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Despite poor showing in North Idaho, Democrats gain a few seats in the Legislature

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 7, 2018, 10:54 p.m.

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2017 photo, Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, waits for the State of the State address inside the House chambers at the state Capitol building in Boise, Idaho. Foreman was the only Republican legislative candidate in North Idaho to lose to a Democrat in Tuesday’s election. He lost to David Nelson, who won 57.5 percent of the vote. (Otto Kitsinger / AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2017 photo, Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, waits for the State of the State address inside the House chambers at the state Capitol building in Boise, Idaho. Foreman was the only Republican legislative candidate in North Idaho to lose to a Democrat in Tuesday’s election. He lost to David Nelson, who won 57.5 percent of the vote. (Otto Kitsinger / AP)

Republicans remained firmly in control of all Kootenai County offices in Tuesday’s election, winning all seats in the second, third and fourth legislative districts, as well as all county offices.

Democrats did poorly throughout North Idaho, but managed to pick up a few seats in Southern Idaho.

With most – but not all – of the votes counted, it appears there were six upsets in Idaho legislative races, with one more possible as Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, leads Democratic challenger Jim Bratnober by just six votes, with a recount pending.

The net result is a gain for the Democrats in the heavily-Republican Idaho Legislature, with a pick-up of one seat in the Senate and three in the House.

The incumbents who lost included five Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Margie Gannon of St. Maries. Gannon lost narrowly to Republican Bill Goesling, 49 percent to 51 percent. That was former Rep. Paulette Jordan’s seat, and for the past two years, it’s been the only seat in the Legislature from north of Riggins held by a Democrat. Now the northern part of the state has all-Republican representation in the Idaho House, a historic turnaround from the days when the Panhandle’s delegation was dominated by lunch-bucket Democrats backed by local unions.

The House GOP incumbents who lost were Reps. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, who lost to Democratic challenger Muffy Davis, 44 percent to 56 percent in District 26; Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, who lost to Democratic challenger Chris Abernathy, 49-51 in District 29; Lynn Luker, R-Boise, the House Judiciary Committee chairman who lost to third-time Democratic challenger Steve Berch, 45.5 to 54.5 in District 15; and also in the same district, Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, who lost to Democratic challenger Jake Ellis, 49.1 to 50.9.

Outspoken Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, also went down to defeat, with Democratic challenger David Nelson winning with 57.5 percent of the vote to Foreman’s 42.5 percent.

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, fell short in his write-in bid to keep his seat against GOP nominee Chad Christensen, who defeated him in the primary. According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s website, Christensen got 80.7 percent of the vote to Loertscher’s 16.5 percent, with another write-in candidate, Ralph Mossman, drawing 2.8 percent.

Betsy Z. Russell is the state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press.


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