Tuesday’s Idaho primary yielded no surprises, but the election allowed voters to start closing the book on U.S. Sen. Larry Craig.
The race to succeed the three-term Republican senator will be between business consultant and former Congressman Larry LaRocco, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican.
Craig decided not to seek re-election last year after his airport restroom sex sting scandal in Minneapolis. He initially said he would resign, then changed his mind and said he would serve the rest of his term, insisting he still could be an effective senator despite pleading guilty to an allegation that he’d solicited sex.
Craig was first elected to the Senate in 1991. When he announced his retirement, a rush of candidates filed to fill the seat. Risch handily defeated seven GOP challengers, winning 65 percent of the vote, with more than half the precincts reporting Tuesday.
At a Republican Party rally Tuesday in Boise, Risch told supporters he’d work to make President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts permanent and help draft a new energy policy that sought to tap every source available to the United States.
“America desperately needs a comprehensive energy plan,” Risch said.
LaRocco fended off two Democratic opponents, including one write-in candidate, with 71 percent of the vote.
LaRocco and Risch have faced off before. LaRocco, a former lobbyist and stockbroker who served two terms in Congress representing Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, lost to Risch for lieutenant governor in 2006.
LaRocco has raised nearly $700,000 after 14 months of campaigning to mount a serious challenge to Risch.
“We will have the resources to compete,” LaRocco said.
Heading into the primary, Risch had about $1 million in reserves, including money from a $380,000 loan to himself.
In the 2nd Congressional District, which includes North Idaho, U.S. Rep. Bill Sali led fellow Republican Matthew Salisbury, 64 percent to 36 percent.
Salisbury, 35, of Nampa, is an Iraq war veteran, party activist and business consultant whose previous job at a manufacturing company was outsourced to Mexico.
Sali is an attorney and longtime state representative known for championing anti-abortion legislation. He narrowly won election to Congress in 2006.
The winner will face Boise businessman Walt Minnick, the uncontested Democrat in Tuesday’s primary.
In North Idaho’s legislative District 3, Republican incumbents were the winners – again.
State Sen. Mike Jorgenson easily defeated political newcomer Jim Connell with 64 percent of the vote. Jorgenson, a litigation consultant, has held the seat for two terms.
State Rep. Phil Hart topped former Coeur d’Alene Schools Superintendent David Rawls 72 to 28 percent. State Rep. James Clark faced no opposition in his re-election campaign.
And with no Democrats willing to take them on in November, Jorgenson, Hart and Clark all won re-election with Tuesday’s results.
In District 2, state Sen. Joyce Broadsword faced Bill Largen and James Stivers in the Republican primary. But they went down quickly, with Broadsword leading with 57 percent of the vote. She will take on Democrat Rand Lewis in November. Lewis ran unopposed.
Supreme Court Justice Joel D. Horton was in a tight race with challenger John Bradbury. Horton was leading with 53 percent of the vote.
In the presidential race, voters overwhelmingly backed John McCain for the nomination, giving him 71 percent of the vote. Ron Paul received 23 percent, according to preliminary results.
In the Democratic race, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, but the results of Tuesday’s primary have no effect on how the state party assigns its delegates. Idaho Democrats and independents caucused in February and pledged 15 delegates to Obama and three to Clinton.
Only about a third of Idaho’s registered voters were expected to vote in Tuesday’s election, the secretary of state’s chief deputy said, despite statewide attempts by county election supervisors to push absentee voting and ride the buzz surrounding the 2008 presidential election.
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