was the first time ever that less than 40 percent of Idaho’s voting-age population cast ballots in a general election. “Frankly, it was disappointing,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “We broke through a barrier that we didn’t want to break through.”

The previous low – 40.21 percent of the voting age population – came in the last mid-term election in 2010, as Idaho has continued to see declining voter participation, a trend that’s been steady since 1980.

Idaho’s not alone – Ysursa said the national average turnout this year, in percent of voting-age population, was 37 percent. “It’s abysmal,” he said, “and we need to turn it around.”

Final turnout figures showed that 56.1 percent of Idaho’s registered voters participated in the election. The number of voters registered was roughly equal to that of the last mid-term election in 2010, but there were 12,441 fewer ballots cast. Just 37.59 percent of Idaho’s voting-age population voted in the Nov. 4 election. You can read my full story here at

GOP pushing for recounts in two close legislative races

The Idaho Republican Party is encouraging two of its candidates to ask for recounts in elections that they narrowly lost to their Democratic challengers in the Nov. 4 election for legislative seats in north-central Idaho, the Lewiston Tribune reports. Republican state Rep. Thyra Stevenson of Lewiston lost to Democrat Dan Rudolph by 26 votes; in the same legislative district, fellow Republican Mike Kingsley lost to House Minority Leader John Rusche by 48 votes.

Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston told the Lewiston Tribune ( in a story that ran Saturday that the narrow margins in both races warrant a recount. Johnston added that a disk drive failed in Nez Perce County while votes were being counted, resulting in some ballots being hand counted. “We feel both races are too close to call, particularly with the middle-of-the-night hiccup at the county,” Johnston said. “It's prudent to do a recount and make sure the results reflect what voters wanted.”

Under Idaho law, the races don't qualify for an automatic recount because the margins are greater than 0.1 percent. Instead, the candidates can ask for one if they pay for it. A full recount in Nez Perce County would cost $3,300, or $1,000 per precinct plus absentee ballots. Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune and the Associated Press.

Election fallout includes big shakeups on some House, Senate committees…

Idaho Reports co-host Melissa Davlin reports that between retirements and incumbents losing in the primary and general elections, there are four committee chair positions up for grabs in the Idaho House and two in the Senate. Plus, some committees will see huge shake-ups: House Appropriations is losing four of its 10 members, including the vice-chair; House Resources is losing six of 18 including the chairman; and the Senate Education Committee is down three of its nine members, including the chairman. You can read Davlin’s full post on her blog here. She also notes that Idaho Reports will have a post-election special edition this Friday night at 7.

Crunching the numbers in the superintendent’s race…

Democratic candidate for state schools superintendent Jana Jones carried nine counties on election night, reports Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert reports: Ada, Bannock, Blaine, Latah, Teton, Bonneville, Nez Perce, Power and Shoshone.  Republican candidate Sherri Ybarra carried the other 35, in her narrow win. Richert has been crunching the numbers from election night in the superintendent’s race; you can read his full report here. He also notes that more than 11,000 voters who cast ballots in the governor’s race didn’t vote for either candidate in the superintendent’s race.

Otter thanks supporters, says Balukoff ran a ‘solid race’ that brought up important issues

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued a statement thanking his supporters for his re-election to a third term, and saying he's “thrilled” with the outcome of the election, both in Idaho and across the nation. “I firmly believe that Idahoans have elected the entire slate of Republican officials here in Idaho because our message of limited government, personal responsibility and conservative values resonates with the majority of the electorate,” he said. “I'd like to send my regards to my opponent, A.J. Balukoff, for running a solid race that allowed us to discuss a variety of issues that are important to all Idahoans in a public forum.” Click below for Otter's full statement.

Republicans roll in Idaho - again

Here’s a link to my full day-after story at on Idaho’s election results. It took until this morning at 7, but GOP newcomer Sherri Ybarra eked out a slim win in the race for Idaho state schools chief, completing a Republican sweep of all statewide offices that echoed results in Idaho elections since 2006. Democrats picked up one seat in the state Legislature thanks to upsets in Moscow and Lewiston, but GOP dominance of the Idaho Statehouse remained otherwise unchanged – 80 percent of seats went to Republicans, down from 81 percent. “It was a good election for Republicans, and they got their voters out,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics.

Idaho Dems chair: ‘We are strong and getting stronger’

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck, in a statement today, said the close race for state superintendent of schools was “a testament to the fact that we ran strong despite an adverse election climate,” that saw big GOP wins both in Idaho and nationwide. Kenck said Democrats had competitive races around the state, and have a 10-year-strategy for a comeback in heavily Republican Idaho. “Tuesday’s outcomes are in actuality a positive step toward that goal,” Kenck said. “To actually gain a legislative seat in this climate, as we did, is a respectable outcome. … We hold our heads high today. Our candidates hold their heads high. … We are strong and getting stronger.” Click below for his full statement.

