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News >  ID Government

Eye on Boise: List of Idaho gubernatorial hopefuls swells to 11

UPDATED: Sat., July 10, 2021

Ammon Bundy poses for a photo Oct. 24, 2018, in Emmett, Idaho. On Saturday, June 19, 2021, anti-government activist Bundy came out with his first video announcing his campaign to become governor of Idaho.  (Kelsey Grey)
Ammon Bundy poses for a photo Oct. 24, 2018, in Emmett, Idaho. On Saturday, June 19, 2021, anti-government activist Bundy came out with his first video announcing his campaign to become governor of Idaho. (Kelsey Grey)
By Betsy Z. Russell Idaho Press

BOISE – It’s early yet – the primary is still nearly a year away – but we’re up to 11 candidates who have filed preliminary paperwork with the state to start fundraising for runs for governor in 2022.

That includes eight Republicans, one Democrat and two unaffiliated candidates. A few have just quietly filed the paperwork; some are perennial candidates who’ve as yet had little to say publicly. But some are making noise, and I’m not just talking about the two best-known publicly announced candidates, current GOP Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and anti-government activist Ammon Bundy.

Here’s a look at two lesser-known candidates who are in the race and are staking out near-opposite political territory: Republican Ed Humphreys and Democrat Melissa Sue Robinson.

Humphreys, 31, is a financial planner and state GOP official who has quit his job to run full time for governor, and he’s been actively campaigning, raising funds, firing off press releases, and taking hard-line conservative positions, including an anti-Communist bent he says stems from his family’s history in the former Yugoslavia.

Recently, Humphreys issued a news release calling for the entire state Board of Education to resign, because it had unveiled a new board policy defining diversity, inclusion and educational equity. “To ‘promote and advance’ these policies only inflame the racist, Socialist propaganda pushed at our universities,” Humphreys said. He said he likes to refer to the concepts by the acronym DIE, “because this new policy is where education will ‘die’ under the weight of this hideous propaganda.”

Humphreys said, “Any state board of education that advocates DIE policies has signed on with critical race theory. This is all from critical race theory.”

Robinson, 70, is a transgender woman who until she transitioned in 1998 was a man known as Chuck Staelens. She owned a construction business before shifting to a career in telecommunications. She’s run for office numerous times before, including three unsuccessful runs for mayor of Nampa, four for either the state House or Senate, and three runs for mayor and state Legislature in Michigan before she moved to Idaho in 2009.

Though she already holds college degrees, Robinson has been pursuing a political science degree at Boise State University. She said, “I don’t agree with this ‘critical race theory’ that they’re trying to push on the public. They’re saying that’s what we’re doing at Boise State. First of all, it’s not true; Boise State hasn’t been teaching the students that. Second, it’s against equality and diversity.

“I just believe 100% in diversity and equality.”

She’s also taken a stand against anti-transgender legislation endorsed by the Idaho Legislature, and has made education the centerpiece of her platform.

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Fred Cornforth said, “I know of two people that are contemplating running for governor in addition to her, from the Democratic Party. And I believe that they’ll be making decisions in the next 30 to maybe 45 days. And we’re excited.

“I do think that I’m going to get a bowl of popcorn and watch the Republican primary. That will be interesting, to see how Republicans vet and decide who will represent them in the fall.”

As for Robinson’s candidacy, Cornforth said, “That’s the wonderful thing about Idaho and democracy is that anyone can run if they have a conviction or a passion, and I believe in every person’s right to be able to run. I have not heard from her, but we have leadership within the party that has been in contact with her. Everybody’s just getting started.”

Tyler Kelly, director of external affairs for the Idaho Republican Party, said, “At least for the Republican side of it, the more candidates the better. That gives more opportunities for voters to choose who they think best represents their values.”

Party chairman Tom Luna, however, has issued a news release disavowing Bundy as a GOP candidate, saying, “We do not support his antics or his chaotic political theater. That is not the Idaho Republican Party, and we will not turn a blind eye to his behaviors.”

Bundy was convicted by a unanimous jury July 1 on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and resisting or obstructing an officer for refusing to leave a Capitol hearing room during an August special session of the Idaho legislature; he announced he won’t appeal the verdict.

Kelly said the Idaho Republican Party won’t take a position in the primary and will rally the state’s majority Republicans around the winner of the GOP primary. Asked what would happen if Bundy were the winner, he said, “I think we’d have to have a conversation then. … We, our team and our executive board, and take it as we go from there.”

Crowded GOP primaries in Idaho have a history of unpredictable results. Then-House Speaker Allen Larsen won a six-way GOP primary for governor in 1978 only to lose to Democratic Gov. John Evans. Bill Sali won a six-way primary for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District seat in 2006 with just 26% of the vote, only to lose to a Democrat two years later.

The other candidates who’ve filed preliminary paperwork are:

Unaffiliated: John Dionne of Boise; and Robert Dempsey of Paul.

Republicans: Chris Hammond of Lewiston; Jeff Cotton of Boise; Cody Usabel of Meridian; Lisa Marie of Boise, a perennial candidate who’s run for Ada County sheriff, governor and both of Idaho’s seats in Congress in the past decade; and incumbent Gov. Brad Little, who hasn’t yet announced his re-election plans but is expected to run and has been fundraising.

Campaign finance reports for the pre-election year aren’t due until January, but donations of $1,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours. As of last week, Little had reported $29,500 worth of those since February. McGeachin had reported $23,000 of those since May 21. And Bundy had reported $1,000, a single donation reported on Friday.

Humphreys’ fundraising since April eclipses them all. He’s raised $168,020, including $20,000 of his own money, all in donations of $1,000 or more, mostly from individuals in Idaho, and all since April 7.

Humphreys said he’s all-in for the race for governor.

“Most of us know in our hearts something is very wrong right now,” Humphreys says on his campaign website. “Evil is called good and good is called evil. Down is up, boys are girls, indoctrination is education, fiction is fact. Weak leaders who put politics before principles are allowing for the destruction of everything we love. … I will not shrink from this fight. My family is putting everything on the line to take a stand right now because Idaho doesn’t have any more time to wait.”

“My family lived under and fled from communism,” he said. “My family in the former Yugoslavia, they were under the occupation of both the Nazis and the Russians. This ideology will destroy the country. … Now we want to be like the Russians and the Chinese. It’s insane to me.”

None of the other candidates, including Robinson, have reported any fundraising thus far. But some could be fundraising through small donations of less than $1,000, which don’t have to be publicly reported until they file their year-end reports for 2021.

“I am going to start,” Robinson said. “Basically, I’m going to give it all I have.” She’s already been sending out press releases and seeking attention for her run.

When asked about Democrats’ prospects, despite the party’s minority status in Idaho, Robinson said, “It all depends on, you’re getting more and more people from other states in now. You had … the insurrection at the Capitol. You had some bad things that happened during the last election, and I think that if you have enough people that are sick of that, there’s a chance.

“I’m a long shot, OK? But if you remember in Minnesota, Jesse Ventura was a long shot as well. No one ever expected him to win, and he became governor of Minnesota, so you never know. You go to a horse race, and once in a while, a long shot will come in.”

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