BLACKFOOT — In a major Statehouse shakeup, a relative newcomer unseated state House Education Committee chairwoman Julie VanOrden.
Blackfoot native Julianne Young defeated VanOrden in Tuesday’s primary by winning 54 percent of the vote to VanOrden’s 46 percent. The two battled for Idaho House Seat B in legislative District 31 Republican primary election.
No Democrat of third-party candidate has filed to oppose Young in November.
Young, who describes herself as a “serious student” of the U.S. Constitution, ran against VanOrden over her attempt to rewrite Idaho’s 1970s-era sex education law.
The one-page bill died this session, but Young said the proposal would have gutted parental rights by allowing school districts to partner with “community groups” to plan and evaluate sex education.
“We need to center on the family and focus on the community,” Young said in response to the bill at a forum in Blackfoot last month.
Young couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday but posted a statement to her Facebook page.
“Yesterday’s victory was truly a miracle,” Young wrote. “I would especially like to thank Representative VanOrden for her courageous six years of dedicated service on behalf of the citizens of Bingham County.”
Young attributed the win to a strong grassroots effort.
“All told, we put up over 500 signs and even more flags, delivered over 20K flyers or mailers, held dozens of cottage meetings, and knocked the doors of every registered voter in Bingham County.”
VanOrden lamented what she called efforts to “demonize” her during the campaign.
“I was presented as somewhat of a dangerous individual to children,” VanOrden said Wednesday. “That’s what I heard. That’s what I saw.”
VanOrden also questioned Young’s ability to work on key education issues, including teacher pay and a push a rewrite to Idaho’s arcane school funding formula — issues VanOrden had contributed to during her time in office.
“I think (Young’s) inexperience is a factor in not being able to address some of these issues,” VanOrden said. “I’ve been there, but it also depends on what committees she’s appointed to.”
VanOrden, a third-term lawmaker, was appointed House Education chair in December 2016.
Legislative District 31 encompasses East Idaho’s Bingham County.
Nate also loses House seat
Two-term state Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, lost his seat in the Legislature Tuesday.
Unofficial results in Madison County show Nate’s challenger, Doug Ricks, clenched the Republican primary win for Idaho House Seat A in legislative District 34 by just 159 votes.
No Democrat or third-party candidate has filed to oppose Ricks in November.
The race was a rematch from 2016, when Nate edged Ricks by only 167 votes.
Ricks, a university administrator and Madison County Republican Central Committee chairman, prefaced his platform this election with headlines from Nate’s second term, including a failed attempt to challenge the timing of Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of last year’s grocery tax repeal bill.
At a GOP forum in Rexburg last month, Ricks called Nate “the most contentious person in the entire Idaho Legislature.”
Nate had emerged as a far-right leader in the Legislature during his second term, at times spearheading conflicts with Statehouse leadership. While campaigning, Nate touted his time in the Statehouse, including his efforts to support legislation he called “constitutional, fiscally responsible and morally sound.”
Other East Idaho lawmakers ousted
Four other East Idaho incumbents lost their seats Tuesday’s primaries:
- Legislative District 32 House Seat B: Seven-term Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, lost to challenger Chad Christensen by just 139 votes. Loertscher chairs the powerful House State Affairs Committee.
- Legislative District 33 Senate: Idaho Falls School District trustee David Lent defeated incumbent Sen. Tony Potts, R-Idaho Falls, by a 30-point margin. Lent tallied 65 percent of the vote, compared to Potts’ 34 percent. Lent will now face Democrat Jerry Sehlke in November.
- Legislative District 30 House Seat A: Ten-year incumbent Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, lost to newcomer Gary Marshall. Thompson had served on education, business and appropriations committees. Marshall advances to face Idaho Falls Democrat Pat Tucker in November’s general election.
- Legislative District 35 House Seat B: First-term incumbent Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, lost to challenger Rod Furniss by 267 votes. Hanks will square off against Moore Democrat Jerry L. Browne in November.
Horman wins primary
State Rep. and budget-writer Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, beat her challenger Randy Neal by a comfortable margin. In a rematch from 2016, Horman won with 3,708 votes, compared to Neal’s 1,606.