BOISE – Idaho is in for a very busy election season this year, with positions from governor down to North Idaho legislative seats drawing multiple candidates prior to Friday’s deadline.
The state’s primary election is May 20, and voters will have plenty of choices. At the top of the ticket, every top office-holder except for state Treasurer Ron Crane has drawn a GOP primary challenger. So have all but one of the North Idaho incumbent lawmakers in Districts 1 through 4 who are seeking re-election. The lone exception: Second-term Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who is unopposed.
In Coeur d’Alene, 7th-term Sen. John Goedde faces a GOP primary challenge from activist Mary Souza. Former Kootenai County Commissioner Rick Currie has filed to challenge second-term Rep. Kathy Sims. And freshman Rep. Ron Mendive faces a primary challenge from former Post Falls city councilman Terry Werner, while Sen. Bob Nonini will face Post Falls businessman Patrick Whalen, who’s lined up high-profile business support.
In District 7, controversial Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, who is facing an ethics investigation, drew a last-minute GOP primary challenge Friday from Shauna Hillman, curator and managing director of the Northern Pacific Railway Depot Museum and a former Wallace Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. The winner of that face-off will face Democratic candidate Jessica Chilcott of Sandpoint in November.
“I think it reflects the ferment and divisions within the Republican Party,” said longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby, professor emeritus at Boise State University. “There isn’t any reason for those who are Republican or those who are tending that way not to participate in this election. This is important.”
Idaho’s GOP primary is closed – meaning only registered Republicans can participate – while the Democratic primary is open to all. But under Idaho’s new closed primary law, anyone who is unaffiliated – not already registered as a Democrat, Constitution Party member or Libertarian – can affiliate at the polls and vote. Fifty-nine percent of Idaho voters are unaffiliated – and could participate in the GOP primary that’s likely to determine many of the final outcomes in the heavily Republican state.
As tea party challengers have stepped up to challenge mainstream Republican incumbents, Democrats also have put forth lots of candidates. Among Friday’s last-minute filings was former Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings, who filed to run for the state’s 2nd District congressional seat. Longtime 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson faces a challenge from the right from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who’s backed by the wealthy Club for Growth, which bankrolled former Idaho GOP Congressman Bill Sali’s unexpectedly successful campaign in 2006.
Here are the official candidates for the top-of-ticket Idaho races and Kootenai County legislative contests:
U.S. Senator: GOP incumbent Jim Risch faces Republican Jeremy “T” Anderson of Boise in the primary; Democrats Nels Mitchell and William Bryk – a Brooklyn, N.Y. bankruptcy attorney who’s filed for office in various states over the years – also are running.
1st Congressional District: GOP Rep. Raul Labrador has drawn an array of little-known challengers, including Republicans Sean Blackwell of Rathdrum; Reed McCandless of Moscow; Lisa Marie of Boise; and Michael Greenway of Eagle. Democrats on the primary ballot include longtime state Sen. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow; and Ryan Andrew Barone of Hayden.
Governor: Gov. Butch Otter’s GOP primary challengers are Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; and perennial candidates Harley Brown and Walt Bayes. Democrats filing for the office are A.J. Balukoff of Boise, chairman of the Boise School Board; and Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls, who’s run for local office as a Republican. Libertarian John Bujak, Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey, and independents “Pro-Life” and Jill Humble round out the ballot.
Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s primary challenger is Republican Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik. Democrat Bert Marley and Constitution Party candidate David Hartigan also are running.
In the open race for Idaho Secretary of State, four Republicans are facing off: Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, former Sen. Evan Frasure, former Sen. Mitch Toryanski, and Deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane. Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise is unopposed in the primary.
State Controller: Incumbent Republican Brandon Woolf is being challenged by Todd Hatfield in the primary.
State Treasurer: While GOP incumbent Ron Crane is unopposed in the primary, Democrats Deborah Silver of Twin Falls and W. Lane Startin of Boise are vying for a chance to run against him in November.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces a GOP primary challenge from Boise lawyer C.T. “Chris” Troupis; Democrat Bruce Bistline is unopposed in the primary.
State Schools Superintendent: With incumbent Tom Luna not running, four Republicans are vying in the primary: John Eynon of Grangeville, Andy Grover of Melba, Randy Jensen of American Falls, and Sherri Ybarra of Mountain Home, all educators. The winner will face Democrat Jana Jones, also an educator, in November.
One Idaho Supreme Court seat is contested in the May election: Justice Joel Horton will face Boise attorney William “Breck” Seiniger.
Legislature, District 2: Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, faces a rematch with Fritz Wiedenhoff in the GOP primary; the winner will face Democrat Cheryl Stransky in November, who lost to Barbieri two years ago. Freshman Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, faces a GOP primary challenge from Rathdrum insurance agent Eric Redman.
Legislature, District 3: Sen Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, faces Post Falls businessman Patrick Whalen in the primary; the winner will face Democrat Jerry Shriner in November. Rep. Ron Mendive is being challenged in the primary by Terry Werner; Democrat Michelle Lippert, head of the faculty assembly at North Idaho College, will take on the winner in November. For retiring Rep. Frank Henderson’s seat, three Republicans are facing off: Retired Los Angeles policeman Don Cheatham, Greg Gfeller of Post Falls, and Reagan Republicans president Jeff Ward.
Legislature, District 4: Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, faces Mary Souza in the Republican primary; the winner faces Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz in November. Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, faces former county Commissioner Rick Currie, with the winner up against Democrat Anne Nesse in November. Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, faces primary challenger Toby Schindelbeck.