Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo won another six-year term in the Senate on Tuesday, the first Idaho senator to win a fourth term since famed Democrat Frank Church in 1974.
And 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador won a fourth term in the U.S. House, even as he mulls a run for governor of Idaho.
But there were deep divisions among Idahoans on Tuesday on the nonpartisan Idaho Supreme Court race and a constitutional amendment that state lawmakers placed on the ballot. In early results, Robyn Brody was leading Curt McKenzie for the high court seat, and the amendment was narrowly carrying.
With every seat in the Idaho Legislature up for a vote, early results showed incumbents largely holding their seats and the Legislature retaining its overwhelmingly GOP cast, but some races were in play around the state.
Here’s a look at the Idaho results:
Crapo faced challenges in his re-election bid from Boise attorney Jerry Sturgill, a Democrat, and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz of Coeur d’Alene. With partial results, Crapo had 64 percent to Sturgill’s 30 percent, with Writz trailing at 6 percent.
Crapo told cheering supporters Tuesday night in Boise, “I came tonight anxious – anxious about my own race, anxious about the presidential race, anxious about our ability to maintain control of the Senate. The votes are not all counted yet. And I’m one of those who likes to wait and see. … I don’t want to jinx anything, but it is looking good.” After a huge cheer, he added, “It’s looking really good.”
Crapo told the crowd, “We can aggressively begin moving down that path to truly make America great again.”
A DUI conviction in 2013 surprised Idahoans who knew Crapo as a teetotaling member of the Mormon Church, but Crapo apologized, moved on and ran unopposed for re-election in the GOP primary this year.
More than the DUI, Crapo’s changing positions on Donald Trump drew attention during the campaign. He first endorsed Trump; then withdrew his endorsement and called for Trump to step aside as the GOP nominee after revelations of Trump’s boasts about sexually assaulting women; then announced that he’d vote for Trump after all.
Sturgill, who tried to make a case that Washington, D.C., has changed Crapo in the decades he’s served there – he served three terms in the U.S. House before moving to the Senate – had the best showing of any Crapo challenger in more than two decades.
Sturgill said, “I feel like we’ve made tremendous progress. I feel like politicians should be about educating and helping people understand issues. I wish we’d had more of that in my campaign and between me and Sen. Crapo. But I’ve called him and congratulated him and offered to help, if I can help as a regular citizen and as one of his constituents.”
Crapo has been among Idaho’s top vote-getters for years. In 2010, he took 71.2 percent of the vote.
Labrador faced a spirited challenge from Boise attorney James Piotrowski, a labor lawyer and Democrat who faulted Labrador for his unwillingness to compromise. But Labrador, co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, turned that into a badge of honor, proclaiming that gridlock benefits Congress and was envisioned by the founders.
Labrador, who campaigned around the country with Donald Trump last week, told cheering supporters in Boise Tuesday night, “The establishment … has been repudiated.”
Piotrowski said he views Labrador, who won a fourth term Tuesday night, as the establishment. “Our politics are broken,” he said. “Apparently, the American people are OK with this sort of divisiveness and destructionism.”
Labrador said after this election he’ll consider whether to run for governor in 2018.
“I will do the work that we need to do,” Labrador said of his upcoming term, during the campaign’s only televised debate. “I still want to work on criminal justice reform. I still want to work on immigration reform. And those are issues that I will finish before I leave Washington, D.C.”
In Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, which takes in southern and eastern Idaho, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson cruised to a win for his 10th term.
IDAHO SUPREME COURT
Two lawyers with widely differing backgrounds were battling for a nonpartisan open seat on the Idaho Supreme Court. In early returns, Robyn Brody held the lead, 56 percent to 44 percent.
Curt McKenzie, a seven-term GOP state senator, touted his legislative experience and endorsement by fellow Republican legislative leaders and interest groups, including the National Rifle Association and Idaho Farm Bureau.
Brody, an attorney in private practice from Rupert, was backed by attorneys all over the state; in a new Idaho State Bar survey released in October, she was rated nearly twice as high in her qualifications for the high court as McKenzie.
Brody said Tuesday night, “You know, I am cautiously optimistic. I sure like those numbers.” She added, “I cannot thank the people of the state of Idaho enough for all of their support during this race. I have thoroughly enjoyed traveling this state and getting to know people, and I cannot wait to have the opportunity to serve them.”
If Brody is elected, she’d be the court’s only female justice; Idaho’s highest court has been all-male since Justice Linda Copple Trout retired in 2007.
Idaho lawmakers placed a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot, after voters narrowly rejected a nearly identical one two years ago. It seeks to write into the state constitution the Legislature’s authority to review and reject state agency rules, with no veto power by the governor.
With just over half the vote counted, the measure was leading, 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent; it needs just a simply majority to pass.
Idaho lawmakers already have the power to reject agency rules free from vetoes, under a 1969 law that was upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court in 1990. They now want to enshrine that power in the Idaho Constitution, which would mean the state Supreme Court could never change its mind and take that power away.
Top Idaho GOP officials were split on the issue, with Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden opposing the measure, and GOP legislative leaders supporting it.
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