Otter: ‘It says something great about Republican principles’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, in brief comments late last night to KTVB-TV, pondered his re-election to a rare consecutive third four-year term. “This is the first one in the 21st century,” he said. “What I believe it says, it says something great about Republican principles, and how enduring, how survivable they are, even when we have major differences in the party. It’s still those principles that people of Idaho want to be governed by.”

Otter faced a divisive primary challenge in May, when he defeated state Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, by just 51.4 percent to 43.6 percent, with barely a majority of his own party backing his bid for a third term. Last night, Otter got 53.5 percent of the statewide vote to win a third term.

Ybarra statement: ‘I am honored and proud’

Sherri Ybarra, Idaho’s newly, and narrowly, elected state superintendent of schools, has issued this statement:

“First I want to thank my family for standing by my side and for all of their love and support.  I want to give a huge thank you to all of my supporters in Idaho for the most humbling experience of my career and life. I am honored and proud because they have entrusted me with the position of ‘Chief of Schools’ and I will do everything I can to defend that trust. I also want to thank my opponent for her hard work running a statewide campaign.  It isn’t easy, so thank you Jana Jones.  I am excited about moving education forward for Idaho’s students.”

In a news release, Ybarra said she will immediately begin working with outgoing GOP Superintendent Tom Luna “for a seamless transition in the leadership of Idaho’s Department of Education.” Luna had earlier offered both candidates for the post an opportunity to move into an office next to his immediately after the election so he could help them in the transition; during a pre-election debate, both Ybarra and Jones said they weren’t interested, but Ybarra later said she was. Last night, asked what she’d do if she pulled out the win in the then-deadlocked race, Ybarra said, “Address the whole child, work on the budget. I’m going to take that opportunity to transition in.”

Ybarra, who is in her second year as federal programs director and curriculum director for the Mountain Home School District, spent 11 years as a third-grade teacher and served as a vice-principal and for two years as a principal before starting her current job; she will take office as state superintendent on Jan. 1. “Address the whole child” is a mantra she repeated throughout her campaign, to describe her approach to education.

She also held a “campaign catchphrase” on her Facebook page during the campaign, and named the winning slogan on the morning of Election Day: “Ybarra, You Betcha!” 

Balukoff concedes to Otter in gov’s race

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, has conceded the election to GOP Gov. Butch Otter; Balukoff said he offered Otter his congratulations in a late-night phone call. “Being governor is often a thankless job, and I commend Gov. Otter for his public service,” Balukoff said in a statement.

“I urge the members of my party and all Idahoans to come together, through our common values, to pursue our shared goals, so that we may rise to the challenges before us,” he said. “We ran a good race and we brought attention to some very important issues. And in the end, as a nation of free elections, we accept the decision of voters.”

Balukoff said over the past year, he's worked successfully to change “the tone of the conversation about education in Idaho. That's a victory—and it's a victory most of all for Idaho's children. But we have more work to do to make the people we elect to the Statehouse accountable to delivering on their promises and their obligation to put our schools and our kids first.” Click below for his full statement.

Ybarra wins close race after long night of vote-counting

The results from Tuesday's election are finally complete, and Republican Sherri Ybarra has defeated Democrat Jana Jones for state school superintendent by 5,715 votes, a razor-thin 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent. Here's a link to our full story at on the results in Idaho's statewide races. 

Other news that didn’t emerge until Ada County’s ballot-counting ended this morning: Incumbent GOP Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who had run behind Democratic challenger Steve Berch throughout the night, pulled ahead to win a squeaker by 414 votes. And Samuel Hoagland was elected 4th District judge to succeed Judge Mike Wetherell, defeating Rebecca Arnold, who had led overnight, 52.3% to 47.7%.

Statewide, Gov. Butch Otter’s margin dropped, but he still won with 53.5 percent of the vote to 38.6 percent for Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff and 4.1 percent for Libertarian John Bujak. And Lawerence Denney defeated Holli Woodings to become Idaho’s next secretary of state, 56.2% to 43.8%. Ron Crane won a fifth term as state treasurer with 61 percent to Democratic challenger Deborah Silver’s 39 percent. Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Raul Labrador each got 65 percent of the vote against Democratic challengers Nels Mitchell and Shirley Ringo, to win a second six-year term for Risch and a third two-year term for Labrador. 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson defeated former Rep. Richard Stallings 61.4% to 38.6%.

There were some very close legislative races, but in the end, only three upsets, one favoring Republicans and two favoring Democrats, for a net gain of one more Democrat in the Idaho House. And HJR 2, the constitutional amendment designed to enshrine legislative review of administrative rules from the executive branch in the Idaho Constitution, went down to a narrow defeat, with 49.4% in favor and 50.6% opposed. 

