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Much is at stake in Idaho’s May 15 primary election, from hotly contested county races to every seat in the Legislature. Because Republicans so completely dominate state politics, many of those races will be decided in the primary. But this year, for the first time, only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary – and more than a third of Idaho’s voters identify themselves as independents. Add to that primaries that draw low turnouts, redistricting that’s added to voter confusion by shifting many into different districts with unfamiliar candidates, and the lack of a presidential primary, since both state parties already handled that with caucuses, and “you could have a weak fringe candidate win in a primary like that,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and longtime Idaho political observer.
BOISE – State Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who’s running for the Idaho Senate, has made a last-minute, $1,000 campaign donation through his political action committee to the primary election challenger of the sitting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. That’s a form of political heresy in the Idaho Senate that Nonini hopes to join, where past attempts to back challengers to fellow GOP incumbents have brought major sanctions from the Republican caucus.
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who’s running for the Idaho Senate, has made a last-minute $1,000 campaign donation through his PAC to the primary election challenger of the sitting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert.
Kris Sabo, of Sagle, was surprised when an official state-funded letter arrived in the mail from Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, talking about Nuxoll’s record and thanking supporters as she seeks re-election. “My gosh, she’s from Cottonwood – where the heck is that?” Sabo asked. “If she’s using our money to help her campaign to keep her job, that shows disrespect for our money. Nobody’s going to pay for me to go out and try to keep my job.”
Kris Sabo of Sagle was surprised when an official state-funded letter arrived in the mail from Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, talking about Nuxoll’s record and thanking supporters as she seeks re-election. “My gosh, she’s from Cottonwood – where the heck is that?” Sabo asked. Sabo currently is in Idaho’s legislative District 2, one of the North Idaho Panhandle legislative districts. But redistricting in Idaho will put her in the new District 7 next year, which stretches from southeastern Bonner County all the way south to the Valley County line at the mid-section of the state; Cottonwood is nearly a four-hour drive south of Sagle.
Politics are heating up in North Idaho. Former state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who’s running for the Senate seat he lost two years ago to an ally of tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, is asking GOP candidates in Legislative District 2 to join him in signing a pledge that they will “obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.” Jorgenson calls it the “Republican Principle Pledge” and openly acknowledges it’s designed to rally Republican voters embarrassed by Hart’s continuing legal battles over unpaid state and federal taxes.
Former Idaho Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who’s running again for the Senate seat he lost two years ago to an ally of tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, has signed and sent to all District 2 GOP candidates a “Republican Principle Pledge” pledging to “obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.”
It’s winner-take-office for the Kootenai County Commission candidates in the May 15 primary. There are no Democrats or third-party candidates vying for the office that oversees a wide variety of functions, including land-use decisions, solid waste treatment and property tax assessment appeals.
With fourth-term Republican Rep. Marge Chadderdon of Coeur d’Alene stepping down, the only contested race in the primary for Idaho’s legislative District 4 this year is between the two young Republicans vying for a shot at replacing her. Chadderdon has endorsed Luke Malek, 30, a local attorney and business consultant who rose to prominence in political circles when then-Gov. Jim Risch named him his North Idaho regional director, heading up the state’s first North Idaho governor’s office.
For the last two elections, one North Idaho legislative district saw few contested races, as popular incumbents were repeatedly re-elected. This year is different, with fourth-term Republican Rep. Frank Henderson facing a challenge in the May 15 primary, and two newcomers facing off for the open seat that Rep. Bob Nonini is leaving to run for the state Senate. “Had I not run … we would have given an incumbent his third straight term without opposition, and I find that to be un-American,” said Jack Schroeder, 73, Henderson’s primary challenger. “At least they know there’s another alternative, and there’s another person who’s willing to go out there and fight for what he thinks is right, just like Frank has done for all these years.”