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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former North Idaho state Sen. Jim Woodward defeats Scott Herndon in primary rematch, in win for moderate Republicans

In one of the most highly contested primaries in the Idaho Legislature, a more moderate Republican defeated a far-right incumbent in North Idaho.

While most North Idaho incumbents in the state Legislature held onto their positions in the Republican primary election Tuesday, former state Sen. Jim Woodward defeated incumbent Sen. Scott Herndon’s bid for re-election in District 1, which covers most of Boundary and Bonner counties.

Woodward won 52% of the vote to Herndon’s 48%.

The race was a counterexample to a wider shift to the right across the Legislature. The far right picked up two Senate seats and five House seats, according to the Idaho Statesman. A major upset included the defeat of Senate leader Chuck Winder, who is an opponent of Herndon’s.

Woodward raised more money for his campaign than any other legislative candidate in the state this year, totaling nearly $130,000. No. 2 on the list was Herndon, not far behind, at $116,000.

Herndon, who is also chair of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee, defeated Woodward in 2022.

Woodward attributed his comeback to greater turnout this election. When a majority of voters turn out, a true majority is represented, he said.

“I’m always working on keeping our Idaho values,” Woodward said. “That’s what the campaign was all about.”

Herndon sponsored a bill in 2023 in an attempt to remove exceptions for rape and incest from the state law banning abortions. At a legislative hearing about the proposal, he was asked if a 13-year-old girl raped by a family member should be allowed to have an abortion.

“Some people could describe the situation that you’re talking about as the opportunity to have a child in those terrible circumstances if the rape actually occurred,” Herndon said, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.

Woodward, who was first elected to the Senate in 2018, has said he believes rape victims should be able to receive abortions.

Despite Woodward’s victory for the Senate seat, he still lost to Herndon down the ballot for Herndon’s county Republican precinct committee race. Both Woodward and Herndon live in Sagle.

Woodward thanked all those who voted for him and said he looks forward to earning the trust of those who didn’t as he continues to clear up misinformation from the election. He said that his voting record speaks for itself and rejected the label “Liberal Jim” that Herndon’s campaign used against him.

“I am a traditional Idaho conservative,” Woodward said.

For the Idaho House, incumbent Rep. Mark Sauter won 1A with 49.9% to challengers Jane Sauter, who is no relation, with 31.6%, and Spencer Hutchings with 18.5%. A retired Sandpoint fire chief, Mark Sauter was first elected in 2022. He ran his campaign on “responsible representation” with an emphasis on supporting public safety, public education and infrastructure.

Cornel Rasor beat Chuck Lowman for the 1B seat that incumbent Rep. Sage Dixon is vacating. Rasor won with 52%.

Rasor owns an army surplus store in Sandpoint and served as a Bonner County commissioner from 2009-2013. On his campaign website, he describes himself as “a true pro-life advocate with no exception.”

The Bonner County Republican Central Committee endorsed Herndon, Jane Sauter and Rasor.

In one of the few contested Democratic primaries, Kathryn Larson beat Bob Vickaryous with 92% of the vote for 1B. Larson will face Rasor in the general election.

In Kootenai County, incumbent Rep. Elaine Price won 60.3% over Dave Raglin for position B in the 4th district which resembles the boundaries of the city of Coeur d’Alene.

Price was first elected in 2022. According to the Idaho GOP website, Price’s top three issues include closing the loophole in the emergency declaration that allowed its extension beyond 60 days. Her second issue is protecting children from “grooming and sexualization” by “holding schools and libraries accountable for content set before our minor children.”

In District 5, which includes most of Post Falls and southwest Kootenai County, incumbent Sen. Carl Bjerke won 77.5% of the vote, defeating Cheri Zao. Bjerke is a retired firefighter who was first elected in 2022.

Bjerke, who sits on the health and welfare committee and is vice chair of the finance committee, sponsored several bills in the recent legislative session, including several related to health. One bill, which was signed into law by the governor, prohibits the use of public funds for gender transition procedures.

The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee endorsed Price and Bjerke.

James Hanlon'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.