Looks like superintendent race results won’t be clear ‘til morning…

This picture from the Ada County elections office at 2:15 a.m. shows bins of ballots still waiting to be counted; at this point, just 48 percent of the vote in Ada County has been counted, and it’s by far the largest county in the state, both population-wise and voting-wise. What that means: We likely won’t know until morning who’s won the race for Idaho state superintendent of schools. Currently, with 869 of 965 precincts reporting statewide, Republican Sherri Ybarra has a 10,069-vote lead over Democrat Jana Jones. But in Ada County, Jones has a 16,567-vote lead over Ybarra. If the other half of Ada County’s votes followed the same trend, it’d more than wipe out Ybarra’s lead and give Jones the win.

There are other counties with votes still out, too. Canyon County has 53 of its 64 precincts counted, and Ybarra has a 4,924-vote lead over Jones there. But those numbers are much smaller than those from Ada that look to go the other way. Kootenai County results are now complete; Ybarra led Jones there by a large margin, but those numbers are already counted in the statewide totals.

Two other counties still have a few precincts out – three in Benewah County, and three in Bonner. But all in all, it’s clear that the big numbers are in Ada, and Ada won’t be done counting for several hours yet. So it’ll be a while for this one.

Republican Governors Association spent $1.2M on anti-Balukoff ads

The Republican Governors Association spent $1.2 million on an advertising campaign aimed at tying Democratic candidate for Idaho governor A.J. Balukoff, a Mitt Romney supporter, to President Barack Obama. “The Republican Governors Association was a key investor in Governor Otter’s re-election victory, spending $1.2 million on paid media,” the group said in a news release tonight. “The RGA ran three television ads in Idaho during the election, detailing Democrat A.J. Balukoff’s liberal record and his support for President Obama’s failed agenda.”

RGA Chairman Chris Christie said, “Governor Otter’s leadership in Idaho will continue to be a source of great strength for the state, and the Republican Governors Association is proud to congratulate him on his re-election.”

Current legislative races tally: +2 for Dems

Here’s the caveat to tonight’s election results as they stand now: In Idaho’s three most-populous counties, Ada, Canyon, and Kootenai, results are coming out very slowly and the current numbers represent well under half the vote in each of those counties. Nevertheless, statewide, with 757 of 965 precincts reporting (that’s 78 percent of precincts), it appears that four legislative races in the state are headed toward upsets:

In District 5, Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow, is running behind Democratic challenger Paulette Jordan; while Republican Caroline Nilsson Troy is leading Democrat Gary Osborn for the seat formerly held by Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. In District 6, Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, is running narrowly behind Democratic challenger Dan Rudolph. And in Boise, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, is behind Democratic challenger Steve Berch in District 15.

If all those trends hold, the party split in the Legislature would change by two seats – Democrats would pick up two seats in the House. If Jordan and Nilsson Troy both win in District 5, that Democratic pickup and Republican loss would cancel each other out as far as the overall balance. In all other races in the state, at least as of now, new lawmakers who take office will be replacing outgoing lawmakers from the same party.

Otter thanks supporters, pledges to keep fighting same-sex marriage

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the crowd at the Republican Party election night watch party that he was reluctant to give a victory speech because he hadn’t yet received a concession call from losing candidates A.J. Balukoff and John Bujak, but he wanted to take the opportunity to thank his supporters. Otter also spoke out strongly and at length on his continuing opposition to same-sex marriage.

 “I believe our values are strong in Idaho, I believe we’re the last … right now in the United States to stand up for what we believe is traditional marriage. And I’m going to continue that fight as long as I possibly can,” Otter declared to cheers and applause.

“I don’t believe there’s anybody in the state of Idaho that is purposely discriminatory,” Otter said. “But there are values that we believe in. And we can accommodate those other things but we can’t give up on our values. We voted in 2006 to say that a marriage is between one man and one woman, in the state of Idaho. Now if they want to change the other 49 states, go ahead, that’s not going to bother me, but why should we change? Why should we leave our values? Why should we leave our moral principles because everybody else is? That isn’t what the founders want, that isn’t what our creator wanted … so we’re staying there.”

Otter also thanked state GOP Chairman Steve Yates. “Steve, you brought the party back together,” he said. You can read my full story here at on tonight's results in Idaho races.

Balukoff: ‘We’ve been able to change the conversation’

Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff, while not ready to concede the race, said whether or not he wins, “It was worth it – we’ve been able to change the conversation. We’ve raised education to a good level of discussion. I feel great about what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.”

Here, Balukoff greets supporters at the Idaho Democratic Party election-night watch party at the Grove Hotel.

AP calls race for governor, names Otter winner; he leads with 54.8 percent and a third of the vote counted

The Associated Press has called the race for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, with only a third of the votes counted, saying he’s won a rare third term as Idaho’s governor. Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff said, “It’s still early in my mind – I’m going to wait and see how it goes.”

Otter hasn’t claimed victory yet, either. The latest numbers, with 32.8 percent of precincts reporting, showed Otter with 54.8 percent; Balukoff with 38.1 percent; Libertarian John Bujak with 3.5 percent; independent Jill Humble with 2 percent; Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey with 1.1 percent; and “Pro-Life” with 0.6 percent.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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