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Idaho’s Republican incumbents on way to securing victories in congressional races

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 3, 2020

U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 29, 2020.  Fulcher was on his way to winning a second term in Congress as Election Night closed Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.  (Associated Press)
U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 29, 2020.  Fulcher was on his way to winning a second term in Congress as Election Night closed Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Associated Press)

As Election Day came to a close with no clear outcome in the presidential race and control of the U.S. Senate still undecided, Idaho remained a bastion of congressional Republicans as all three of the state’s GOP incumbents appeared headed for decisive wins Tuesday.

Amid what was on track to be the highest voter turnout the United States has seen in more than a century, Democrats appeared poised to retain their House majority as votes were being tallied across the country. Democrats entered Election Day hopeful they could wrest control of the Senate from the GOP, but those hopes dimmed somewhat as Republicans held onto key seats in Texas and South Carolina.

With vote counting likely to continue for days in key states and at least one Senate race in Georgia headed for a January runoff, control of the upper chamber may not be decided for weeks or even months.

In Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, covering North Idaho and the western half of the state, Rep. Russ Fulcher was primed to win a second term, leading Democrat Rudy Soto by more than 30 points with 65% of votes counted.

Libertarian candidate Joe Evans had received roughly 3% of the vote.

In his freshman term in Congress, Fulcher established himself as one of the most conservative lawmakers in the House, and the former tech industry salesman campaigned on a law-and-order message similar to President Donald Trump’s. He found a home in the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus and on the Natural Resources and Education and Labor committees.

Soto, a former congressional staffer who served for nine years in the Army National Guard, ran as a centrist “uniter” focused on bread-and-butter issues like health care, education and the economy. Evans, an Army veteran, campaigned on a platform of ending America’s overseas wars and reforming the criminal justice system.

Sen. Jim Risch won a third term in the upper chamber of Congress, taking more than 57% of votes. Democratic challenger Paulette Jordan came in second with less than 40%, with 66% of votes counted.

Independent candidate Natalie Fleming and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz received less than 3% and 1% of the vote, respectively.

Despite being Idaho’s junior senator, Risch is a seasoned lawmaker who won his first race 50 years ago. In the Senate, the Republican has secured what he called a “dream portfolio” of committee assignments, including the chair of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Jordan, a former Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council member and state legislator, would have been the first Native American woman in the Senate.

Nationwide, voter turnout was on track to surpass 65% as votes continued to be counted Tuesday night. That would be the first time turnout has exceeded 65% in the universal suffrage era. The last time more than 65% of eligible voters cast their ballots was in 1908, when women, Native Americans and – because of racist voter suppression laws – most Black southerners could not vote.

In an unprecedented surge of mail-in and in-person early voting, roughly 101 million Americans had already cast their ballots by the time polls opened Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a wide margin in mail-in voting after Trump spent months railing against vote-by-mail systems like Washington’s, encouraging his supporters to vote in person despite concerns about COVID-19, which was surging nationwide and had killed more than 230,000 Americans as of Tuesday.

In the 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of Boise and the eastern half of the state, Republican Rep. Mike Simpson prevailed in a tighter race, defeating Democrat Aaron Swisher to win a 12th term in office.

The Associated Press called the race with Simpson leading by a 20-point margin. Libertarian candidate Sierra Law and Constitution Party candidate Pro-Life – a man formerly known as Marvin Richardson – had each won less than 2%, with 44% of votes reported.

Orion Donovan-Smith can be reached at (202) 853-2524 or at

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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